Policy and Legislation

Clean Water Act of 1972
The Clean Water Act, signed into law on October 18, 1972, is noted as one of the most successful environmental policies in history. The main objective of the CWA is the restoration and maintenance of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. To achieve this objective, the Act strives to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into surface waters and to achieve a level of water quality that "provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife" and "for recreation in and on the water." Then Vice President Gore stated in 1997 that in order to continue the success of the Clean Water Act, three goals must be set: enhanced protection from public health threats posed by water pollution; more effective control of polluted runoff; and promotion of water quality protection on a watershed basis.
(Sources: Sierra Club: www.sierraclub.org/wetlands/; Sullivan, T. 1997. Environmental Law Handbook. Government Institutes, Inc. Rockville, MD)

Water Resources Development Act of 1996
"The Water Resources Development Act of 1996 provides important cost sharing reforms for flood control, environmental restoration and protection projects and dredged material disposal facilities. The law represents a potential investment of $5.2 billion in the nation's water resources infrastructure, of which $1.4 billion will be paid by non-federal partners."
(Excerpted from: Press Release from US ARMY: www.dtic.mil/armylink/news/Oct1996/r19961016wateract.html)

Coastal Zone Management Act of 1990
"The Coastal Zone Management Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 require that state coastal programs, as well as state nonpoint source programs, address nonpoint source pollution affecting coastal water quality." The goals are to attain economically achievable measures for the control of pollution. This includes wetland and riparian area restoration and protection.
(Source: Pace, M.L., and P.M. Groffman. 1998. Successes, Limitations, and Frontiers in Ecosystem Science. Springer Press)

Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986
"Congress directed preparation of the National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan. This required states to include wetlands in their Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans, and transferred funds to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund equal to the import duties on arms and ammunition. This bill authorized the purchase of wetlands with Land and Water Conservation Fund moneys, removing a prior prohibition on such acquisitions."
(Excerpted from: U.S Fish and Wildlife Service: www.fws.gov/laws/digest/reslaws/emwet.html)

Conservation Reserve Program
"The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was passed as part of the 1985 Farm Bill (i.e. Food Security Act) and is focused on controlling erosion on highly erodible cropland. Participation is voluntary and landowners 'bid' their eligible land for enrollment in CRP in return for an annual payment from the USDA."
(Excerpted from: Pace, M.L., and P.M. Groffman. 1998. Successes, Limitations, and Frontiers in Ecosystem Science. Springer Press)

Pending Legislation
On March 25, 1999, U.S. Representative Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC) introduced H.R. 1290, the "American Wetland Restoration Act." The bill amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act relating to wetlands mitigation banking. It is the national policy to achieve, through regulatory means, the enhancement of the quantity and quality of the wetlands resource base of the contiguous United States. This is also to be in compliance with the interim goal of no overall net loss for the remaining wetlands resource base of the contiguous United States. The policy fosters wetlands mitigation banking as a means to mitigate the unavoidable loss of wetlands.
(Source: U.S Congress: thomas.loc.gov/)


Federal Government Proposals

Clean Water Action Plan
"This Action Plan forms the core of President Clinton's Clean Water Initiative in which he proposed $568 million in new resources in his FY 1999 budget to carry it out. The Action Plan builds on the solid foundation of existing clean water programs and proposes new actions to strengthen efforts to restore and protect water resources. In implementing this Action Plan, the federal government will support locally led partnerships that include a broad array of federal agencies, states, tribes, communities, businesses, and citizens to meet clean water and public health goals; increase financial and technical assistance to states, tribes, local governments, farmers, and others; and help states and tribes restore and sustain the health of aquatic systems on a watershed basis. This Action Plan sets a goal of attaining a net increase of 100,000 wetland acres per year by the year 2005. This goal will be achieved by ensuring that existing wetland programs continue to slow the rate of wetland losses, improving federal restoration programs, and by expanding incentives to landowners to restore wetlands."

