Land Trust Community to benefit from wetland and stream mitigation guide
A handbook jointly issued by the Environmental Law Institute and the Land Trust Alliance provides the land trust community and others with the tools necessary to understand the opportunities and liabilities associated with taking on the long-term stewardship of a compensatory mitigation project.
Approximately 45,000 acres of wetlands are restored, enhanced, or established each year to offset the impacts associated with permits issued under the federal wetlands regulatory program. Under federal regulations, these sites are required to be preserved in perpetuity. Across the country, land trusts are being asked to participate in these wetland and stream mitigation projects. Some are holding easements on these properties. Others are agreeing to provide long-term management of these sites. Still others are carrying out restoration projects on their fee lands to satisfy the compensatory mitigation needs of permittees.
But compensatory mitigation is a complicated field. For a land trust to engage effectively entails significant staffing demands and extensive legal, financial, and management expertise. In addition, these projects come with varying degrees of exposure to risk and can raise public relations concerns.
The new handbook--Wetland and Stream Mitigation: A Handbook for Land Trusts--helps land trusts get up to speed on the requirements and nuances of the federal wetland and stream regulatory program and evaluate the potential liabilities associated with such a project.
"Land trusts have the know-how to do quality land conservation projects," said Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth, "and this new handbook is a valuable guide for those interested in expanding that work to include compensatory mitigation projects."
The handbook identifies many of the questions that land trusts will need to ask before getting involved in a mitigation project and provides practical tips gleaned from interviews with over 20 land trusts from around the country that have engaged in mitigation projects.
As author Jessica Wilkinson, director of ELI's Wetlands Program, states "while we hope that qualified land trusts will help support the long-term stewardship of mitigation sites, one of the central purposes of our handbook is to provide this community with a framework for carrying out rigorous due diligence before embarking on such projects."
The Alliance is a national conservation organization that works in three ways to save the places people love. First, we increase the pace of conservation, so more land and natural resources get protected. Second, we enhance the quality of conservation, so the most important lands get protected using the best practices in the business. And third, we ensure the permanence of conservation by creating the laws and resources needed to defend protected land over time. The Land Trust Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and has several regional offices. Visit www.landtrustalliance.org.
The Environmental Law Institute makes law work for people, places, and the planet. With its non-partisan, independent approach, ELI promotes solutions to tough environmental problems. The Institute's unparalleled research and highly respected publications inform the public debate and build the institutions needed to advance sustainable development. Visit www.eli.org.