Evaluation of a Market in Wetland Credits: Entrepreneurial Wetland Banking in Chicago
With the rise of market-led approaches to environmental policy, compensation for permitted discharge of dredge or fill material into wetlands under Section 404 of the U.S. Clean Water Act has been purchased increasingly from entrepreneurial third-party providers. The growth of this practice (i.e., entrepreneurial wetland banking) has resolved many challenges associated with wetland compensation. But it has also produced (1) quantifiable temporal loss of wetland ecological functions, (2) spatial redistribution of wetland area, and (3) a degree of regulatory instability that may pose a threat to entrepreneurial compensation as a sustainable component of wetland-compensation policy. We used achieved compensation ratios, lapse between bank credit sale and the attainment of performance standards, distance between impact and bank site, and changes in bank market area to examine these 3 factors. We analyzed data from a census of all such transactions in the Chicago District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, compiled from site visits, Corps databases, and contacts with consultants and Section 404 permittees. Entrepreneurial banking provided compensation at a lower overall ratio than nonbank forms of compensation. Approximately 60% of bank credits were sold after site-protection standards were met but before ecological performance standards were met at the bank site. The average distance between bank and impact site was approximately 26 km. The area of markets within which established banks can sell wetland credits has fluctuated considerably over the study period. Comparing these data with similar data for other compensation mechanisms will assist in evaluating banking as an element of conservation policy. Data characterizing the performance of entrepreneurial wetland banks in actual regulatory environments are scarce, even though it is the most established of similar markets that have become instrumental to federal policy in administering several major environmental protection laws.
Keywords: Acta de Agua Limpia; Clean Water Act; banca de mitigación de humedales; compensatory mitigation; ecosystem services; mercado de créditos de humedales; mitigación compensatoria; servicios del ecosistema; wetland credit markets; wetland mitigation banking
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: June 1, 2008