Below are some of our more Frequently Asked Questions. If you are unable to locate the answer to your question here, feel free to contact us.
Q: What does RS do?
A: We sell “compensatory mitigation” for development impacts to the natural environment. Compensatory mitigation, as defined by federal regulations, is the “restoration, creation, enhancement, or in exceptional circumstances, preservation of wetlands and/or other aquatic resources for the purpose of compensating for unavoidable adverse impacts which remain after all appropriate and practicable avoidance and minimization has been achieved.”
Q: Thanks for the fancy legal definition. But what do you do?
A: Sure. A typical mitigation project for wetlands might take the following form: Restoration Systems will locate a former natural wetland which has been historically ditched and drained for farming, purchase the right to restore and protect the land, plan its restoration to wetland status, implement the restoration, and protect it with conservation easements.
By implementing the “restoration,” we mean an on-the-ground physical effort to improve the ecology of the site which starts by using heavy construction equipment to reverse prior damage. We back-fill drainage canals, remove and breech levees that denied floodwaters to former wetlands, and restore more natural topography to the land by excavating swales and depressions. Finally, we will plant more than a thousand native trees of multiple species per acre and protect the tract, or tracts, from development or cutting with enforceable conservation easements.
Q: What is a mitigation “credit”?
A: A “credit” is a way of defining the improvement of the environment at one location, like described above, and its usefulness as compensation to damage done elsewhere. For example, in North Carolina, one credit is generally required to offset the loss of one acre of wetland to development. However, in order to produce a credit, and satisfy the legal obligation to compensate the environment, a company like Restoration Systems will have to restore at least one acre of wetlands, and preserve or enhance up to ten additional acres. In short, the cumulative work done to improve a tract of land or stream at one location is translated into credits, which offset development taking place at another location.
Q: Where can credits be used?
A: Good question. Credits, representing positive environmental accomplishments, are useful as offsets to environmental damage. These credits, released only in given regions defined by the government, are generally based on the regulated resource. For instance, the credits for water-related projects like stream and wetland restoration are generally recognized for use only within a given watershed. Watersheds come in several orders of magnitude (ranging from the Mississippi watershed to your local creek), but for these purposes, credits related to the federal and state agencies are generally settled on one or more 8-Digit USGS “HUC’s,” or Hydrologic Unit Codes. In most southern states these HUC’s run from 250,000 to several million acres, or as several county-sized regions that share rainfall.
Q: Is mitigation required by law?
A: Most definitely. Mitigation is required by Congress in the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, as well as demanded by a wide range of federal processes, such as project relicensing and best management practices. State law increasingly demands mitigation and offsets to the environment as well.
Q: When do credits become useful to Restoration Systems?
A: Credits only become useful for mitigation after a public permitting process which determines that natural resources have been avoided and kept safe from harm to the extent practicable, and impact to the environment has been reasonably minimized.
Q: If Restoration Systems is holding on to mitigation credits, how are they released or used? Are these credits based on environmental or biological needs?
A: Mitigation credits are released based on tangible achievements for the species or watershed evaluated by Restoration Systems. Typical activities that can result in the release of environmental credits are physical and legal land improvements, such as filling draining ditches, removing levees and dams, or re-contouring streams and planting trees.
Q: How does Restoration Systems ensure that their projects will remain protected once they are finished?
A: Permanent protection in the form of conservation easements prohibits future development or logging within the project boundaries. Restoration Systems also guarantees long-term monitoring. This ensures that the credits given to Restoration Systems for each project are backed up by hard science, as the scientific processes and monitoring for each site are reviewed by state and federal agencies for accuracy. Monitoring for each project continues for five years or more following the completion of the project.
Q: How does Restoration Systems guarantee their commitments?
A: Restoration Systems further ensures the utility of each credit granted by providing renewable surety bonds to guarantee contract implementation and success. These bonds are generally maintained for five years or more.
Conservation Easement FAQs:
Here are some helpful answers to questions regarding what a conservation easement on your land means and how it will benefit you as a landowner. The following information is provided by the NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program.
Q: What is a conservation easement?
A: A conservation easement is a written agreement between a landowner and the State of North Carolina that protects water quality by maintaining or establishing natural vegetation in a streamside or wetland parcel or buffer. All conservation easements used for the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) purposes are perpetual and will forever transfer with the land to maintain its integrity. The property under conservation easement cannot be used for commercial, residential or industrial development or cultivation, but instead will be kept in its natural state.
Q: Why would I want a conservation easement?
A: Conveying a conservation easement on wetlands or stream buffers may increase the value of the remainder of your land. Buyers will often pay more for homes near permanently protected open space. Conservation easements are also important for protecting environmental and historical values.
Q: Does a conservation easement apply to all of my property?
A: No, the easement would only apply to the portion of land specifically identified and agreed upon between the landowner and Restoration Systems in the easement.
Q: What kind of land interests Restoration Systems?
A: Restoration Systems is interested in property that could be restored and preserved to provide for the protection or improvement of water quality. Restoration Systems wants sites that have a high probability of success based on hydrology, soils and vegetation. Priority is given to sites that need re-vegetation or erosion control. Restoration Systems is also interested in areas that have rare plants or animals, endangered aquatic species, or land adjacent to degraded streams.