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Preserving Wetlands

This page discusses various laws intended to protect wetlands, whether the wetland is eliminated by drainage or with fill. An underlying legal issue is whether a prohibition against altering a wetland on private property would be a "taking". This page briefly reviews wetland migration within a water project, wetlands bank (state and federal), "swampbuster", Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and other federal laws.

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Wetlands Regulation:  pp. 577-586, Weber's 9th Ed

Endangered Species Act:  pp. 587-599, Weber's 9th Ed.

Inverse Condemnation:  pp. 600-610, Weber's 9th Ed.

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Historically, wetlands were considered swamps and as areas from which to drain water to make the area usable.  There value as water storage, aquifer recharge, wildlife habitat and other natural functions were not recognized.  Drainage, to the extent it was regulated, focused on the adverse impact on neighbors, such as "me dumping water from my swamp onto your land."  More recently, the role and value of wetlands have been reassessed; likewise, the relevant laws have been reviewed and revised.  Rather than allowing or promoting wetland drainage, a goal has been to reach a balance between wetland drainage and wetland preservation.  This page introduces several laws that address wetland drainage and wetland preservation.

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The changing attitude towards wetlands

See pp. 580, et seq. Weber's 9th Ed.

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Defining a Wetland

What is a wetland?  One legal definition of wetland pertains to the Clean Water Act, more specifically section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344).  The discussion begins with 33 U.S.C. 1311:  "the discharge of any pollutant by any person shall be unlawful."  The next step is to identify exceptions, such as "The Secretary may issue permits, after notice and opportunity for public hearings for the discharge of dredged or fill material into the navigable waters at specified disposal sites."  33 U.S.C. 1344.  Several terms in this statute need to be defined, such as, discharge, dredged material, fill materila, and navigable waters.

EPA regulations defining "waters of the United States," including a definition of wetlands; 40 CFR 230.3(s) & 230.3(t) 

Also see 40 CFR 230.3(b), 40 CFR 230.3(o), 40 CFR 230.41.

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Riverside Irrigation District v. Andrews, U.S. Ct. of Appeals, 10th Cir., 1985; (p. 577, Weber's 9th Ed)

  • Plaintiffs plan to build a dam but a permit is needed from the Corps of Engineers because constructing a dam involves the "deposit of dredge and fill materials in navigable water".
  • The permit may be either a nationwide permit or an individual permit.  If the project meets the criteria of the nationwide permit, an individual permit is not needed.
  • The Corps denied the permit because the dam would lead to expanded diversion of the stored water thereby leaving less water downstream.  The Whooping Crane (an endangered species) could be adversely affected if there is less water downstream.
  • Plaintiffs filed suit claiming the project should be allowed to proceed under a nationwide permit.  The district court held that he Corps was within its jurisdiction to deny the permit under the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
  • The Corps take the position that a nationwide permit is not available if the activity will adversely impacted a species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
  • All federal agencies are required to consider the direct and indirect impacts of their projects on endangered species.  The depletion of downstream water was appropriately considered by the Corps in determining there would be no nationwide permit.
  • The court went on to state that the individual permit process is the appropriate venue for striking a balance between federal environmental concerns and state water appropriation/management.

Note -- this case did not litigate whether an individual permit should be granted; it only addressed whether the Corps acted appropriately in denying a nationwide permit.

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 United States v. Riverside Bayview, 474 U. S. 121 (1985)

Syllabus

The Clean Water Act prohibits any discharge of dredged or fill materials into "navigable waters" -- defined as the "waters of the United States" -- unless authorized by a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Construing the Act to cover all "freshwater wetlands" that are adjacent to other covered waters, the Corps issued a regulation defining such wetlands as

"those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions."

After respondent Riverside Bayview Homes, Inc. (hereafter respondent), began placing fill materials on its property near the shores of Lake St. Clair, Michigan, the Corps filed suit in Federal District Court to enjoin respondent from filling its property without the Corps' permission. Finding that respondent's property was characterized by the presence of vegetation requiring saturated soil conditions for growth, that the source of such soil conditions was ground water, and that the wetland on the property was adjacent to a body of navigable water, the District Court held that the property was wetland subject to the Corps' permit authority.

