Vol. 1 Num. 3
A Publication of the Project World Class
April 1999 
Mitigation, What you can do to Help
by Sondra

     "Mitigation is the process in which any action is taken to improve, expand, or rectify a wetland to compensate for damage done during a project," said Chris Citorik. Citorik  has recently finished a project on mitigation and society's reactions to it, for Project World. Mitigation is a method that was proposed in 1981 to the state of New Hampshire and is used throughout the country. 

     Wetlands are very beneficial to the ecosystem that we call home, whether the wetland is acting as a home to many animals, some even endangered, or as a watershed during the flood season. Wetlands are homes to many animals that are necessary to the ecosystem. A wetland provides an environment that people are able to learn about many species and how they live. Many times a wetland acts as a sponge that absorbs the water from rain. To protect our homes we must preserve wetlands. 

     Mitigation is a method that hypothetically allows people to expand, improve, or create a new wetland. It is primarily used to replace wetlands destroyed during construction and development.  The concept of mitigation exists to try to protect wetlands, but so far this hasn't been the case. "Mitigation has a high failure rate. Because there isn't enough information, scientists don't know how to duplicate ecosystems such as a wetland," Citorik said. If one detail isn't taken care of in a wetland (like the inclusion of  certain species of plants or animals) then the wetland will fail. 

     A problem with the mitigation process in New Hampshire is that the person who is filling in a wetland isn't required to recreate a wetland of the same type or class. Each wetland is classified according to its vegetation and the hydrology of the area. Other states have set laws so that mitigation projects must create wetlands of the same class as or higher than the one that was destroyed. 

     Another problem is that the public isn't aware of mitigation. In his research, Citorik found that in Raymond, New Hampshire, Wal-Mart filled in a wetland in order to build a distribution center.  The state of New Hampshire required that they try to create a wetland nearby.  The new wetland doesn't have natural water flowing into it. Without a natural water source, the wetland won't be able to sustain itself during the non-rain season.  In just a few short years, this project has regressed from wetland to grassy field with a puddle in the middle of it. 

     Another mitigation project in Durham, New Hampshire is part of a UNH study.  UNH students monitor and adjust this new wetland constantly, and this project has been more successful than most. 

     "Mitigation is not working.  It's not a good idea right now. We don't know enough right now and the public isn't aware about the problem. But there is an activist group against mitigation now.  Who knows what's going to happen," Citorik said. 

     Mitigation is a baby that has been born into a world of pollution and wetland destruction. None of us were perfect when we were born. We all grow and learn, maybe mitigation can too. In order to have any success, mitigation projects require money and constant monitoring. 

     There are many wetlands in New Hampshire right now, but a few years ago there were even more wetlands. Without the help of the public, wetlands in New Hampshire might become a thing of the past.  Be aware of what construction projects are doing to the wetlands in your town or state.  Ask questions.  Most of all, lobby your elected officials for stricter, more detailed rules governing wetland mitigation projects.