Environmental Management

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 349–364 | Cite as

Determinants of Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Compensatory Wetland Mitigation



Development projects that impact wetlands commonly require compensatory mitigation, usually through creation or restoration of wetlands on or off the project site. Over the last decade, federal support has increased for third-party off-site mitigation methods. At the same time, regulators have lowered the minimum impact size that triggers the requirement for compensatory mitigation. Few studies have examined the aggregate impact of individual wetland mitigation projects. No previous study has compared the choice of mitigation method by regulatory agency or development size. We analyze 1058 locally and federally permitted wetland mitigation transactions in the Chicago region between 1993 and 2004. We show that decreasing mitigation thresholds have had striking effects on the methods and spatial distribution of wetland mitigation. In particular, the observed increase in mitigation bank use is driven largely by the needs of the smallest impacts. Conversely, throughout the time period studied, large developments have rarely used mitigation banking, and have been relatively unaffected by changing regulatory focus and banking industry growth. We surmise that small developments lack the scale economies necessary for feasible permittee responsible mitigation. Finally, we compare the rates at which compensation required by both county and federal regulators is performed across major watershed boundaries. We show that local regulations prohibiting cross-county mitigation lead to higher levels of cross- watershed mitigation than federal regulations without cross-county prohibitions. Our data suggest that local control over wetland mitigation may prioritize administrative boundaries over hydrologic function in the matter of selecting compensation sites.


Wetland mitigation banking Restoration ecology Urban ecology Clean Water Act Geographic information system (GIS) Environmental planning 



We would like to acknowledge Mitch Isoe and Mary Martens (Chicago Corps), Mary Beth Falsie (DuPage County, IL), Ken Anderson (Kane County, IL), Glenn Westman (Lake County, IL), and Joe Roth (Corporation for OpenLands) for their time, helpful insights, and assistance in collecting data for this study. We would also like to thank Chicago wetland bankers John Ryan and David Urban (Land and Water Resources, Inc.), as well as Don Hay (Wetland Research, Inc.). We would specifically like to thank Morgan Robertson for his data contribution and feedback, as well as Jim Schmid, John Sanders, and the attendees at the 2005 System Dynamics Society Conference in Boston, MA and the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Chicago, IL for their helpful input. This research was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through Hatch Project ILLU-470-364.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of City and Regional PlanningUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel Hill
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Consumer EconomicsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbana

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