The Legislature finds and declares as follows:
(a) Mitigation banks and conservation banks provide for the conservation of important habitats and habitat linkages, take advantage of economies of scale that are often not available to individualized mitigation projects, and simplify the state regulatory compliance process while achieving conservation goals.
(b) The department authorizes the establishment of private and public conservation and mitigation banks that can provide viable consolidated mitigation for adverse impacts caused by projects. Banks sell habitat or species credits to project proponents having mitigation
responsibilities that require compensation for impacts to wetlands, threatened or endangered species, and other sensitive resources. The state policy on conservation banks was established in 1995 by the Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency.
(c) In 2011, the department and other state and federal agencies, including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, renewed a memorandum of understanding for the purpose of jointly establishing a framework for developing and using combined or coordinated approaches to mitigation and conservation banking in the state. The memorandum of understanding includes provisions for the development and continuous improvement of standardized banking program documents and guidance. Existing standardized documents
identified in the memorandum of understanding include bank enabling instruments, conservation easements, long-term management plans, and bank proposal review checklists, among others.
(d) The department has properly excluded from being eligible as mitigation and conservation banks those lands that are not suitable to become banks, for reasons that include that the lands do not support significant biological resources or are not biologically viable, are subject to potentially inconsistent uses, encumbrances, or requirements, or would not meet requirements of permits or authorizations that require mitigation.
(e) Greater transparency is desired to ensure that mitigation requirements of regulatory programs, permits, and authorizations are fully met when employing conservation and mitigation banks, and that the monitoring of banks to ensure long-term
conservation of species and habitats is scientifically valid.
(f) The private and public mitigation and conservation banks and the private and public entities to which bank credits are sold should fully fund the administrative and regulatory costs of the department in providing banking program services, administration and oversight.
(g) The department has found that the establishment and use of conservation and mitigation banks may result in added ecological benefits and reduced administrative costs over the more traditional forms of smaller, single-purpose mitigation projects.
(h) It is the intent of the Legislature that banking and all other forms of mitigation for wildlife species comply with regulatory requirements, are based on the best available scientific information, can be implemented successfully, and have
adequate funding to achieve mitigation measures and be monitored for compliance and effectiveness. The Legislature recognizes that mitigation and conservation banking is important to the state because banks provide regulatory efficiencies, environmental benefits, and economic advantages. Properly developed and monitored banks have demonstrated their value and efficacy and are important tools in mitigating impacts to resources and in conserving a wide range of habitat lands.