An analysis of stream mitigation banking and the challenges of implementing market-based approaches to environmental conservation.
Market-based approaches to environmental conservation have been increasingly prevalent since the early 1990s. The goal of these markets is to reduce environmental harm not by preventing it, but by pricing it. A housing development on land threaded with streams, for example, can divert them into underground pipes if the developer pays to restore streams elsewhere. But does this increasingly common approach actually improve environmental well-being? In Streams of Revenue, Rebecca Lave and Martin Doyle answer this question by analyzing the history, implementation, and environmental outcomes of one of these markets: stream mitigation banking.
In stream mitigation banking, an entrepreneur speculatively restores a stream, generating “stream credits” that can be purchased by a developer to fulfill regulatory requirements of the Clean Water Act. Tracing mitigation banking from conceptual beginnings to implementation, the authors find that in practice it is very difficult to establish equivalence between the ecosystems harmed and those that are restored, and to cope with the many sources of uncertainty that make positive restoration outcomes unlikely. Lave and Doyle argue that market-based approaches have failed to deliver on conservation goals and call for a radical reconfiguration of the process.
About the Author
Rebecca Lave is Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography at Indiana University. She is the author of Fields and Streams: Stream Restoration, Neoliberalism, and the Future of Environmental Science.
Martin Doyle is Professor of River Systems Science and Policy and the author of The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers.
"Ripping open the ever-expanding black box of environmental markets, mitigation banking, and restoration, Lave and Doyle educate and entertain. Revealing the convoluted process of market-based attempts to protect nature, this is a must-read for those who love or study the environment — especially rivers and streams." – Margaret Palmer, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland, College Park, and Director, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center
"Lave and Doyle unravel the complex mitigation paradigm and bring us to a critical choice, a fork in the road. The path we choose may very well determine the fate of our rivers." – Peter Skidmore, Walton Family Foundation
"Lave and Doyle’s meticulous empirical and field study of market-based habitat offset mitigation programs convincingly demonstrates how regulatory goals and metrics believed to support good restoration policies can actually drive mitigation entrepreneurs in counterproductive directions. The evidence presented and alternatives proposed in Streams of Revenue make a compelling case for change." – J.B. Ruhl, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair in Law and Co-Director, Energy, Environment, and Land Use Program, Vanderbilt University Law School
"Streams of Revenue explores the tenuous relationship between the power of market-based approaches and achievement of environmental goals. Lave and Doyle effectively show how environmental strategies are handled, how they often fail, and why all of this matters to the future of our fragile ecosystems." – Eran Ben-Joseph, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT