Robert B. Tiedmann
Ecologist, Idaho Transportation Department
Boise, Idaho

Robert B. Tiedemann, an awardee in the state government category, has implemented remarkably innovative wetland protection initiatives during his 12 years with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). Most recently, Rob has played the key role in initiating, coordinating, and leading an interagency effort to reach agreement on using wetland banks as a mitigation alternative for the ITD. Several years ago, the ITD recognized that the mitigation of unavoidable wetland losses had become a critical part of highway project designs. In addition, the ITD was aware of numerous opportunities to enhance or develop wetlands during various stages of its highway projects. Thus, in an effort to receive recognition and credit for possible wetland gains, Rob proposed that resource and regulatory agencies investigate the possibility of using mitigation banking within the state.

The interagency team first met in November of 1985. It included representatives of four federal agencies: the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and five state agencies: the Idaho Departments of Fish and Game, Health and Welfare, Lands, Transportation, and Water Resources. At the start, the agencies had differing ideas of what "mitigation banking" was, and how it should, or should not, be used. Under Rob’s guidance and perseverance, however, the team slowly but steadily moved toward an agreement on using wetland banking as a mitigation option within the state of Idaho. The three-year effort culminated in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed in 1988 by all of the nine federal and state agencies with an interest in wetland protection.

Reaching an agreement on an issue as difficult and controversial as mitigation banking is only the first step. The second step is implementing that agreement. With Rob’s guidance, the ITD has developed two successful wetland banks in eastern Idaho, with approximately 35 and 180 acres of wetlands that either have been created or enhanced by the ITD. A third, 21-acre wetland bank will be constructed this summer, and a fourth site is in the planning stage.

These wetland bank sites are established to mitigate for known and anticipated ITD project-specific impacts to wetlands elsewhere. Credits for wetland functions and values above and beyond that required to mitigate for project-related impacts are available at each of the wetland bank sites to mitigate for future project impacts. Banked wetland credits can only be applied toward the mitigation requirements of another ITD project in accordance with the strict criteria set out in the MOA. These criteria were written in response to an EPA Region X mitigation policy, which has since been reflected in the recent MOA between the Corps and the U.S. EPA. Importantly, the ITD’s wetland bank is viewed as the mitigation measure of last resort. Before using banked wetland credits for the mitigation of wetland losses, the ITD must show that wetland losses are unavoidable and that all on-site mitigation alternatives have been explored.

The environmental benefit of this approach is that these sites are now “living and breathing” wetlands. When these areas, or a portion thereof, are proposed to be used as credits for mitigation, the functions and values of the area can be directly assessed through field measurements, rather than assessing a written mitigation plan using only professional judgment. In addition, this approach takes advantage of natural succession, thereby allowing the sites to increase in quality with little or no human intervention or cost.

Recognition for the establishment of these mitigation banks also must be given to Charles Rountree, the ITD environmental planning supervisor, for “planting the seed” of wetland banking and providing needed support, and to Mary Hoyt, Environmental Planner with the ITD District Office in Rigby, Idaho, for locating and coordinating the development of two of the wetland bank sites.

In addition to the wetland banking initiative, Rob has also been instrumental in many wetland protection efforts at ITD. He has designed, developed, and implemented numerous stream and wetland restoration and creation projects throughout the state. Outside of ITD, he has used his expertise in wetland science by developing management recommendations for the protection of riparian lands and wetlands along the Boise River, and serving as one of the principal authors of the city of Boise’s River Plan. With Rob’s help, the plan has focused public attention on the important functions and values of this riparian resource. Rob is continuing to assist the city by providing ecological expertise as a member of the Boise River Technical Advisory Committee.

Rob’s professional experience also includes work as an ecological consultant in Boise, and previously in New Jersey, where his work focused on wetland delineations, assessments of wetland functions and values, and the design and implementation of wetland and aquatic mitigation and enhancement plans.

An effective instructor, Rob has developed and taught college-level environmental science courses and natural resource workshops. Furthermore, he has been invited by EPA to teach training courses in the federal wetland identification and delineation methodology. In addition to his work in wetland protection, Rob is a member of the board and past president of the East End Neighborhood Association. This group represents one of Boise’s oldest neighborhoods in issues ranging from the impacts of development on environmental quality to planning for future growth.

Through his efforts to facilitate the development and implementation of a wetland banking program, Rob has not only improved the ITD’s interagency relations, but also contributed substantially to natural resource conservation in the state. Moreover, he has set an example of innovation and dedication to wetland protection for departments of transportation and others throughout the Pacific Northwest.

-John Olson, Wetland Ecologist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, Boise, Idaho