Environmental Policy Innovation Center

The Environmental Policy Innovation Center is a Sand County Foundation-sponsored project to develop creative policies that improve water quality, speed endangered wildlife recovery, expand conservation practices on private lands and provide solutions that allow water, energy and other essential infrastructure to move forward while benefiting natural resources.

EPIC is focused on creating an organizational culture and business model in which creative ideas to improve U.S. and state natural resource policies can flourish. Much of the innovation that is most needed will allow conservation to be delivered at the velocity and volume needed to match today’s conservation challenges.

EPIC’s policy work focuses on the expansion of environmental markets, building state and federal programs that encourage the use of pay-for-success contracting, create more predictable opportunities for large scale conservation finance investments, and incentive-based policies that encourage proactive conservation, reduce conflict and speed the achievement of national and regional conservation goals. Finding ways to make infrastructure and economic development permitting faster and more efficient while avoiding or offsetting environmental impacts is essential to America’s future prosperity and to protecting future generations’ natural legacy. To learn more, visit their blog.

EPIC grew out of an earlier successful project – Mission:Wildlife – and expands upon that project’s earlier work focused on more effective wildlife policies that speed wildlife recovery, benefit private lands and reduce costs to communities and businesses.

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Improving Mitigation Under the Endangered Species Act

In this report, we offer ideas for improving ESA mitigation to address past gaps in mitigation practice and to confront future challenges arising from infrastructure development. The report first provides background on ESA mitigation, including the relevant laws and policies. The report then offers near and longer-term recommendations to improve ESA mitigation. These recommendations should form a core component of how the Biden administration approaches ESA permitting.

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Endangered Species Act Recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration

Priorities for resetting and improving endangered species policy. View the report here.

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Paying for Water Quality Improvements and Resilience in the Great Lakes

In this toolkit, EPIC and Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. outline ways utilities can pay for green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). It presents traditional and emerging funding and financing options including municipal bonds, state revolving funds, community-based public private partnerships and environmental impact bonds.

It highlights two innovative case studies that demonstrate how utilities can attract private sector investment and engage in risk-sharing to deliver GSI efficiently and cost-effectively for funding GSI in the Great Lakes region: Milwaukee’s Community-based Public Private Partnership (CBP3) and Buffalo, New York’s Environmental Impact Bond (EIB).

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Endangered Species Act: 2018 Administrative Reform

The federal government has proposed the most comprehensive changes to regulations within the Endangered Species Act in more than two decades. To promote a more constructive dialogue about the proposals and the future of the Act, the Environmental Policy Innovation Center has released its analysis of the proposals in a report and online chart.

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Stormwater Innovation

Between $3-$5 billion in local funding is being used nationally to help offset the harmful effects of urban stormwater runoff (one of the largest water quality initiatives in existence). Stormwater Innovation looks at how two leading local governments are succeeding (or failing) in work with private restoration businesses to deliver effective stormwater projects on public and private land.

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Habitat Exchange: A New Tool to Engage Landowners in Conservation

"Habitat Exchange: A New Tool to Engage Landowners in Conservation" is the third in a series of working papers authored by wildlife legal expert, Michael J. Bean. This paper reviews a relatively new tool that could spur on proactive conservation of species habitat for salable mitigation credits.

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Safe Harbor Agreements: An Assessment

"Safe Harbor Agreements: An Assessment,” is the second in a series of working papers authored by wildlife legal expert, Michael J. Bean. This paper reviews the Safe Harbor Agreements that have been developed over the past 22 years to help endangered species and private landowners.

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Landowner Assurances Under the ESA

Landowner Assurances Under the ESA,” is the first in a series of working papers authored by wildlife legal expert, Michael J. Bean. This paper reviews the diversity of tools that have been developed to give private landowners reasonable assurances associated with the Endangered Species Act and that have allowed thousands of landowners, local government and businesses to become partners in endangered species conservation efforts or leaders in conservation plans that balance wildlife needs and economic development.

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Nature, Paid on Delivery

"Nature, Paid on Delivery” looks at initiatives by the states of Louisiana, Maryland, California and Nevada that bring private, for-profit investment and companies into the work of delivering environmental outcomes for state agencies. These initiatives use an innovative ‘pay for success’ approach in which taxpayers don’t pay for restoration work until the companies deliver on predetermined performance metrics. The examples in these states show the potential of such contracting to the expand and speed conservation across the country.

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Evaluating planning successes for the conservation of the Arctic grayling

“Evaluating planning successes for the conservation of the Arctic grayling” reviews how a candidate conservation agreement helped keep the species from needing listing under the Endangered Species Act. Ranchers on the Big Hole River in Montana voluntarily changed their management so the Arctic grayling is recovering. This is a striking example that landowners elsewhere can follow to recover other rare species in this nation.

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Expanding Opportunities for Threatened Species Conservation through Section 4(d) of the ESA

Expanding Opportunities for Threatened Species Conservation through Section 4(d) of the ESA explains in simple language the way 4(d) Rules work and recommends practical improvements to that section of the ESA. Underwritten by Sand County Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, this important new Mission:Wildlife report explores better ways to protect, conserve and when needed, recover more species of concern, faster and with less social and economic disruption.

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An analysis of a proposed Fish and Wildlife Service policy on Critical Habitat Exclusions

An analysis of a proposed Fish and Wildlife Service policy on Critical Habitat Exclusions provides organizations and individuals who have an interest in endangered species issues with a better understanding of the implications of this new policy and a set of recommendations for improvements to it. Read more about it here.

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A report from Mission:Wildlife and Sand County Foundation

A report from Mission:Wildlife and Sand County Foundation provides a summary of a US Fish and Wildlife Service draft policy on species credits, and suggests ways it should be improved to create significantly greater benefits for wildlife, landowners and businesses. Read more about the draft policy here.

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More Information

For more information, please contact:

Timothy Male
(240) 274-0341


The charitable work of the Environmental Policy Innovation Center is made possible, in part, by supporters like you. Please consider making a donation through the donate section of our website. Checks may be made payable to “Sand County Foundation” at 131 W. Wilson Street, Suite 610, Madison, WI 53703 with “Environmental Policy Innovation Center” noted on the check.