Ecological Land Reuse

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Ecological enhancements are modifications to a remediation site which increase and improve habitat for plants and animals or improve the aesthetic nature of the site while contributing to and protecting human health and the environment. An ecological enhancement can include natural or green remediation technologies or an end use which restores or otherwise increases the ecological value of the land. Ecological elements may be designed into any remediation or closure project. Considered during initial planning of a site cleanup—including brownfields, hazardous waste, voluntary cleanup, mining, etc.—green and natural-based technologies and many conventional technologies can cost-effectively clean up soil and groundwater contamination and restore, create, and/or improve habitat or the ecosystems and value. Designing an ecological end use as an integrated component of the remediation system can realize more benefits from the remediation process without compromising the selected remediation goals and objectives. Incorporating ecological enhancements into site remediation benefits regulatory agencies, the regulated community, local communities, and the general public. The greatest benefits are obtained by integrating ecological land reuse into the initial remediation strategy, but this in no way precludes incorporation of ecological enhancements into remediation projects which are already under way.

Planning and Promoting Ecological Land Reuse of Remediated Sites (ECO-2, 2006) promotes ecological land reuse as an integrated part of site remediation strategies and as an alternative to conventional property development or redevelopment. Ecological land reuse is achieved through a design that considers natural or green technologies in traditional cleanup processes. ECO-2 helps stakeholders to integrate future land use and stakeholder input into an ecological land end use–based remediation project.

A well-planned and integrated project gains strong support from the stakeholders and transforms them into strong advocates for projects integrating ecological elements into the future land reuse plans. This guidance describes key decision points in a flow diagram and defines the practicality of applying natural or green technologies to traditional remediation processes. Ecological benefits have not traditionally been designed into, nor credited to, the value of the reusable land until successful remediation was completed. Now, natural and green technologies can improve the ecology of the site as long as they support the intent of the land’s use and do facilitate the elimination or reduction of the human or environmental risk and threat. Consideration of ecological benefits, as well as the end use of an environmentally impacted site, is an integral component of the remediation process. Key to success is an understanding of the service capacity—the ability to produce jobs, housing, environmental habitat, mineral resources, agricultural goods, and other societal values—at, near, and surrounding a remediation project.

Given the ecological value, carbon sequestration potential, and sustainability, green technologies will realize an increasing market. Given the attractive nature of green spaces, wetlands, and other habitat, the market will expand into conservancy organizations, environmental activists, and local community government. DOD and DOE, undergoing site closures and property transfers, will value the streamlined process and increased property values using ecological enhancements.