The Court of Appeals reversed, construing the Corps' regulation to exclude from the category of adjacent wetlands -- and hence from that of "waters of the United States" -- wetlands that are not subject to flooding by adjacent navigable waters at a frequency sufficient to support the growth of aquatic vegetation. The court took the view that the Corps' authority under the Act and its implementing regulations must be narrowly construed to avoid a taking without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Under this construction, it was held that respondent's property was not within the Corps' jurisdiction, because its semi-aquatic characteristics were not the result of frequent flooding by the nearby navigable waters, and that therefore respondent was free to fill the property without obtaining a permit.

Held:

1. The Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a narrow reading of the Corps' regulatory jurisdiction over wetlands was necessary to avoid a taking problem. Neither the imposition of the permit requirement itself nor the denial of a permit necessarily constitutes a taking. And the Tucker Act is available to provide compensation for takings that may result from the Corps' exercise of jurisdiction over wetlands. Pp.474 U.S. 126-129.

2. The District Court's findings are not clearly erroneous, and plainly bring respondent's property within the category of wetlands, and thus of the "waters of the United States" as defined by the regulation in question. Pp. 474 U.S. 129-131.

3. The language, policies, and history of the Clean Water Act compel a finding that the Corps has acted reasonably in interpreting the Act to require permits for the discharge of material into wetlands adjacent to other "waters of the United States."

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Solid Waste Agency (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers , 531 U.S. 159 (2001) -- an isolated gravel pit is an isolated wetland; the Corps' jurisdiction does not extend to isolated wetlands.

  • The Corps argued that Congress acquiesced in the Corps broad "section 404" regulatory authority when Congress failed to enacted a statute that would have narrowed the scope of the Corps regulatory language.  The Court accepted that Congress acquiesced in the Corps authority to regulate adjacent wetlands, but rejected the argument that Congress acquiesced in extending the Corps authority to include isolated wetlands or the Corps adoption of the Migratory Bird Rule.
  • "It was the significant nexus between the wetlands and “navigable waters” that informed our reading of the CWA in Riverside Bayview Homes. Indeed, we did not “express any opinion” on the “question of the authority of the Corps to regulate discharges of fill material into wetlands that are not adjacent to bodies of open water … .” In order to rule for respondents here, we would have to hold that the jurisdiction of the Corps extends to ponds that are not adjacent to open water. But we conclude that the text of the statute will not allow this."
  • "We conclude that respondents have failed to make the necessary showing that the failure of the 1977 House bill demonstrates Congress’ acquiescence to the Corps’ regulations or the “Migratory Bird Rule,” which, of course, did not first appear until 1986. Although respondents cite some legislative history showing Congress’ recognition of the Corps’ assertion of jurisdiction over “isolated waters,” as we explained in Riverside Bayview Homes, “[i]n both Chambers, debate on the proposals to narrow the definition of navigable waters centered largely on the issue of wetlands preservation.” Beyond Congress’ desire to regulate wetlands adjacent to “navigable waters,” respondents point us to no persuasive evidence that the House bill was proposed in response to the Corps’ claim of jurisdiction over nonnavigable, isolated, intrastate waters or that its failure indicated congressional acquiescence to such jurisdiction."

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Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006) -- hydraulic continuity between navigable waters and a wetland means the wetland is not isolated; the wetland is therefore with the Corps' jurisdiction.

  • The dispute centered on whether the developer needed a section 404 permit to fill a wetland.  The legal issue was whether the area was a wetland within the Corps' jurisdiction.
  • "The Corps’ current regulations interpret “the waters of the United States” to include, in addition to traditional interstate navigable waters, “[a]ll interstate waters including interstate wetlands"; “[a]ll other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce”; “[t]ributaries of [such] waters”; and “[w]etlands adjacent to [such] waters [and tributaries] (other than waters that are themselves wetlands)”. The regulation defines “adjacent” wetlands as those “bordering, contiguous [to], or neighboring” waters of the United States. It specifically provides that “[w]etlands separated from other waters of the United States by man-made dikes or barriers, natural river berms, beach dunes and the like are ‘adjacent wetlands.’
  • "In SWANCC, ... we held that “nonnavigable, isolated, intrastate waters,” -- which, unlike the wetlands at issue in Riverside Bayview, did not “actually abu[t] on a navigable waterway,” — were not included as “waters of the United States.”"
  • "[T]the phrase “the waters of the United States” includes only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water “forming geographic features” that are described in ordinary parlance as “streams[,] … oceans, rivers, [and] lakes.” The phrase does not include channels through which water flows intermittently or ephemerally, or channels that periodically provide drainage for rainfall. The Corps’ expansive interpretation of the “the waters of the United States” is thus not “based on a permissible construction of the statute.”"
  • "Therefore, only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are “waters of the United States” in their own right, so that there is no clear demarcation between “waters” and wetlands, are “adjacent to” such waters and covered by the Act. Wetlands with only an intermittent, physically remote hydrologic connection to “waters of the United States” do not implicate the boundary-drawing problem of Riverside Bayview, and thus lack the necessary connection to covered waters that we described as a “significant nexus” in SWANCC. Thus, establishing that wetlands such as those at the Rapanos and Carabell sites are covered by the Act requires two findings: First, that the adjacent channel contains a “wate[r] of the United States,” (i.e., a relatively permanent body of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters); and second, that the wetland has a continuous surface connection with that water, making it difficult to determine where the “water” ends and the “wetland” begins."
  • "[T]he lower courts should determine, in the first instance, whether the ditches or drains near each wetland are “watersin the ordinary sense of containing a relatively permanent flow; and (if they are) whether the wetlands in question are “adjacent” to these “waters” in the sense of possessing a continuous surface connection that creates the boundary-drawing problem we addressed in Riverside Bayview"

