Determinants of spatial and temporal patterns in compensatory wetland mitigation

Todd BenDor, Nicholas Brozović

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-364
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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