US Department of Transportation

FHWA PlanWorks: Better Planning, Better Projects

IEFStep 6 : Develop Crediting Strategy

Integrated Ecological Framework Step

Purpose & Outcome


Develop a consistent strategy and metrics to measure ecological impacts, restoration benefits, and long-term performance with the goal of having the analyses throughout the life of the project be in the same units and language, to the maximum extent possible.

  • Improving and integrating the mitigation sequence at a site level through: Avoidance using a metric that provides a systematized and structured scenario analysis that leads into, Minimization which is aided by the same metric providing the basis for outcome-based performance standards, which sets the stage for Compensation which is defined by the same metric calculating the debit/credit totals associated with the project impacts and mitigation outcomes, respectively.
  • Accelerating implementation and improving mitigation results.
  • Supporting implementation tools such as advance mitigation, banks, programmatic permitting, and ESA Section 7 consultation.
  • Supporting use of off-site mitigation and out-of-kind mitigation where appropriate, since equivalency of value can be determined across locations and resources.
  • Informing adaptive management and updates of the cumulative effects analyses
  • Balancing gains and losses of ecological functions, benefits and values associated with categories of transportation improvements or specific project related impacts.
  • Providing the means of tracking progress towards regional ecosystem goals and objectives (assumes site-level ecological metrics are correlated to the landscape-level tools used to define the REF).


TIP: To access more information on sub-steps, please visit the complete Guide to the Integrated Ecological Framework.

  1. Diagnose the measurement need. Examine the ecological setting (including regulated resources and frameworks, non-regulated resources, and ecosystem services); examine the regulatory and social setting; and identify additional opportunities.
  2. Evaluate ecosystem and landscape needs and context to identify measurement options.
  3. Select or develop units and rules for crediting (e.g., rules for field measurement of ecological functions, approved mitigation/conservation banking, outcome-based performance standards using credit system).
  4. Test applicability of units and rules in local conditions.
  5. Evaluate local market opportunities for ecosystem services.
  6. Negotiate regulatory assurance for credit.
  7. Program implementation.

Technical Questions

  • How will debits/credits be calculated? Is credit stacking allowed?
  • What is the permissible service area for a bank, off-site mitigation?
  • Who may participate in the crediting system?
  • How will credits be registered and tracked?
  • How long will regulatory decisions on a given project be binding?
  • How will values be calculated across locations and resources?
  • What long-term monitoring is needed?


  • Permitting and compliance requirements in the study area
  • Other regulation-based and voluntary conservation efforts that may identify species, habitats, or systems that require attention
  • The regional mitigation need and banking (if used)
  • Permitting documents from projects over the previous five years

Case Study Examples

Click on the arrows below for detailed information on each case
  • Location: South Carolina

    Description: When the Carolina Bays Parkway required additional interchanges, several South Carolina agencies came together to prioritize which local area was in the most need of protection and focus their attention there instead of at the actual site of the construction where mitigation efforts would not be able to effectively support ecosystem objectives. This led to the successful protection and enhancement of local wildlife linkage corridors connecting the two local wildlife preserves. In 2003, the interagency team, which had searched for opportunities to preserve, enhance, and expand the Lewis Ocean Bay NHP and the wildlife linkage corridor, signed an agreement outlining steps to accomplish these goals. South Carolina DOT (SCDOT) and the FHWA put $2.5 million into an escrow account to be spent on the preservation and expansion of Lewis Ocean Bay and the wildlife linkage zone. This Federal-aid money was agreed upon as partial mitigation for two new interchanges to be added to the Parkway. A management system was also put in place for the funds, with members of the USFWS, SCDNR, USACE, and NOAA Fisheries Service forming an Ecosystem Committee to oversee the expenditure of those funds on projects that will enhance, preserve, or expand the Lewis Ocean Bay NHP and protect the Waccamaw River wildlife linkage corridor. Additionally, SCDOT purchased access control of a public road, which limited growth opportunities in that area and protected some of the land adjacent to the Preserves. SCDOT also invited private landowners to become part of the solution. In exchange for one of the new interchanges on the Parkway, the private landowners are donating to SCDNR a 320-acre tract of land. This tract was a privately owned in-holding within Lewis Ocean Bay NHP that could have been developed.

Tools & Methods

Click on the arrows below for detailed information on each tool or method.