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Another legal definition of wetland is based on the 1985 Food Security Act with its "swampbuster" provision: "any person who in any crop year produces an agricultural commodity on converted wetland, ... shall be ... (2) ineligible for loans or payments in an amount determined by the Secretary to be proportionate to the severity of the violation." 16 U.S.C. 3821.  USDA "shall delineate, determine, and certify all wetlands located on subject land on a farm." 16 U.S.C. 3822.

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40 CFR 230.3(s) & (t); retrieved April 8, 2015 

(s) The term waters of the United States means:

(1) All waters which are currently used, or were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;

(2) All interstate waters including interstate wetlands;

(3) All other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce including any such waters:

(i) Which are or could be used by interstate or foreign travelers for recreational or other purposes; or

(ii) From which fish or shellfish are or could be taken and sold in interstate or foreign commerce; or

(iii) Which are used or could be used for industrial purposes by industries in interstate commerce;

(4) All impoundments of waters otherwise defined as waters of the United States under this definition;

(5) Tributaries of waters identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (4) of this section;

(6) The territorial sea;

(7) Wetlands adjacent to waters (other than waters that are themselves wetlands) identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (6) of this section; waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds or lagoons designed to meet the requirements of CWA (other than cooling ponds as defined in 40 CFR 423.11(m) which also meet the criteria of this definition) are not waters of the United States.

Waters of the United States do not include prior converted cropland. Notwithstanding the determination of an area's status as prior converted cropland by any other federal agency, for the purposes of the Clean Water Act, the final authority regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction remains with EPA.

(t) The term wetlands means those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.

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Proposed definition of "Waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act (as of 2014-2015) at http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-06/documents/proposed_regulatory_wus_text_40cfr230_0.pdf ; retrieved March 21, 2015

Proposed “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act”
40 CFR 230.3
 
(s) For purposes of all sections of the Clean Water Act,33 U.S.C. 1251et seq.and its implementing regulations, subject to the exclusions in paragraph (t) of this section, the term “waters of the United States” means:
(1) All waters which are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters which are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
(2) All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
(3) The territorial seas;
(4) All impoundments of waters identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) and (5) of this section;
(5) All tributaries of waters identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (4) of this section;
(6) All waters, including wetlands, adjacent to a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (5) of this section; and
(7) On a case-specific basis, other waters, including wetlands, provided that those waters alone, or in combination with other similarly situated waters, including wetlands, located in the same region, have a significant nexus to a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section.
 
(t) The following are not “waters of the United States” notwithstanding whether they meet the terms of paragraphs (s)(1) through (7) of this section—
(1) Waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds or lagoons, designed to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
(2) Prior converted cropland. Notwithstanding the determination of an area’s status as prior converted cropland by any other Federal agency, for the purposes of the Clean Water Act the final authority regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction remains with EPA.
(3) Ditches that are excavated wholly in uplands, drain only uplands, and have less than perennial flow.
(4) Ditches that do not contribute flow, either directly or through another water, to a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (4) of this section.
(5) The following features:
(i) Artificially irrigated areas that would revert to upland should application of irrigation water to that area cease;
(ii) Artificial lakes or ponds created by excavating and/or diking dry land and used exclusively for such purposes as stock watering, irrigation, settling basins, or rice growing;
(iii) Artificial reflecting pools or swimming pools created by excavating and/or diking dry land;
(iv) Small ornamental waters created by excavating and/or diking dry land for primarily aesthetic reasons;
(v) Water-filled depressions created incidental to construction activity;
(vi) Groundwater, including groundwater drained through subsurface drainage systems; and
(vii) Gullies and rills and non-wetland swales.
 
