The proposed 105-acre Rabbit Creek Mitigation Bank stream mitigation and Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse conservation bank project is located on a section of state trust land adjacent to the 28,000-acre Cherokee Park State Wildlife Area. Preble’s mouse are dependent on shrub and grass vegetation closely associated with riparian corridors between 4,650 and 7,600 feet in elevation so a combined stream mitigation and species conservation bank would not be unusual.
The proposed Rabbit Creek Mitigation Bank will be comprised of two types of mitigation credits: stream mitigation credits approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and species conservation credits for Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (PMJM) approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Adverse impacts to waters of the U.S. are regulated by USACE through 404 permits and require mitigation. The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is listed as “Threatened” by the USFWS and adverse impacts to its habitat must be mitigated. The type and number of stream and mouse mitigation credits will be based on site characteristics and habitat enhancement measures approved by the two regulatory agencies.
Once the bank project is approved and the site is improved, credits can be sold by the mitigation bank sponsor (i.e. project developer) to third parties whose activities impact streams and Preble’s mouse habitat in other locations. Purchasing mitigation credits eliminates the need for a third party to mitigate for impacts on the same property where the impact is occurring, thereby saving time and money. Development projects that have the potential to impact streams and Preble’s mouse habitat include dam and reservoir construction, road construction, and large scale housing or commercial development.
Looking south from northern property boundary at CPW access road
Photos of Rabbit Creek on the property showing a deeply incised streambed that is disconnected floodplain. Livestock access to the incised streambed have created numerous cut banks from hoof shear that are exposed for increased erosion and soil loss.
The proposed stream mitigation bank project will include the area designated as the 100-year floodplain of Rabbit Creek and a buffer area extending 100 feet from the floodplain boundary. Rabbit Creek is currently deeply incised (i.e. down cut) as it passes through the state trust land property, leaving the adjacent floodplains abandoned. In its present condition, the incised stream channel captures all but the highest stream flows, concentrating water energy which leads to increased erosion and bank cutting action. In contrast, a healthy, well-functioning stream is well-connected to its floodplain, typically reaches bankfull stage at least once every two years, and allows floodwaters to expand onto its floodplains to dissipate energy and minimize erosive action.
The stream restoration project will focus on reconnecting Rabbit Creek to the floodplain by installing instream structures that slow the water down, elevate the stream bed, and halt current erosion. The PMJM species conservation bank will include an upland buffer area extending an additional 300 feet from the edge of the floodplain buffer. Cattle grazing would be used occasionally as a site management tool based on an approved grazing management plan.
The project would be implemented and financed by a mitigation bank sponsor working as a lessee of the State Land Board. Credits are approved by the USACE and USFWS only as certain performance standards are achieved. The mitigation banker would arrange for the sale of the stream and mouse credits and the State Land Board would receive a portion of the credit sales which would be used to support K-12 public education.