The Effects of Wetland Mitigation Banking on People
National Wetlands Newsletter, Vol 28, No. 2, 2006
7 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2006 Last revised: 28 Dec 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2006
In the decade since the Corps of Engineers (Corps) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially blessed wetland mitigation banking for purposes of satisfying mitigation requirements under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the practice has fueled an ongoing debate about its pros and cons. For the most part, however, the debate has focused on the relative advantages and disadvantages of banking programs in terms of administrative efficiency and ecological impact, with little attention being paid to the effects of wetland mitigation banking on people. This article presents the first comprehensive empirical study of the demographics of wetland mitigation banking, revealing what has long been suspected - that banking facilitates the redistribution of wetland resources from urban to rural areas, taking with them the important ecosystem service values wetlands provide to human communities.
After an overview of the economic service values wetlands provide, the structural biases inherent in the wetland mitigation banking program, and the lack of information about the effects of wetland banking in general, we present the results of an empirical study of 24 wetland mitigation banks in Florida accounting for over 95 percent of all bank activity. By comparing the demographic attributes of the area around each bank to the areas around the development projects that purchase mitigation bank credits to satisfy their mitigation requirements, we show that the loss of wetland resources is concentrated in urban areas, whereas the compensatory mitigation provided by wetland banks is concentrated in rural areas, and that the composition of the project area and bank area populations is significantly different. We examine the policy implications of this effect and suggest several steps that can be taken to better understand and respond to its impact on the distribution of ecosystem services associated with wetland resources.
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