Clover Muters

M.S. Candidate, University of Washington

Field Travel Grant Type 1

What happens when no one is watching? Ecological and institutional considerations in long-term management of compensatory wetland mitigation projects

“This grant would be used to support my thesis research project which is a study of the ecological and institutional considerations for the long term management of compensatory wetland mitigation projects in Washington State. Described in more detail below, my research involves travel to wetland mitigation project sites all over Western Washington, as well as to various county and city offices.

In response to a 1998 study which reported that over three quarters of wetland mitigation sites evaluated in King County, WA were unsuccessful according to their performance standards, the WA State Department of Ecology conducted a Wetland Mitigation Evaluation Study to evaluate the effectiveness of compensatory wetland mitigation across the state. The study occurred in two phases between 1999 and 2002. All mitigation projects used in the study were permittee responsible freshwater wetland mitigation. The results of this study led to the creation of Ecology’s Mitigation That Works Campaign to address the flaws in traditional compensatory mitigation in an effort to improve success rates.

The overarching question framing my research is: What happens to permittee responsible, freshwater compensatory wetland mitigation projects in Western WA after their required monitoring period ends? The intention is to evaluate the condition of the sites now and identify the social, ecological and institutional circumstances which may have contributed to the project’s long term success or failure as the case may be. Furthermore, gathering new data on these sites will help to portray the trends of these projects over time, rather than just one snapshot in time, and to explore the relationship between permit compliance during the monitoring period and long term ecological success. This research will draw from my experience as a wetland ecologist and will attempt to understand the ecological factors but also, importantly, the social and institutional factors influencing the long term outcome of wetland mitigation projects. ”