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US Wetland and Stream Bank Dataset and Analysis

US Map of Wetland and Stream Banks 2010

Introduction

Ecosystem Marketplace presents the results of our October 2010-January 2011 research and analysis on US Wetland and Stream Mitigation Banks. Our dataset includes 832 bank entries. Both the dataset and a description of data collection methods and assumption can be downloaded at the links below. A brief summary of the data is presented below.

 

US wetland and stream bank datatset thumbnail

Link to January 2011 US Wetland and Stream Bank Dataset

Link to January 2011 Dataset Methods


Status of US Wetland and Stream Mitigation Banks

The great increase in banks between our past analysis in the State of Biodiversity Markets report and this current analysis (see graphic below) has more to do with a greater amount of data transparency and availability on RIBITS, rather than a 'boom' of wetland and stream bank creation.

 

2009 (from State of Biodiversity Markets Report)

2011

Status of US Wetland and Stream Banks in 2009

Status of US Wetland and Stream Banks in 2010

This is not to discount the increase in banks entirely. As you can see in the chart "Rate of Wetland and Stream Bank Establishment," there were 47 new banks in 2009 and 45 new banks in 2010, despite the down economy. Sheri Lewin of Environmental Resource Marketing noted that  the regulatory certainty gained with the 2008 mitigation banking regulations may still be positively affecting bank approvals after two years, and that a fall in land values may have made land purchases for banks attractive(EKO-ECO.com, 2009).

 

Rate of Wetland and Stream Mitigation Bank Establishment*

 Rate of US Wetland and Stream Bank Establishment by Year

*Note: Graph represents active and sold out banks with known date of establishment (there are an additional 48 active and sold out banks without dates).

But on a sobering note, industry players at May's National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference noted that the 'good old days' of housing development driving bank creation, like we saw during the housing bubble, may not be coming back anytime soon and may be worse in 2011. The decrease in 'pending' and 'unknown' banks seen above is due to data "spring cleaning" in which many bank records which could not be updated or verified since 2005 were removed from the dataset.

Location of Wetland and Stream Mitigation Banks*

2009

2011

US Map of Wetland and Stream Banks 2010

*Note: Maps represents active and sold out banks.

Taking a look at regional development of wetland banking, some states that have experienced growth. In Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida; 10 or more new banks opened between 2009 and 2010. Virginia experienced the most growth, with 17 new banks. For other states, the increase in banks seen in the maps is not so much a reflection of growth as the effect of newly available data on the Corps' RIBITS website (eg - Delaware, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina). Two states are seeing their first mitigation bank: Alaska and South Dakota.

Other Trends in US Wetland and Stream Mitigation Banking *Excerpt from Mitigation Mail, January 2010

While it doesn't sound like a particularly sexy topic, interpretation of regulations can either stimulate or quash market solutions for environmental issues. In the US world of wetland banking, mitigation bankers have been crying foul over the US Army Corps of Engineer's lack of preference for mitigation banking, which was stated in 2008 regulations. After some pushing from the NMBA (National Mitigation Banking Association), in October the Corps sent a memo requiring documentation when mitigation banking is *not* being used as the preferred method for mitigation.

Transparency of wetland mitigation information has also been an issue in 2010. In March of this year twenty leaders in the US wetlands field signed a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works with a listing of their grievances along with multiple citations of how the Corps was either required to or voluntarily promised to provide data within a specified timeframe. The USACE responded in June   to this first letter, citing the difficulty in implementation and providing a link to an unhelpful 2000-page report to Congress. The USACE letter also claimed that RIBITS was “in use across the nation.” Which at the time was stretching it a bit, as our count in September of 2010 had only 28 of the 38 USACE districts with public information. If you are interested in greater data accessibility from RIBITS, sign onto Ecosystem Marketplace's letter of support here.

If you're interested in a refresher course of sorts, check out our popular backgrounder papers on US Wetland Mitigation Banking and US Conservation Banking, along with our book on Conservation and Biodiversity Banking.