Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Florida Department of Transportation

Wildlife and Wetland Habitat Mitigation

Open landscape with dry grassed area in background and a few isolated trees on horizon sign on fence in foreground says Platt Branch Mitigation Park.
Platt Branch Mitigation Site (Florida DOT)
Grassed area along roadside with high chain link fence on the right. A deer stands in the grassed area to the left of the fence, excluded from the roadway area.
Deer behind wildlife fencing along highway (Florida DOT)

If you're protecting the habitats that support threatened and endangered wildlife species, you're protecting the species themselves.

For years, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has been acting on that principle. In 1995, FDOT established a large, first-of-its-kind habitat-conservation bank in south central Florida. The FDOT used nearly $2.4 million of its own money to purchase the 1,710-acre Johnson Ranch in Highlands County. The property, now called Platt Branch Mitigation Park, was identified by the Nature Conservancy as an ideal site for a wetland and upland conservation and mitigation bank because it provided habitat for 17 State and federally-protected species-species like the gopher tortoise, the Florida scrub-jay, and the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Platt Branch is also home to several rare plant communities-for example, xeric oak scrub and cutthroat seeps. The western portion of the park, which includes the floodplain of Fish-Eating Creek, boasts a scenic stand of oak and cypress layered with drooping strands of Spanish moss. In addition, Platt Branch is an integral part of an 18,272-acre ecosystem and continuous wildlife corridor.

Early on, FDOT made a commitment to the success of the new conservation bank. After purchasing Platt Branch, FDOT invested another $2.3 million in an endowment used by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for long-term management of the site.

Platt Branch is just one example of FDOT's common-sense, ecosystem-based wildlife-habitat mitigation which shifts focus from on-site, project-by-project mitigation to an off-site regional, multi-use approach. As a result, FDOT has been able to link regional wildlife corridors throughout the State.

The FDOT's legislation-based, wetland mitigation program also uses an ecosystems approach to restore and enhance wetland habitat. The FDOT focuses on consolidated, long-range mitigation planning that addresses integrated regional or statewide resource needs.

Mitigation for impacts to wetlands and surface waters resulting from State transportation projects are now carried out by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and five Florida Water Management Districts (WMDs) with funding provided by FDOT. For each impacted wetland acre, FDOT pays the WMDs $75,000. This amount is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.

The FDOT-funded WMD wetland mitigation is paying off. Since the inception of the FDOT mitigation program in 1996, FDOT districts have proposed 125 construction projects with wetland impacts to be mitigated through the program. These include FDOT projects with anticipated construction schedules through at least 2009, distributed over 11 drainage basins and covering 16 counties. The Southwest Florida WMD proposes restoring more than 5,000 acres of wetlands to compensate for approximately 366 acres of anticipated wetland impacts. To date more than 30 wetland mitigation banks have been approved by the State for various future projects.

For more information on FDOT's Wildlife Habitat Mitigation Program, contact Vicki Sharpe at vicki.sharpe@dot.state.fl.us.
For more information on FDOT's Wetland Habitat Mitigation Program, contact Joshua Boan at joshua.boan@dot.state.fl.us.

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