The Effect of Wetland Mitigation Banking on the Achievement of No-Net-Loss

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Environmetnal Management



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This study determines whether the 68 wetland mitigation banks in existence in the United States through 1 January 1996 are achieving no-net-loss of wetland acreage nationally and regionally. Although 74% of the individual banks achieve no-net-loss by acreage, overall, wetland mitigation banks are projected to result in a net loss of 21,328 acres of wetlands nationally, 52% of the acreage in banks, as already credited wetland acreages are converted to other uses. While most wetland mitigation banks are using appropriate compensation methods and ratios, several of the largest banks use preservation or enhancement, instead of restoration or creation. Most of these preservation/ enhancement banks use minimum mitigation ratios of 1:1, which is much lower than ratios given in current guidelines. Assuming that mitigation occurs in these banks as preservation at the minimum allowable ratio, ten of these banks, concentrated in the western Gulf Coast region, will account for over 99% of projected net wetland acreage loss associated with banks. We conclude that wetland mitigation banking is a conceptually sound environmental policy and planning tool, but only if applied according to recently issued guidelines that ensure no-net-loss of wetland functions and values. Wetland mitigation banking inevitably leads to geographic relocation of wetlands, and therefore changes, either positively or negatively, the functions they perform and ecosystem services they provide.

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