South Dakota’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) approved a wetland mitigation site in northeastern South Dakota, the first such site in the state. The Wetland Mitigation Program included in the 2014 Farm Bill allows farmers to destroy wetlands if they first purchase credits from an approved wetland mitigation bank, which are then used to restore a previously converted wetland or create a wetland on an approved mitigation site.
NRCS reports that the approved mitigation bank site is a prior converted wetland. However, conservation organizations – including the League, Ducks Unlimited, and Delta Waterfowl – expressed serious concerns about the selected site to the NRCS, stating that the site was already a functioning wetland and therefore should not be eligible to be used as a mitigation bank site. Selection of this site for the mitigation bank, the groups say, sends the wrong message for the wetland mitigation program.
The conservation groups fear that use of this site for a wetland mitigation bank will lead to more wetland consolidation – combining small temporary and seasonal wetlands into larger wetland basins. Consolidation eliminates the function and values small wetlands provide, including flood water retention, water quality improvement, and wildlife habitat. NRCS will propose additional wetland mitigation sites in the future. The League and other conservation groups will stay involved in this process in South Dakota and other states with wetland mitigation bank programs. We will also work with other conservation groups to clarify wetland rankings in this program as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. You can learn more about wetland mitigation on the NRCS website.
Photo credit: South Dakota Habitat Pay (Please note, this image is not the approved mitigation site.)