Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
How assigning property rights to protected species turned a landfill into a conservation bank.
Not far from the city of Benicia in Solano County, California, sits an old hazardous waste dump. The site was once owned by the IT Corporation, whose primary business was the disposal of industrial waste. But today, part of the site is known as Ridge Top Ranch, and it’s home to an innovative conservation project to preserve endangered species.
The landfill was capped in 2002, and the state banned development around the facility to protect public health. When the IT Corporation entered into bankruptcy, the LandBank Group, a company that acquires and rehabilitates contaminated properties, obtained ownership of a majority of the ranch.
Despite its proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area, the property was devoid of development potential because the ranch is part of a buffer zone established around the hazardous waste site. Most landowners would have considered the property stranded and perhaps donated it to a land trust. But LandBank decided to turn a liability into an asset by creating a conservation bank.
How Conservation Banks Work
Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, when a development project impacts a listed species, developers are often required to offset those impacts. Historically, this was done by enhancing and conserving nearby habitat for the endangered species. But this process is time consuming and expensive with no guarantee for success.
More recently, a new type of entrepreneur came up with another approach: Create a for-profit conservation bank. The idea is to take over the liability of species and habitat mitigation from developers. Conservation bankers purchase land that can be preserved and managed for the benefit of protected species. Long-term management is ensured through a conservation easement and an endowment fund to pay for habitat maintenance and monitoring...more