USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is investing up to $5 million in the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program (WMBP), a grant program that supports the development of mitigation banks for use by agricultural producers seeking to maintain eligibility for USDA programs. Funds are available to Tribes, government entities, nonprofits and other organizations.
“Our goal is to make sure agricultural producers have the tools they need to successfully farm and conserve natural resources,” said Jerry Raynor, State Conservationist in Indiana. ““Wetlands are critical to our efforts to respond to the climate crisis, and wetland mitigation banks enable the restoration or creation of wetlands for the purpose of compensating for unavoidable impacts to wetlands at another location. The Wetland Mitigation Banking Program helps states, local governments, and other qualified partners restore, create and enhance wetland ecosystems.”
To participate in most USDA programs, agricultural producers agree to comply with the wetland conservation provisions, which means producers will not farm converted wetlands or convert wetlands to enable agricultural production. In situations where avoidance or on-site mitigation is challenging, the Farm Bill allows for off-site mitigation through the purchase of mitigation banking credits.
NRCS awarded the first WBMP grants in 2016 and has supported the creation or expansion of wetland mitigation banks in 11 states. So far, 21 wetland bank sites have been established through the program, totaling 313 acres. Several more sites have been secured and are in various stages of the restoration process.
NRCS is prioritizing funds in states with large amounts of wetlands as well as large amounts of producers with wetland determination requests. This includes Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Awardees may use WMBP funding to support mitigation bank site identification, development of a mitigation banking instrument, site restoration, land surveys, permitting and title searches, and market research. WMBP funding cannot be used to purchase land or a conservation easement.