Endangered Species Act:

Fee-Based Mitigation Arrangements

GAO-01-287R: Published: Feb 15, 2001. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 2001.

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The Endangered Species Act seeks to protect affected species and their habitats from the activities of federal agencies and individual landowners. If a landowner plans to engage in an activity that may harm endangered species or their habitats, the landowner may prepare a Habitat Conservation Plan that may include paying a fee to a third party to ensure that the affected species is protected. GAO reviewed (1) the various types of fee-based mitigation arrangements currently used by the Fish and Wildlife Service, (2) who selects the alternative used to mitigate adverse impacts, (3) the Service's role in setting fees and land exchange ratios, and (4) how the Service ensures that fees are used as intended and that desired mitigation results are achieved. GAO found that (1) eight types of fee-based arrangements are now at the locations GAO visited, seven of which require the landowner to act; (2) the landowner is ultimately responsible for deciding whether to use a fee-based mitigation arrangement after considering its advantages and disadvantages; (3) the Service's level of involvement in setting fees and establishing land exchange ratios varies by project and type of arrangement; and (4) the Service has done limited monitoring to ensure that fees are used as intended and desired mitigation results are achieved.

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