Lummi Nation creating first federally backed tribal mitigation bank

The Lummi Nation is enhancing nearly 2,000 acres of habitat in the Nooksack and Lummi river deltas as part of the first federally backed tribal wetland and habitat mitigation bank.

Eventually, credits in the bank will be sold or transferred to developers who are required to mitigate for unavoidable adverse effects their projects might have on wetlands and associated buffer areas. These projects are expected to include homes built on tribal members’ land assignments and Lummi Nation projects as well as development off-reservation.

“We’re proud to be creating the first tribal wetland and habitat mitigation bank in the country,” said Merle Jefferson, Lummi natural resources director. “We’re not only improving habitat in the Nooksack River estuary, but we’re also providing an economic benefit for the tribe.”

The Nooksack River is home to threatened chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Habitat degradation is a leading cause for the decline of salmon populations.

Last spring, a tribal crew planted western red cedar, Sitka spruce and willow in the Nooksack delta portion of the mitigation bank. The native plants will help create wetland and upland buffer habitat where fish and wildlife can breed, feed, rear and migrate. The rapid growth of the willow will shade out invasive weeds such as reed canary grass.

Tribal members will be able to continue to use the habitat to exercise their treaty-reserved fishing, hunting and gathering rights. Other recreational, educational and scientific activities will be allowed as long as they do not conflict with conservation of the area.

The bank is being developed in phases, with the first phase expected to be operational soon. Once complete, the mitigation bank will require approval by the Inter-Agency Review Team (IRT), which currently includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and federal Environmental Protection Agency. Although not a member, the state Department of Ecology participates in the IRT so that the bank can be certified to allow use of bank credits for off-reservation projects.

For more information: Jeremy Freimund, Lummi Nation Water Resources Manager, 360-384-2212 or [email protected]; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC information officer, 360-424-8226 or [email protected].