The mitigation program of the 2012–2035 RTP/SCS generally
includes strategies to reduce impacts where transportation and
sensitive lands intersect and also encourages smart land use
strategies that maximize the existing system and eliminate the
need for new facilities that might impact open space and habitat.
Potential mitigation programs include planning of transportation
projects to avoid or lessen impacts to open space, recreation
land, and agricultural lands through information and data
sharing, increasing density in developed areas and minimizing
development in previously undeveloped areas that may contain
important open space.
There are many types of mitigation strategies that can be
tailored to meet open space conservation needs and constraints
such as advance mitigation planning, habitat banking, transfer of
development rights, and easements.
REGIONAL ADVANCED MITIGATION PLANNING (RAMP)
Regional Advance Mitigation Planning (RAMP) is a strategic
mitigation and conservation-planning program that identifies
mitigation solutions for infrastructure projects early in the
planning process to prevent project delays and reduce mitigation
costs while improving mitigation quality. A RAMP promotes a
coordinated approach between regulatory agencies and other
stakeholders by targeting mitigation efforts so that essential
habitat connections are created or existing conservation areas
are expanded, which will result in preservation or restoration of
more valuable biological resources for wildlife (FHWA).
The usual project-by-project approach to open space mitigation
has many limitations such as infrastructure project delays when
suitable mitigation land cannot be found; permitting delays; high
compensation ratios that can add to mitigation cost; costly and
challenging management of protected or restored mitigation land;
additive administrative support costs associated with developing
agreements and implementation mechanisms for each individual
mitigation project and limited or no connection to regional
The benefits of a RAMP are succinctly summed up in the
Eco-Logical guidebook by USDOT as follows:
“A shared advantage of integrated planning is the significant
timesavings made possible by establishing and prioritizing
opportunities. If agencies know beforehand where the most
ecologically important areas and resources are, they can work to
see that projects avoid these areas as much as possible— thus
saving time during planning, scoping, and environmental review.
By understanding early on where the mitigation areas most
beneficial for wildlife are located, required mitigation can be
more quickly implemented, perhaps streamlining permit approval
for future projects. Finally, opportunities for ecosystem-level
conservation and/or mitigation that are available now may no
longer be available when a project is implemented. Increasing
land costs or additional development may prohibit capitalizing on
these opportunities at a later date. Act now to benefit from
Since 2008 there has been a multi-agency effort led by the
California Department of Water Resources to create RAMP
guidelines for the state of California. Participants include a
number of state and federal resource agencies as well as
conservation groups and universities. The Draft Statewide
Framework for Regional Advance Mitigation Planning in California
was released April 2013 and is now available from the RAMP
website upon request.
RAMP Info Sheet
Orange County Transportation Authority Measure M2 Freeway
Environmental Mitigation Program
TRANSFER OF DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS (TDR)
Transfer of development rights (TDR) “is a device by which the
development potential of a site is severed from its title and
made available for transfer to another location. The owner of a
site within a transfer area retains property ownership, but not
approval to develop. The owner of a site within a receiving area
may purchase transferable development rights, allowing a receptor
site to be developed at a greater density.” (California Office of
Planning and Research, General Plan Guidelines, 2003) TDR is most
commonly used to preserve agricultural lands but it can also be
used for preserving natural, open space.
TDR programs can vary depending on the need of the local
jurisdiction but in general there are a few common factors that
contribute to the success of a TDR program. These include having
a donor site with development constraints, appropriate zoning
regulations, and infrastructure requirements. Other TDR success
factors are described in this commentary
on TDR from an issue of Planning and Environmental Law.
Habitat banking is the restoration, creation, enhancement, or
preservation of a wetland, stream, or other habitat area to
offset adverse impacts to habitats of equivalent function and
quality when mitigation is not feasible at the project site. The
bank is usually a contiguous, high quality habitat area with
intact, ecological functions similar to the habitat being lost.
The area must be monitored and maintained to ensure the area is
conserved in perpetuity. Habitat banking helps consolidate small,
fragmented mitigation projects.
A “conservation easement” (also known as a conservation
restriction) is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land
trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the
land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows
landowners to continue to own and use their land, and they can
also sell it or pass it on to heirs.
HCP / NCCP
Conservation Plans (HCPs) are agreements under the
federal Endangered Species Act that allow some development on
endangered and threatened species habitats in exchange for
conservation of other lands where endangered species can be
By contrast, Natural
Community Conservation Plans (NCCPs) were created under
California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning Act to
encourage a regional, ecosystem approach and more proactive
planning. Species do not have to be formally listed to be covered
in an NCCP. A local jurisdiction will develop an NCCP in exchange
for incidental take permits that are issued by State agencies.
HCPs and NCCPs are often prepared together.