If banking today’s earnings in anticipation of tomorrow’s expenses guide your money management, then you understand the fundamental concept of conservation banking. The idea is that landowners, agencies, and companies planning construction projects that negatively impact air, land or water can offset those impacts by buying credits banked from the restoration of alternative sites. In this way, national and state goals for environmental protection are met by making sure that appropriate and effective mitigation occurs. Overall, these policies work to create, enhance, or restore valuable environmental resources.
In recent decades, not only local but global markets for the conservation of forests, fields, water, biodiversity, and the impacts of climate change have emerged. Forest Trends – Pioneering Finance for Conservation (forest-trends.org)
One specific example is so-called “wetland mitigation banking.” Wetlands such as bogs, marshes, and swamps serve to filter pollutants from drinking water, absorb runoff from rain and snow that might otherwise cause flooding, provide habitat for diverse wildlife, and offer open space for recreation. There are more than 1.5 million acres of wetlands in the state of Pennsylvania. PA-Waterways-Wetlands-Update-Mar2020.pdf
Since 1972, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency have established liability and performance standards for implementation of the Clean Water Act. According to this legislation, a Corps permit is required if construction involves the placement of a structure or fill material in a river stream, lake or wetland within in the jurisdiction of the Corps. Examples include commercial, industrial or recreational construction, road fills, dams and dikes, levees, and bank stabilization. Louisville District > Missions > Regulatory > Mitigation > RIBITS (army.mil)
Further regulations are stipulated and managed by state agencies, such as PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP), and DE Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DE NREC).
The good news is that landowners and companies planning a project that unavoidably impacts wetlands or streams can meet the regulatory requirements for offsetting the permitted impacts of construction in three ways (in order of federal preference under the 2008 Rule on Compensatory Mitigation):
1) Buy credits on the market from an approved mitigation bank that holds wetlands already restored by the bank owner/sponsor. When permittees buy bank credits, their liability for long-term performance of the requisite migration is absolved by the regulatory agency(ies).
2) In lieu fee = A state agency or conservation NGO (such as the Nature Conservancy) collects fees and accumulates them. The landowner can purchase these credits in advance of the mitigation, speeding the process and assuring its success. (VARTF Purchasing Mitigation Credits (nature.org))
3) Undertake permittee-responsible (i.e do-it-yourself) mitigation and retain all responsibility and liability for the restoration’s future success or failure.
Where can a landowner with a construction project in mind find more information about wetland mitigation banking?
First, check with your state agency, such as:
DENREC, DNREC Alpha – State of Delaware.
For assistance in assessing the actual needs of your property and finding the appropriate technical guidance for the process contact:
Conservation Economics http://www.conservationeconomics.com/ or 484.318.1129.