Wetland And Conservation Credits 101

We have provided a summary of mitigation banking and its components. Please contact us for more information about our services should you have any questions.

What is a mitigation bank?

Private and public projects often cause adverse impacts to aquatic and biological resources even after implementing the best avoidance and minimization practices available. These unavoidable impacts typically require compensatory mitigation to ensure that the ecological losses are offset and do not result in a net loss of natural resources. A mitigation bank is a resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or in some circumstances, preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for these unavoidable impacts permitted under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, or a similar state or local regulation.

There are two types of mitigation banks, wetland or stream banks, which offer credits to offset losses to aquatic resources, and conservation banks, which offer credits to offset losses to the habitat of endangered, threatened, candidates for listing, or other special-status species. Impacts to aquatic resources are regulated and approved by the USACE and USEPA, while impacts to listed species and their habitats are regulated and approved by the USFWS and NMFS. These federal agencies are responsible for determining the appropriate form and amount of compensatory mitigation required. Mitigation banks are created under a formal agreement with these regulatory agencies, who must review and approve the ecological assessment techniques to certify that the credits offered provide the required ecological functions to offset impacts.

How is a mitigation bank developed?

Mitigation banks have four distinct components:

  • The bank site: the physical acreage restored, established, enhanced, or preserved;
  • The bank instrument: the formal agreement between the bank owners and regulatory agencies establishing liability, performance standards, management and monitoring requirements, and the terms of bank credit approval;
  • The Interagency Review Team (IRT): the team that provides regulatory review, approval, and oversight of the bank; and
  • The service area: the geographic area in which permitted impacts can be compensated for with the purchase of credits at a given mitigation bank.

Wetland or Stream Credit

A wetland or stream mitigation credit is a unit of trade used to offset ecological losses that occur in waters of the U.S., which are regulated by the USACE and USEPA. While traditionally mitigation banks were designed to compensate for impacts to various wetland types, banks can now be used to compensate specifically for impacts to streams. Wetland and stream credits allow a client to satisfy their environmental mitigation permit needs prior to impacting wetlands or waters.

Conservation Credit

A conservation credit is a unit of trade used to offset losses to endangered, threatened or special status species and/or their habitats, which are regulated by the USFWS and NMFS. Conservation credits allow a client to satisfy their environmental mitigation permit needs prior to impacting endangered, threatened or other special-status species and their habitat.

Credit

Credits are used to represent the ecological gains at a bank site. The gains are typically considered in terms of benefits to aquatic or other resources that are expected to result from the types of activities implemented at the bank site. The number of credits earned by a bank is based on the quantity and quality of the resources that are restored, created (established), enhanced, or preserved. Credits may be measured in terms of acreage, functional units, or some other assessment method. The number of potential credits a bank may earn is determined by the bank owner and the Interagency Review Team during the bank certification process.

Service Area

The service area for a mitigation bank is the area outside the bank property within which the bank owner may sell credits. The regulatory agencies determine service areas based on physical and ecological attributes such as watersheds, soil types, species recovery units, and/or species and population distributions. Banks with more than one type of credit may have different service areas designated for different credit types.