(u) Definitions—
(1) Adjacent.The term adjacent means bordering, contiguous or neighboring. Waters, including wetlands, separated from other waters of the United States by man-made dikes or barriers, natural river berms, beach dunes and the like are “adjacent waters.”
(2) Neighboring. The term neighboring, for purposes of the term “adjacent” in this section, includes waters located within the riparian area or floodplain of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (5) of this section, or waters with a shallow subsurface hydrologic connection or confined surface hydrologic connection to such a jurisdictional water.
(3) Riparian area. The term riparian area means an area bordering a water where surface or subsurface hydrology directly influence the ecological processes and plant and animal community structure in that area. Riparian areas are transitional areas between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems that influence the exchange of energy and materials between those ecosystems.
(4) Floodplain. The term floodplain means an area bordering inland or coastal waters that was formed by sediment deposition from such water under present climatic conditions and is inundated during periods of moderate to high water flows.
(5) Tributary. The term tributary means a water physically characterized by the presence of a bed and banks and ordinary high water mark, as defined at 33 CFR 328.3(e), which contributes flow, either directly or through another water, to a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (4) of this section. In addition, wetlands, lakes, and ponds are tributaries (even if they lack a bed and banks or ordinary high water mark) if they contribute flow, either directly or through another water to a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section. A water that otherwise qualifies as a tributary under this definition does not lose its status as a tributary if, for any length, there are one or more man-made breaks (such as bridges, culverts, pipes, or dams), or one or more natural breaks (such as wetlands at the head of or along the run of a stream, debris piles, boulder fields, or a stream that flows underground) so long as a bed and banks and an ordinary high water mark can be identified upstream of the break. A tributary, including wetlands, can be a natural, man-altered, or man-made water and includes waters such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, impoundments, canals, and ditches not excluded in paragraph (t)(3) or (4) of this section.
(6) Wetlands. The term wetlands means those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.
(7) Significant nexus. The term significant nexus means that a water, including wetlands, either alone or in combination with other similarly situated waters in the region (i.e., the watershed that drains to the nearest water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section), significantly affects the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section. For an effect to be significant, it must be more than speculative or insubstantial. Other waters, including wetlands, are similarly situated when they perform similar functions and are located sufficiently close together or sufficiently close to a “water of the United States” so that they can be evaluated as a single landscape unit with regard to their effect on the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of a water identified in paragraphs (s)(1) through (3) of this section.

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Mandate Wetland Preservation?

Why not mandate that landowners preserve wetlands?  When does a land-use regulation become a taking?  Does conserving wetlands fall within "police power" of promoting the health, safety and general well-being of society?

General consensus is that mandating wetland preservation on private property would be a taking.  Will that legal assessment hold forever or will conditions change to the point where police power will be interpreted as allowing government to mandate the preservation of wetland on private land?  Until that assessment changes, laws have stayed clear of mandating wetland preservation -- or the converse -- the law does not prohibit wetland drainage.  But the law does provide incentives to encourage wetland preservation.

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Wetland Conservation Provisions (Swampbuster)

  • Any person who in any crop year produces an agricultural commodity on converted wetland shall be ineligible for loans or payments in an amount determined by the Secretary to be proportionate to the severity of the violation. See 16 USC 3821 et seq.
  • Wetland Conservation Provisions (Swampbuster) at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/compliance/WCindex.html

    • "Persons who plant an agricultural commodity on wetlands that were converted between December 23, 1985 and November 28, 1990 will be ineligible for program benefits in any year an agricultural commodity is planted unless an exemption applies.

    • "Persons who convert a wetland making production of an agricultural commodity possible after November 28, 1990, will be ineligible for program benefits until the functions of the wetland that was converted is mitigated, unless an exemption applies.

    • "[T]he U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will determine if a producer's land has wetlands that are subject to the provisions. The agency maintains a list of the plants and combinations of soils and plants found in wetlands and uses these technical tools, along with the hydrology of the area, to conduct determinations. These determinations stay in effect as long as the land is used for agricultural purposes or until the producer requests a review.

    • Producers can convert wetlands for production of an agricultural commodity if they compensate for the wetland functions that are lost.

