A multidisciplinary committee will be established to review the scientific and technical and institutional literature on wetland structure and functioning, and options for mitigating wetland loss through restoration, enhancement, creation, and where applicable, in-lieu fee programs. The committee will evaluate the current ability of practitioners to restore various aspects of wetland functioning in a variety of environments and will evaluate options for mitigating wetland loss. The study will address such questions as how wetlands' size and place in the landscape, the ecoregion in which they occur, the kinds of animals and plants that comprise them, their hydrological regime, and other factors affect their structure and functioning in ways that are likely to affect the success of wetland restoration and mitigation of loss. The main criterion for the evaluation will be the degree to which the structure and functioning of the restored wetland match those of naturally occurring wetlands in the same region. The committee will also evaluate other options for mitigating wetland loss, such as in-lieu fee programs. A similar criterion will be used, i.e., to what degree do those options protect or replace the ecological role of naturally occurring wetlands.

The committee will analyze an illustrative set of wetland mitigation projects, including individual projects, mitigation banks, and in-lieu fee programs to the extent that they have ecological goals. As part of its efforts, the committee will consider questions in these three areas:

  • Goals for mitigation and criteria for selecting mitigation project type.

  • Compliance.

  • Mitigation success or failure.

The committee will also consider the following:

  • The degree to which experience with success and failure can be extrapolated to other areas and wetland types.

  • Whether available information leads to recommendations about circumstances in which compensatory mitigation of various types is more and less likely to succeed.

  • What research is likely to improve our success with compensatory mitigation in the near and medium terms.

This report is organized into three sections. Chapters 2 and 3 report on the scientific and technical capacities to create and restore wetland acres and functions in watersheds. Chapters 4, 5, and 6 review the regulatory program that has developed under the authority provided by Section 404. These chapters also comment on the mitigation experience as reported in the literature and as described to the committee during its deliberations. Chapters 7 and 8 point toward the future. These chapters provide technical and institutional suggestions for improving the practice of compensatory mitigation.

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