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Habitat conservation banking trends in the United States


Habitat conservation banking is often identified as a policy instrument for conserving endangered species on private lands in the United States. In this paper, we analyze the trends and the characteristics of habitat conservation bank credit supply and demand. We find 137 conservation banks conserving some 153,000 acres of land. About 66% of conservation credits were sold by private companies and credit price ranges between $1505 and $205,055 per credit in constant 2015 dollars. We observe that large urban areas have relatively high demand for conservation credits and that habitat conservation banking has become a business.

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  1. 1.

    Includes 1466 animal and 948 plant species (Data source: Environmental Conservation Online System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (last accessed October 12, 2018).

  2. 2.

    Seventeen species proposed for listing, (last accessed October 12, 2018).

  3. 3.

    A Habitat Conservation Plan is designed to conserve species while providing a mechanism that allows development and other economic activities to continue. Non-federal entities, public and private, are eligible to participate (Source: USFWS fact-sheet, January 2017).

  4. 4.

    Safe Harbor Agreements allow non-federal entities, public and private, to conserve federally listed species as a contribution towards recovery. Landowners have the regulatory certainty that they can return their land to the species’ baseline conditions at the end of the SHA term, and they will not be required to carry out additional land management/conservation actions beyond the terms of the SHA. (Source: USFWS fact-sheet, January 2017).

  5. 5.

    For difference between these programs, please see U.S Fish and Wildlife Service fact-sheet (

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    Single client mitigation banks are those developed and used by a single entity, such as a state department of transportation, to provide compensatory mitigation exclusively for its own permitted impacts. Also known as a Single-user bank (RIBITS, 2018 last accessed October 12, 2018).

  7. 7.

    Logarithmic scale is used to show the largely skewed values of credit available and sold in one graph.

  8. 8.

    Note that many conservation banks that have cost data may not have revenue data; conversely, some banks that have revenue data may not have cost data. Hence, most of the cost and revenue data are not from same conservation banks.

  9. 9.

    The proposed rule and revision for species specific policies are listed in Federal Register,Documents, last accessed October 15, 2018.

  10. 10.

  11. 11.

  12. 12. (last accessed February 19, 2019).

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Correspondence to Jagdish Poudel.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Biodiversity protection and reserves

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Poudel, J., Zhang, D. & Simon, B. Habitat conservation banking trends in the United States. Biodivers Conserv 28, 1629–1646 (2019).

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  • Endangered Species Act
  • Habitat conservation banking
  • Market based policy instrument
  • Conservation credit price
  • Conservation credit supply
  • Demand