    • "NRCS may grant an exemption to a producer for conversion of a wetland if the action will have a “minimal effect”, both individually and cumulatively, on the wetlands in the area.

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wetland Conservation - Swampbuster at http://www.fws.gov/policy/504fw4.html

  • Swampbuster does not prohibit farmers from draining wetlands; instead, the federal law makes it expensive to farm a drained (converted) wetland.

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Endangered Species Act

  • pp. 587-599, Weber's 9th Ed.
  • ESA prohibits actions that would destroy the habitat of an endangered species.  Accordingly, a wetland that offers habitat for an endangered species would be protected by the ESA.
  • ESA pertains to federal action; see http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/esa.html
  • But does ESA pertain to activities on private land? 
    • Permits at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/permits/index.html

      • Incidental take permits are required when non-Federal activities will result in take of threatened or endangered species. A habitat conservation plan or "HCP" must accompany an application for an incidental take permit. The habitat conservation plan associated with the permit ensures that the effects of the authorized incidental take are adequately minimized and mitigated
      • Enhancement of survival permits are issued to non-Federal landowners participating in Safe Harbor Agreements or Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances. These agreements encourage landowners to take actions to benefit species while also providing assurances that they will not be subject to additional regulatory restrictions as a result of their conservation actions.
    • Habitat Conservation Plans at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/hcp-overview.html

    • Safe Harbor Agreements for Landowners at  http://www.fws.gov/endangered/landowners/safe-harbor-agreements.html

    • Candidate Conservation Agreements and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/cca.html
  • Again, ESA is not an outright prohibition against draining a wetland on private property even if the wetland provides habitat for an endangered species.

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Clean Water Act

Section 404 33 U.S.C. §1344.  A section 404 permit is needed to discharge dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including into wetland adjacent to waters of the United States.  So a landowner may not be able to fill a wetland, but can the landowner drain the wetland as long as the drainage does not cause a discharge of dredged or fill material?

Secretary of the Army issues section 404 permits, see 33 CFR 320.2(f).  In granting a section 404 permit, the Secretary of the the Army will consider the effects on wetlands, see 33 CFR 320.4(b).

CWA also reaches wetlands; see EPA at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/lawsguidance/cwa/wetlands/index.cfm

  • pp. 577-586, Weber's 9th Ed

Is a CWA section 404 permit required to dredge a channel to drain a wetland?

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USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

How about incentives to preserve or enhance wetlands?

"The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts up to a maximum term of ten years in length. These contracts provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. In addition, a purpose of EQIP is to help producers meet Federal, State, Tribal and local environmental regulations." Source:  http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/index.html.

USDA EQIP:  16 USC 3839aa

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"No Net Loss" Wetlands

The basic idea that someone who drains a wetland must replace it with a wetland.  This has proposed at the federal level (but never implemented) and at state level (with varying level of success).

  • See http://www.law.ufl.edu/conservation/waterways/waterfronts/pdf/no_net_loss.pdf
  • "National wetlands protection was sent in motion when President Jimmy Carter issued two executive orders in 1977 that established wetland policies for all federal agencies. Executive Order 11990, Protection of Wetlands, required all federal agencies to "take action to minimize the destruction, loss or degradation of wetlands and enhance the natural and beneficial values of wetlands" while carrying out their responsibilities. Executive Order 11998, Floodplain Management, required similar protection for floodplains, including avoiding activity in the floodplain when possible." Source:  http://wetlandextension.ifas.ufl.edu/protect/legislation.htm
  • See "Wetlands debate: after years of fighting officials hope for reconciliation" at http://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications_papers/pub_display.cfm?id=3147
    • "The issue of wetlands preservation gained national attention this year when President Bush publicly endorsed a national "No Net Loss" policy, whereby new wetlands replace existing ones that are destroyed for urban or agricultural benefit.

      But two years before the president took up the issue, North Dakota became the first and only state to adopt its own no net loss policy. Additionally, Congress got involved recently by passing the so-called Swampbuster legislation, which strictly regulates wetland use."

  • The North Dakota Legislature subsequently repealed the legislation.

  • It appears that other states are adopting "no-net loss" wetland policies.

  • The policy is not a federal statute.

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Summary

Wetlands on private land are not being preserved by legal mandates, but are protected by "incentives."

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Disclaimer

Email:  david.saxowsky@ndsu.edu

This material is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. Seek appropriate professional advice for answers to your specific questions.

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