Westervelt Ecological Services is an NRCS grant recipient tasked with the creation, enhancement, or reestablishment of rainwater basin wetlands. Today, approximately 10-20 percent of rainwater basins remain making protection of these wetlands paramount because they provide critical roosting and feeding habitat for migratory birds in the central flyway. WES is committed to providing improved migratory bird habitat and helping agricultural producers stay in compliance per the 1985 Farm Bill rule.
This proposed mitigation bank is located near Utica, Nebraska in Seward, County. Bank credit purchases will be used to offset impacts to temporary and seasonal cropped wetlands resulting from wetland drainage or fill activities associated with agricultural. Producers, in turn, will remain eligible for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs by demonstrating compliance with the Swampbuster provisions. Bank establishment will be achieved through the restoration and enhancement of wetlands on a degraded playa wetland ecosystem located in the Rainwater Basin. This area is an integral landscape to the Central Flyway and happens to be in the center of the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture program area. Mitigation activities performed at this site will target impacts to palustrine emergent temporarily flooded (PEMA) wetlands in the Rainwater Basin region.
The proposed Bank is the first mitigation bank to be developed in Nebraska under the recently established NRCS Wetland Mitigation Banking Program. Funds to develop this bank are being provided through a combination of private funds from WES and federal grant funding from the NRCS.
NRCS Program Background:
The Wetland Mitigation Banking Program assists agricultural producers that are yielding agricultural commodities on converted wetlands to remain eligible for all USDA programs, including Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Crop Insurance.
In 1985, Wetland Conservation Compliance provisions were introduced into the Farm Bill. These provisions make agricultural producers ineligible for certain United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) benefits if they produce an agricultural commodity on a converted wetland, defined by USDA as an annually tilled crop or sugarcane, or make such production possible. In 2014, the Farm Bill linked these conservation compliance provisions to the premium subsidy paid by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) under the federal crop insurance program. Persons who convert a wetland to produce an agricultural commodity will be ineligible for program benefits administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the NRCS and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) until the functions of the wetland that was converted are mitigated.
What is required for compliant mitigation?
- Permanent easement
- Technical studies (hydrology, biology, soils)
- Restoration design plans
- Monitoring to reach wetland development goals
- Long-term land management of wetlands
- Long-term land management
An agricultural producer who converts a wetland after February 7, 2014, as determined by NRCS, may regain eligibility for Federal crop insurance premium subsidy by:
- Purchasing credits from the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program, or
- Paying a fee to NRCS. This option is only available when the wetland conversion impacts less than 5 acres of an entire farm, or
- Mitigating the lost wetland functions by restoring previously degraded wetlands or by creating new wetlands. Mitigation sites may be created, restored, or enhanced on the producer’s land, another person’s land, or land held by a mitigation bank. Mitigation plans must be approved by NRCS.