Wetland mitigation banks are wetlands streams, or other aquatic resource areas, that have been restored, established, enhanced, or (in certain circumstances) preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources permitted under state or local wetland regulations. In many cases, banks are used to compensate for wetland losses that occur due to development. The use of a bank becomes necessary when on-site wetlands creation, enhancement or restoration is not practical or that the on-site restoration will not result in sustainable, biologically functional wetland ecosystems.
Mitigation banks can be successful in that they are generally large tracts of land that can support an ecological biodiversity that is necessary for the successful restoration, creation, and enhancement of wetlands. In that respect, they will provide the necessary wetlands functions and habitat for threatened and endangered species long after the mitigation banks credits are sold.
In the case of ERG‘s Oxford Wetland Mitigation bank, the opportunities are two-fold. The bank will sell credits to meet wetland mitigation needs of a variety of user groups, both private and public and at the same time, credit sales will provide funding for the cleanup of an adjacent brownfield site. Ultimately, the Oxford bank will be a restored wetland, habitat for threatened and endangered species and a successful brownfield remediation.
Linking mitigation banking with habitat restoration and environmental cleanups should be a policy that the nation and individual states should encourage. State policies and regulations should be reviewed and amended to allow for greater use of banks and bank credits for brownfield remediation; flood hazard area mitigation; Natural Resources Damages Act (NRDA) compensation and stream buffer restoration. These changes to policies and regulations would encourage more private sector investment in mitigation banks and result in ecosystem protection and open/natural resource space preservation during a time of decreasing state revenues for environmental preservation and open space acquisition projects.
In the long term, expansion of mitigation banking opportunities is an economically, environmentally and socially beneficial system for the restoration and ecological success of national resource areas and sustainable ecosystems. Your thoughts?