Federal agencies must target ‘no net loss’ in new projects
By Bob Berwyn
Federal agencies will be expected to make natural resource sustainability a key focus under a new presidential memorandum released this week.
Outlining a moral obligation to future generations, President Barack Obama said Americans have the ingenuity and tools needed to “avoid damage to the most special places in our nation and to find new ways to restore areas that have been degraded. “Specifically, the memorandum aims to encourage private investment and public-private partnerships for restoration, fostering opportunities for businesses or non-profit organizations to get involved in the major push toward sustainability.
Across the board, President Obama wants federal agencies to avoid, then minimize harmful effects to land, water, wildlife, and other ecological resources caused by land- or water-disturbing activities, and to adopt a clear and consistent approach for “compensatory mitigation for, the impacts of their activities and the projects they approve.”
The memorandum also sets deadlines for federal agencies to adopt policies, standards and guidelines to meet the new sustainability standards.
Major conservation groups said President Obama’s memo is on par with historic environmental actions by past presidents.
“Today’s presidential memorandum is another addition to the powerful environmental legacy that President Obama will leave when he ultimately completes his time in office,” said Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp.
“By creating a ‘no net loss’ standard for infrastructure and development projects under federal jurisdiction, the White House is setting a new precedent that human needs for food, fuel and fiber must not come at the expense of the environment,” Krupp said.
“Today is the first time in our nation’s history that a president has gone so far as to call for ‘no net loss’ for all natural resources, and to institute a preference for ‘net benefit’ where possible.”