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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reforms could boost conservation banking by landowners


California pioneered the first conservation banking program in the nation in 1995. In contrast to the regulatory approach that penalizes landowners for harming protected species, conservation banking creates a market incentive for landowners to conserve wildlife. We investigated the implementation of the California Conservation Banking Program including a preliminary assessment of factors that limit the program's potential, both as an effective approach to conserving wildlife and as an economically rational option for ranchers and other landowners. We then surveyed the majority of wildlife agency conservation bank staff and conservation banking practitioners, and analyzed monitoring programs and ecological parameters of all approved banks. Most of the major challenges facing the Conservation Banking Program are linked to three fundamental problems: (1) the lack of clear standards and regulations, (2) the lack of adequate funding for dedicated wildlife agency coordinators and (3) the inefficiency and ecological constraints of managing stand-alone banks. Many of the challenges inhibiting conservation banking could be eliminated or reduced by enacting standards in statutes as well as by implementing a regional approach to planning for future sites.

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