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A bank is created when wetlands at a site are restored, enhanced or created in advance of destruction of similar wetlands in nearby locations. The bank then sells "credits" in the bank to permit applicants under Section 404 who are required, as a permit condition, to offset the negative impacts their project will have on wetlands. Banks may be established by public entities or private enterprise. The FAIR Act of 1996 has a provision allowing USDA to establish a pilot banking program.

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