Welcome Wendy Weaver, Executive Director
MARS is excited to announce we have hired our first Executive Director! With Wendy on board, MARS is positioned to bolster our programs and expand our activities across the state.
Wendy’s commitment to and involvement in her community are fundamental elements in her personal philosophy and work ethic. She is an active Board Member and Green School Chair of the Montana Chapter of the US Green Building Council, and is a Certified Green Classroom Professional. In 2012, she was instrumental in launching the first Green Schools challenge in the state, and has partnered with the Governor’s Office to launch the 2014-2015 SMART Schools challenges.
Compensatory Mitigation and In-Lieu Fee
MARS' largest program is our In-Lieu Fee Statewide Mitigation Program. But what does that mean and how does it work? We thought we would take a moment to explain ourselves:
The Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act require that any activity involving discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States or into navigable waters must compensate for the damage or loss of aquatic resources. Entities or individuals planning such activities must apply for permits through the Army Corps of Engineers. Once authorized, the permittee is responsible for providing compensatory mitigation generally in the form of restoration, enhancement, establishment or preservation of wetlands or streams to offset losses. The permittee has three options for providing mitigation:
- Permittee-responsible: The permittee retains the responsibility for performing the necessary mitigation and ensuring its success. This is the most traditional form of compensatory mitigation, and is typically completed at the same site where the impact occurred.
- Mitigation banking: The permittee can pay a third party to assume their mitigation responsibility. Generally, mitigation banks are commercial, for-profit businesses with projects completed at a single location through initial investment and then sold to permittees to fulfill their mitigation requirement.
- In-Lieu Fee: This method, like mitigation banking, is a form of third party, offsite compensatory mitigation. Generally, In-Lieu Fee programs are administered by government agencies or non-profit organizations. Projects are selected based on watershed priorities and funded by fees collected from the permittees.
MARS is the certified sponsor of the Montana Statewide In-Lieu Fee Program (ILF). MARS works closely with the Army Corps of Engineers and an Interagency Review Team (IRT) to screen, review and monitor ILF projects. As the ILF program sponsor, MARS accepts all mitigation responsibility on behalf of the permittee. MARS bases its mitigation fees for ILF projects on the actual costs of restoring, enhancing, and protecting streams and wetlands including sufficient funds to monitor, manage, and protect project sites in perpetuity to ensure lost habitat functions are restored and preserved.
MARS Board Chair recognized with Ducks Unlimited for Wetland Stewardship
Every two years, the Montana Wetland Council and the Montana Watershed Coordination Council jointly honor individuals and organizations that demonstrate exceptional stewardship of Montana's wetlands and watersheds. MARS is particularly proud to highlight Abby Dresser, MARS Board Chair, who was among the Ducks Unlimited staff that received an award for Wetland Stewardship. Dresser is a Biologist with Ducks Unlimited in partnership with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. She works closely with the NRCS and private landowners to help implement Farm Bill programs across the state such as the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Dresser shares in DU's accomplishment of delivering more than 500 projects that have conserved nearly 70,000 acres of Montana’s wetlands and associated grasslands over the last 30 years.
This year's award ceremony was held at the Capitol in Helena on May 28th. In addition to the awards ceremony, each recipient gave a short presentation on their accomplishments and ongoing work. Although the presenters were humble and quick to recognize collaborators, it was clear each award was well deserved. Especially at a time when the news about water is so focused on drought, it was uplifting to take time to recognize the amazing work and success of our water resources colleagues.
Congratulations to all the 2015 Wetland and Watershed Stewardship Award Recipients
Montana Ducks Unlimited
Wetland and Riparian Mapping Center, Montana Natural Heritage Program
Kris Newgard, Kootenai National Forest Hydrologist
Musselshell Watershed Coalition
L to R: Jeff Hagener, director, Mont. Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP); Catherine Wightman, Mont. FWP habitat and farm bill coordinator; Jim Daugherty, DU Mont. state chairman; Abby Dresser, DU biologist; Avery Dresser, Montana's newest Greenwing member; Lynda Saul, Mont. Dept. of Environmental Quality, wetland program coordinator; Bob Sanders, DU manager of conservation programs.