U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Fisheries and Habitat Conservation
The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program
THE PROGRAM’S ORIGIN
Hazardous substances are a constant threat to our fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. As a result of concern over the influx of contaminants into the environment, and a wish to ensure that the responsible parties—not the taxpayers—pay for the cleanup and restoration, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (also known as CERCLA or “Superfund”), the Clean Water Act, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. These three laws provide trustees the authority to carry out the responsibilities of the Restoration Program.
ENTRUSTING OUR NATURAL RESOURCES
As the Nation’s principal conservation agency, the Department of the Interior is trustee for most of our nationally owned public lands and natural resources. These include lands such as National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management; Indian lands and natural resources held in trust by the Federal government; waters managed by the Bureau of Reclamation; and, Federally protected
When hazardous substances enter the environment, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources can be injured. The Department of the Interior, along with State, Tribal and other Federal partners, act as “trustees” for these resources. Trustees seek to identify the natural resources injured and determine of the injuries, recover damages from those responsible, and carry out restoration activities. These efforts are possible under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, goal of which is to restore natural resources injured by contamination. the extent plan and natural resource the
plants and animals such as endangered species, migratory birds, and wild horses and burros. The agencies within the Department responsible for the management of trust resources are the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and National Park Service.
Other Federal agencies with trust responsibilities for our Nation’s natural resources include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Forest Service, Department of Defense, and Department of Energy. Like the Department of Interior, they have responsibility for certain lands, waters, and other specified trust resources and most have active restoration programs.
States and Indian Tribes also are trustees with the authority to conduct damage assessments and restoration activities on their own behalf. When there is overlapping trusteeship, trustees benefit from working together.
Restoring our natural resources benefits many species of fish and wildlife, including migratory birds. Stefan Dobert/USFWS photo. RESTORING THE RESOURCESTo fulfill the mission of restoring naturalresources that have been injured by oilspills or hazardous substance releases,several steps must be taken. the process works like this:Oil is spilled or a hazardous material isreleased into the environment. these incidents involve discharges intobodies of water--oceans, lakes, andrivers--where the oil or hazardousmaterial has the potential to spread farbeyond the original source.The source of the discharge is containedby the Coast Guard, the EnvironmentalProtection Agency, a State agency, and/or the responsible party.The oil or hazardous material is cleanedup. process for a small oil spill where thecontained oil can be skimmed off thesurface of the water. It can be verycomplicated when dealing with old minewastes or hazardous chemicals whichhave been absorbed into the soil and arecontaminating groundwater and surfacewater.Natural resource trustees determinethe magnitude of the injuries to naturalresources. response and cleanup or afterwards.Generally, however, it cannot be finisheduntil after the cleanup is completedbecause the full extent of the injuriescannot be determined until then.The trustees contact the responsibleparties and attempt to reach asettlement for the cost of therestoration, for the loss of the use of theland or resources to the general public,and for the money the trustees spent toassess the damages. responsible parties agree to do therestoration work themselves, money forrestoration is not collected by thetrustees. If a negotiated settlement cannot bereached, the trustees can take theresponsible parties to court. Most casesare settled out of court.When a settlement is reached, arestoration plan is developed with publicinput that specifies the actionsnecessary to restore the injuredresources. out on the lands where thecontamination occurred or at analternate site which, when restored,provides a suitable replacement for theinjured or lost resources. the responsible party donates land to berestored and protected.Finally, the trustees monitor therestoration projects to assure that theycontinue to be properly operated and toensure the long-term success of therestoration.BENEFITING THE PUBLICThe primary benefit of the RestorationProgram is that injured natural resourcescan be restored at no cost to the Americantaxpayers. for the injuries pay for the restoration.Because of this Program, people across thecountry enjoy rivers and lands that areonce again healthy and teeming with fishand wildlife, and public places that are safefor recreation and other uses. dedication of the Department, and themany other agencies, organizations andindividuals committed to caring for theenvironment, we are making progresstoward a cleaner, healthier environment forall living things.For more information about the NaturalResource Damage Assessment andRestoration Program, contact U.S. Fish andWildlife Service’s Fisheries and HabitatConservation at 202/208-6394 or visit us onthe Internet at http://fisheries.fws.gov/.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service800/344-WILDhttp://www.fws.govFebruary 2005Wetlands can be heavily impacted by industrial development. Generally,Many ofThis can be a fairly straightforwardThis can begin during theWhen theThis is called in-kind work.These actions can be carriedSometimesInstead, the parties responsibleThrough theFrank Horvath/USFWS photo.
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