Ecological and Management Dimensions of Metric Production in Conservation Banking

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Stéphanie BARRAL, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France
Since the 1990s conservation banks have grown in the USA as one market-based instrument allowing developers to meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). They have been developed unevenly in the different States of the country, two third of them being currently in California, other States bearing a dozen of them at the most. Conservation banks can respond either to regulatory requirements of the ESA only, thus being certified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, or to multiple regulatory frameworks intertwined at the State and federal levels. This is for instance the case in Sacramento County, California where the certification of a bank requires the coordination of eight agencies.

As regulatory frameworks such as policy and implementation guidance don’t compel with the use of specific metrics, these can be designed, produced and negotiated on a case-by-case basis by the bank sponsors and the relevant State and federal agencies (through the work of the Interagency Review Team). The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between the organization configuration of a bank certification process and the metrics being produced and implemented during this process. It is based on qualitative interviews with bank developers and members of bank review teams in several States. They show that the production of one metric is carried out through a negotiation process between those stakeholders within which not only ecological considerations but also economic and management ones can be addressed in order to ensure the outcome of the project. This reflects how the economic imperatives of the bankers are embodied in the scientific grounds of the projects on the one hand, and how the multiplication of regulatory bodies in the certification process can lead to the use of a simplified metric in order to limit coordination hindrances on the other hand.