There are opportunities for land trusts to participate in the protection of “forever wild” lands through several mitigation programs. Mitigation projects can be in the form of lands set aside under different environmental programs; all regulated under various state or federal laws. The mitigation land can be either a site-specific project for a specific environmental impact, or it can be a site that can be used as mitigation for multiple impact projects; called a mitigation banking project.
The most common mitigation type of projects at this time is for-profit habitat improvement work in which wetlands and streams are created or enhanced on a piece of land by a “mitigation banker” to be sold as compensation for the loss of or damage to water bodies and wetlands within developmental projects elsewhere in the watershed. Once the wetland and stream improvement work is successfully completed on these mitigation projects, then debtors on developmental projects can purchase “credits” from the mitigation banker as part of their federal Clean Water Action permits through the US Army Corps of Engineers. Mitigation banking can also be the protection of natural areas as compensation for damages to other habitats due to environmental pollution or oil spills. Mitigation projects for environmental damages due to pollution and spills are regulated at the state level by multiple agencies, and involve the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as the primary Trustee of this regulatory group. Finally, mitigation banking can involve the protection of natural habitats of endangered plant and/or animal species as compensation for the loss or damage to other endangered species habitats. These habitat mitigation banks are commonly regulated at the federal level by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
All of these mitigation projects would require the placement of a conservation easement over the mitigation lands as a long term protection of the lands that are designated as replacement or compensation for the loss or damage of natural habitats. Federal or state environmental agencies who are involved with the enforcement of environmental protection programs act as third parties in the enforcement of the conservation easement terms, but the land trust holding the conservation easement will be the primary entity in the monitoring and enforcement of the easement in perpetuity.
Please contact us at Connemara for more information.