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The March/April Issue of the National Wetlands Newsletter

March 4, 2013

Compensatory mitigation is required under the Clean Water Act to offset unavoidable impacts to wetland habitat. Central to achieving these offsets is the use of mitigation banks that must sell credits tied to wetland restoration, which is limited to a geographic service area—defining that area affects how well mitigation offsets environmental impacts, as well as the incentives for further conservation investment.

The March-April issue of the National Wetlands Newsletter features a forum on how best to define geographic service areas to ensure that compensatory mitigation offsets wetland functions. The authors, from government, the private sector, and academia, provide lessons learned from current practice and offer new ideas for defining service areas, including:

  • The potential for using “function-scapes” in addition to watersheds;
  • Using larger areas to incentivize greater credit sales and more investment in larger sites that may offer greater ecosystem services;
  • Starting with smaller areas and justifying the use of larger areas on a case-by-case basis; and
  • Tying size to regional restoration priorities and the potential functions of different sites.

You can read the four different perspectives and the authors’ responses to each others’ ideas in the current issue. The discussion also includes an introductory article that provides a brief overview of why service areas are required and how they have been established in current practice.

Also in the issue:

What happens when impacts occur in a pristine area and there are too few degraded areas to offset environmental degradation? Two authors address the real situation of a proposed mining project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watersheds—home to important headwater streams that provide spawning habitat for Alaskan salmon.

Urban waterfronts rarely provide valuable habitat due to poor water quality and a lack of wetland soils and plants. However, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a pilot project to use plastic bottles and other trash littering the waterfront as materials for floating wetlands has produced both environmental and community benefits. Read more about these cutting-edge efforts to beautiful an urban waterfront and engage the public in environmental education.