Restoration on the Lummi Nation Reservation: First Tribal Wetland Mitigation Bank (Washington State)
The Lummi Nation is lighting the path for other tribal nations seeking to improve both their ecological and financial resources. In 2009, the Lummi developed the first tribally-owned and operated commercial mitigation bank in the United States, designating 22% of the reservation land to the Lummi Nation Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank after an inventory indicating less than 10% of historical wetlands remained in parts of the Lummi’s traditional hunting and fishing grounds. The Lummi are currently implementing the bank in three phases and have been largely successful in terms of both wetland restoration and funds from bank credits. To date, nearly 200 acres of wetlands have been enhanced, and the Lummi have sold $1.7 million in credits to both public and private parties. The revenue stream provided by the bank enables the Lummi Nation to protect its culturally valuable wetland resources while allowing much-needed development as their community grows.
In developing the bank, the Lummi and their state and federal partners have navigated the unique financing challenges that come with creating a mitigation bank as an indigenous tribe, such as overcoming the lack of traditional revenue sources available to private bankers that may not be available to tribes. This is especially important considering how costly banks are to establish; the Lummi mitigation bank total estimated cost is $5 million to set up and $165,000 annually to operate. Understanding the financial arena was a key barrier to creating the bank, also the informational assistance provided by the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC EFC) proved to be integral, as it assisted the tribe in navigating the process of finding alternative financing opportunities. UNC EFC secured funding from the EPA to provide this training to the Lummi and other Native American tribes. As new tribes look to create their own mitigation banks, the information provided by UNC EFC and other similar programs, and lessons learned by the Lummi may help expedite the process so that they, too, can benefit from economic gains while facilitating much needed ecological restoration and protection.