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Source: Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy

Bush Abandons "No Net Loss" of Wetlands

The Bush administration is (2001) abandoning regulations covering wetlands and streams to reduce paperwork. The new rules authorize developers to proceed if the project is said to have minimal impact on the environment. Developers will not be required to provide a one-for-one replacement for the acreage affected by individual wetlands projects, as long mitigation or replacement are met in the broader region. The Army Corps makes a new distinction between perennial and intermittent streams and relaxes rules on filling streams that do not flow year-round.

This will jeopardize ecologically sensitive areas. Although the Corps says it still embraces the father Bush policy of "no net loss" of wetlands, the effect of this regulation change will lead to a loss of wetlands. President George Bush, who also promised "no new taxes", enunciated the "no net loss" of wetlands in 1989. Under the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps is responsible for granting permits to drain or fill wetlands or streams. Wetlands filter the water supply, provide a rich habitat for plants and animals and provide flood control.

President Bush defends his wetlands protection ethic by noting that one of his first acts in 2002 was to commit the federal government to co-finance an $8 billion plan to restore the Florida Everglades.

Bush Revises "No Net Loss" of Wetlands (See Above)

The Bush administration revised (2002) guidelines to the Army Corps of Engineers for mitigating the loss of wetlands from development. The new guidelines require a "watershed-based" approach in which the wetland needs of an entire watershed are taken into account, rather than only the site of the development. For example, if a developer destroys 10 acres of wetlands, he can no longer just plant 10 acres of trees nearby. Instead, the corps must advise the developer if other, more potentially valuable areas in the watershed need replenishing, even if the acreage does not match precisely what would be lost. It is an effort to look at the overall need within the watershed and go through a process to restore the functions and values of the types of wetlands that are being lost. The new guidelines give leeway to developers. The E.P.A., Agriculture, Commerce, Interior and Transportation Departments reworked the guidelines. The administration's revised guidelines include 16 new steps to improve the restoration of wetlands.

Wetlands, which include bogs, marshes and swamps, are essential to well-functioning ecosystems because they filter drinking water, retain flood waters, support a diverse array of wildlife and provide homes to fish and shellfish. Destroying wetlands can increase floods, cause stream pollution and result in the loss of valuable habitat. The Clean Water Act prohibits developers, home builders and others from filling in wetlands unless the Corps of Engineers grants a permit. In those cases, the permit holder must either restore the wetlands or create a replacement to compensate for damage done.

Redwood Forest
Courtesy of National Park Service