Pineywoods Mitigation Bank | Angelina, Polk, and Jasper Counties

 Acres: 19,079
Year Acquired: 2008
Conservation Values: Neches River watershed, large native bottomland wetland forests
Location: FIND ME ON A MAP

pineywoodsHistory: Through a collaboration with the Conservation Fund and a private investment group, TLC now protects over 19,000 acres of land in East Texas as the largest mitigation bank in Texas and one of the largest in the country. A mitigation bank is a wetland, stream, or other aquatic area that has been restored, and preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to other aquatic resources. More information on mitigation banks.

The property is situated along the Neches River in Angelina, Jasper, and Polk Counties, and provides a wildlife corridor that connects the Davy Crocket and Angelina National Forests. This unique area forms the eastern edge of the northern geographic extent of the Big Thicket. This property includes more than 13,000 acres of bottomland wetland forest, supplemented by scrub/shrub wetlands, emergent wetlands, and areas of open water. The restoration of the bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem will occur through the removal of exotic and undesirable species, followed by the reintroduction of desirable native tree species throughout the property. The map below gives a general location and a sense of size. To put in perspective the Davy Crockett National Forest is 160,000 acres, and the Angelina National Forest is 153,000 acres. The land contains over 45 miles of the Neches River .

The preserve contains a wetland complex that consists of forested wetland, scrub/shrub wetland, emergent wetland, and open water. This unique part of Texas is teaming with life, and represents a major wildlife corridor between the two national forests. While this isn't our biggest easement, it is definitely one of our most important to date.


What is a Mitigation Bank?

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 is the United States’ primary regulatory mechanism for surface water quality protection. The objective of the CWA is “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” Section 404 of the CWA specifically prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into streams or wetlands unless a permit is obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When there is a proposed discharge into a wetland, the EPA and Corps go through a “mitigation sequence” to determine the best possible solution that would result in “No Net Loss” of wetland quality or quantity.

The sequence is:

  • Step 1. Avoid - Adverse impacts to aquatic resources are to be avoided and no discharge shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative with less adverse impact.
  • Step 2. Minimize - If impacts cannot be avoided, appropriate and practicable steps to minimize adverse impacts must be taken.
  • Step 3. Compensate - Appropriate and practicable compensatory mitigation is required for unavoidable adverse impacts which remain. The amount and quality of compensatory mitigation may not substitute for avoiding and minimizing impacts.

 
A mitigation bank is the preferred method of compensatory mitigation, but is still used only when avoidance and minimization of proposed pollution are unavoidable. The EPA defines a mitigation bank as “a wetland area that has been restored, established, enhanced or preserved, which is then set aside to compensate for future conversions of wetlands for development activities.” The location of the mitigation bank site will be within the same watershed as the proposed discharge and entities which do the polluting will purchase “credits” in the bank that will go towards the restoration and maintenance of the bank site. Historically, if damage was done to an aquatic resource the responsible party was required to restore the area affected, or purchase an equivalent property to set aside as compensation.

Enforcement of these methods was difficult, however. Mitigation banks, on the other hand, are pre-selected sites that have numerous groups doing the actual restoration and regulation. One of the regulations for new mitigation banks requires owners of the banks to place a conservation easement on the bank to ensure permanent protection of the restored habitat.

For more information:
EPA, Compensatory Mitigation Fact Sheet: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/pdf/CMitigation.pdf
EPA, Final Compensatory Mitigation Rule Q&A:
http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/pdf/Mit_rule_QA.pdf