Westervelt Ecological Services

Mitigation Banking 101

Mitigation Banking 101


A mitigation bank is an area of land that has been restored, established, enhanced, or preserved
to offset the loss of streams and wetlands, while conservation banks include listed species’ habitat.

How Mitigation Banking Works?

Mitigation Banks involve three different parties:

  1. Mitigation Bank Owner- completes environmental restoration on a specific site to sell mitigation credits
  2. Regulatory agencies and inter-agency review team- approves mitigation project and require mitigation for infrastructure and development projects
  3. Client/Permittee- needs to offset environmental impacts from infrastructure projects ranging from a new housing development to a transportation expansion.

A mitigation bank earns credits from on-site restoration. The bank owner sells credits to a permittee needing to offset their environmental impact. The quality and type of mitigation determine the number of credits at a bank—the Inter-agency review team reviews credits based on acres, functional units, or another assessment method.

WES business process diagram_with larger text-01

Benefits of Mitigation Banking

Reduced Compliance Cost

Purchasing credits cost less than “do it yourself” mitigation in the long-term, especially if a landowner must invest in land and the cost of permitting and construction.

Eliminates Risk and Responsibility

Once the purchase of the required credits is complete, the permittee transfers all liability of ecological loss to the banker.

Reduces Permitting Time

Buying credits from an approved bank is easier than getting regulatory approvals, which could take months. In addition, the reduced permit processing time results in more immediate fulfillment of permit mitigation requirements.

Protects and Restores Natural Resources

Habitat banking protects and restores larger, more functional, and longer-lasting ecological systems which are owned and managed by professionals and preserved in perpetuity by either a conservation easement or fee title held by a qualified conservation entity and enforced by a qualified third party.

Regulating Agencies

Four federal regulatory agencies manage habitat impacts the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA). The USACE and EPA manage impacts to stream and wetland habitat regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The USFWS and NOAA manage impacts to endangered species’ habitats regulated by the Endangered Species Act. There are also numerous state regulations and agencies that provide additional protection for habitat and species.

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WES and Mitigation Banking

WES offers a competitive, time-saving way to mitigate environmental damages through our mitigation banks. Credits from mitigation banks make it possible to move ahead with development while still preserving our ecosystems. We’ve incentivized conservation on private land by a private company, providing a mechanism to realize the true value of conservation work.

Colusa Mitigation Bank

Key Terms


Credits represent the ecological gains at a bank. A Bank earns credits based on the quantity and quality of the restored, created (established), enhanced, or preserved resources. An Inter-agency-review team awards and measures credits in acres, functional units, or some other assessment method.

Service Area

The area outside the bank property where the bank owner may sell credits. Regulatory agencies determine service areas based on physical and ecological attributes such as watersheds, soil types, species recovery units, or species and population distributions.

Conservation Easement

The agreement between a landowner and either a government agency or a land trust that permanently limits the uses of a property. In this case, the conservation easement ensures that the property will remain conserved habitat.

Pay For Performance Projects

Pay for performance or "Turnkey" projects provide the full delivery benefits of mitigation bank credits on a customized basis. This option provides an opportunity for clients when mitigation credits are not available.