NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mitigation: A Way Around Wetland Laws?

August 11, 1999

Owners of wetlands are in an unenviable position: they have to jump through environmental hoops if they even hope to utilize them. Usually permission is denied. But a new idea may aid their cause.

It is called "mitigation" -- moving or restoring wetlands to ensure no net loss.

  • A landowner in Tampa, Fla., was denied permission to build a golf course on a piece of property he owned which, unfortunately, contained a 7 acre swamp.
  • At a cost of $2 million and over 10 years, he dug up trees, soil and shrubs and transplanted the swamp to another part of his property -- with permission, of course -- leaving him free to develop the former wetland site.
  • Regulators only allow mitigation as a last resort, however.
  • Some entrepreneurs are setting up "mitigation banks" -- buying up dried or degraded wetlands, rehabilitating them and using them as a credit against destroyed wetlands which failed a mitigation attempt.

Although such banks exist in many states, Florida has restored more land this way that all other states put together.

Source: "Swamped," Economist, July 31, 1999.


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