Wetland mitigation, also known as wetland mitigation banking, is the act of restoring, enhancing, establishing or preserving a wetland environment. Typically, such mitigation projects are undertaken to protect streams and other sources of water from harmful chemicals. For example, a wetland project in an urban area may catch runoff from streets. In a rural area, wetland mitigation projects may catch field runoff, such as chemicals and fertilizers that are known to be harmful to the aquatic environment.
Typically, a mitigation project in the United States involving wetlands includes four key components: the bank site, bank instrument, interagency review team, and the service area. The site is simply the physical acreage of the wetland. The bank instrument is the agreement between land owners and regulators regarding the liability, performance and other key assessments. The interagency review team includes those responsible for oversight of the project. Finally, the service area is the physical location of the area to be improved by the project, which may be an entire watershed, for example.
The United States is far from being the only nation in the world with a concern over Wetland mitigation. Many other countries also work to restore wetlands, recognizing the importance of such projects for the health of the environment. In the United Kingdom, as one example, wetland restoration involves both inland areas, as well as tidal wetlands along the coast. Other countries have their own programs and priorities for the management and restoration of wetlands.
Projects dedicated to protecting wetlands are often called marshes or swamps, but they are so much more. These projects act as natural filters to help keep other sources of water clean. Without the benefit of wetlands, water supplies all around the world could be negatively impacted and lead to shortages of usable water. In some cases, those losing usable land to create such projects receive compensation, either in a lump sum or over a period of time.
In situations where a planned project would impact a natural wetland, it may be possible for a mitigation project to counteract the negative effects. If the owner or developer can create a wetland somewhere else on the property or in the watershed area, then regulators may be more willing to accept the project. In some cases, it may even help expedite the permitting process and reduce costs.
Despite their use as filters, many wetlands can also support a wide diversity of life. In many cases, wetlands are important for migrating and nesting water fowl and can also support native fish and reptile populations. As such, wetland mitigation projects may be favored by the general public for recreational purposes, including bird watching and fishing. Local conditions generally determine if fish from such locations are safe for consumption.