Aside from Weston Solutions, which we profiled a few weeks back on our blog, there are hundreds of other companies involved in ecosystem regeneration on the Gulf Coast, many of which were listed in a recent Duke University report on the economic impact of wetland restoration on the national economy. In today’s post, we look at Restoration Systems (RS), a small business whose Raleigh headquarters are a short drive from Duke’s Durham, N.C. campus.

Restoration Systems focuses on mitigation banking and wetland rehabilitation. The company, founded in 1998, has restored large-scale ecosystems in North Carolina and other parts of the South. A central tenet of its efforts is restoration coupled with protection. Before embarking on a project, Restoration System purchases a permanent conservation easement from local landowners that prohibits future development and drainage at the location slated for regeneration. RS then works with site designers, plant and animal biologists, and hydrodynamic modelers to rehabilitate the degraded habitat, with the goal of replicating historic vegetation and drainage patters. After the project is completed, the company is then issued mitigation credits over time based on the ecological health of the restored streams and wetlands in the targeted area. It then sells these credits to commercial and infrastructure developers, like road and levee builders, so that they can satisfy mitigation obligations set by federal and state governments. The company monitors the project and is paid as progress on wetland recovery metrics is made during the seven years after restoration.

“Our firm has been around for about fifteen years, and in that time it has planted over a million trees at restoration sites. None will ever be cut down,” says George Howard, co-founder and president of Restoration Systems. With a family tradition of careers in engineering and water management, Howard says that working on wetlands seemed like a logical step after serving as a Senate aide in Washington. He helped to sponsor the Cape Fear Regional Mitigation Bank, one of the first of its kind in the United States, in the mid-1990s, and sought ways to make the Southeast a national leader in ecosystem restoration.

“Our region is blessed with millions of acres of wetlands, but for too many years, we did too little to restore and protect these invaluable environments. In the Mississippi River Delta, the Tidewater region of Virginia, and other areas, we are trying to reverse the damage of past decades and change local mindsets about best-use practices for coastal areas. We’re a young company, but we’ve already helped to restore over 25,000 acres of wetland habitat in nine states. By providing a vehicle for funding restoration, we help to expedite the recovery process for degraded environments.”

In Louisiana, Restoration Systems is planning to restore a 340-acre site they own at Jesuit Bend, a community in Plaquemines Parish, as well as a 1,846 acre site in southern Lafourche Parish. The firm will partner with local companies on the projects, which could ultimately rebuild over three square miles of sensitive wetlands in vulnerable sections of the southeastern Louisiana coast. Between the planning, dredging, planting and maintenance, dozens would be put to work in a variety of job categories, skilled to unskilled.

“I’ve spent a lot time in the Mississippi River Delta, and despite the tremendous damage, I know that we can restore it. Our company and others would be willing to commit more energy to the region if there were a catalyst for enhanced rehabilitation efforts. It seems like a no-brainer that coastlines damaged by the BP oil disaster should be restored with penalties from the spill. If the House can join the Senate in pushing forward the RESTORE Act, there will be tremendous benefits for the local environment and the local economy.  I know — I'm ready to hire.”