Expanding the Conservation Reserve Program to Promote Habitat Conservation at Hazardous Waste Cleanup Sites: A Feasibility Study

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Remediation of former hazardous waste sites generates a new opportunity for lands contaminated with regulated hazardous waste. Many sites across the United States are remediated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action Program with a primary focus to eliminate human health and ecological risks associated with the improper handling, disposal, and/or treatment of hazardous waste and find a beneficial reuse for the site. The primary focus of this study examines the potential reuse of a remediated corrective action site through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The study considered two outcomes, (1) converting a remediated corrective action site to pollinator habitat under the CRP framework would benefit both the site owner and surrounding ecosystem and (2) that the cost associated with pollinator habitat development would outweigh the financial incentives of the CRP lease. The study site is located in southern Missouri, with corrective action now in post-closure care; however, site use restrictions remain in place due to soil “hot spots” throughout the site. The site use restrictions have made resale of the site difficult for the current owner and limits redevelopment opportunities. This study examined converting selected acreage into a conservation resource under the framework established USDA CRP. CRP enrollment is currently limited to privately owned agricultural land, where landowners receive a payment incentive in the form of a lease payment to convert previously cropped land into non-cropped conservation land. Specifically, this study explored enrollment opportunity under the Continuous CRP for establishing pollinator and wildlife habitat. The feasibility of expanding the CRP to include corrective action sites is explored in the form of a financial analysis. The study found that the financial benefit to the current landowner is significant and there is potential to establish over 200-acres of new pollinator and wildlife habitat on a parcel of land that currently provides limited economic and environmental benefit.