"EPA plans to target problems of polluted runoff into aquatic systems. The agency will expand control of storm water runoff programs and work with its partners to make sure that existing storm water control requirements for large urban and industrial areas are implemented. EPA will also define nutrient reduction goals that will establish by the year 2000 numeric criteria for nutrients (i.e., nitrogen and phosphorus) that reflect the different types of water bodies (e.g., lakes, rivers, and estuaries) and different ecoregions of the country and will assist states and tribes in adopting numeric water quality standards based on these criteria. A large part of EPA's action to protect waterways is to reduce pollution from animal feeding operations. EPA will publish and, after public comment, implement an Animal Feeding Operations Strategy for important and necessary actions on standards and permits."
(Excepted from: www.epa.gov/history/topics/cwa/index.htm)


Unified Federal Watershed and Resource Management Policy
The proposed policy is intended to promote a unified approach to better watershed management in order to protect water quality and the health of aquatic systems on Federal lands. It provides a framework for ensuring that Federal land and resource management demonstrates good stewardship and protects the health of Federally managed watersheds and aquatic ecosystems. The Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Agriculture (USDA) are the two lead agencies in this initiative. The policy proposes that Federal agencies take a "watershed approach" to Federal land and resource management. A watershed approach focuses Federal efforts on identified high priority watersheds to maximize the potential for overall improvement and protection of these watersheds. The policy emphasizes: assessing the function and conditions of watersheds; incorporating watershed goals in planning; enhancing pollution prevention and meeting our Clean Water Act responsibility; identifying priority watersheds to focus budgetary and other resources; monitoring and restoring watersheds; and, expanding collaboration with others.
(Source: www.cleanwater.gov/ufp/)

Regional/Local Action

Chesapeake Bay Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative
In 1994, the Chesapeake Executive Council, consisting of governors of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the mayor of Washington, DC, and the administrator of the EPA, adopted a set of goals for the improvement of water quality in the bay watershed. These goals include protecting of all streams and shorelines by a forested area or riparian buffer; conserving existing forests along all streams and shorelines; increasing the use of all riparian buffers; restoring riparian forests on 2,010 miles of stream and shoreline by 2010; and, targeting efforts where they will be of greatest value to water quality and living resources. The Maryland Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program/State Enhancement Program (CREP/SEP) will spend about $200 million over 15 years to accomplish these goals. Water Quality Functions of Riparian Forest Buffer Systems in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, a technical report done by the Chesapeake Bay Program, is summarized in the bay program publication.
(Sources: Pace, M.L., and P.M. Groffman. 1998. Successes, Limitations, and Frontiers in Ecosystem Science. Springer Press; Chesapeake Bay Program. March 1999. Riparian Forest Buffers: Linking Land and Water. The Chesapeake Bay Riparian Forest Buffer Initiative. EPA 903-r-99-002)


North Carolina Watershed Management Projects
"The multi-agency Long Creek Watershed Project in North Carolina is part of a national EPA program in which long-term monitoring, data exchange, modeling and education are being used to develop innovative approaches to managing nonpoint sources nationwide. The role of landscape features such as wetlands and riparian buffers in protecting water quality is being investigated as a factor in protecting aquatic systems. Education programs are focused on improving local watershed management in accordance with the state's water supply watershed and basin wide Water Quality Planning Programs. A main objective is to transfer water quality and land treatment information to watershed managers, in order to assist them in making appropriate land management and land treatment decisions to achieve water quality goals."
(Excerpted from: North Carolina State University: www.bae.ncsu.edu/bae/programs/extension/wqg/programs/Forpage68.html)

Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project
In July 1993, at the direction of President Clinton, the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project was initiated by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The project responds to several broad-scale issues (i.e., water quality, fish populations, etc.) and through an open public process, is working to develop a new management strategy for public land administered by the two agencies in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Wyoming, western Montana, and portions of northern Utah, and northern Nevada. Scientific assessment results define the capabilities of the land and provide information about sustaining healthy ecosystems and the goods and services (i.e., water quality, recreation, etc.) they provide.
(Source: Interior Basin Ecosystem Management Project: www.icbemp.gov/)


Wetland Mitigation
In 1988, President George Bush established the "no net loss" wetlands policy. That is, damages to protected habitats are to be avoided, but if unavoidable, they must be mitigated by replacement or enhancement of the resource elsewhere. The Clinton Administration also supports a no overall net loss policy of the Nation's remaining wetlands, and advocates improving the long-term quality and quantity of the Nation's wetlands resource base. This goal is targeted for all wetlands, not just ones on federal lands. Regulatory programs are to be efficient, fair, flexible, and predictable, and must be sensitive to the impacts upon private property and the regulated public, and minimize those effects that cannot be avoided while providing effective protection for wetlands.

Successful mitigation calls for providing a habitat that is functionally equivalent to the one that will be lost. However, the complexity of ecosystems (including variability among similar types of ecosystems and uncertainty in how they function over time and space) make successful mitigation projects difficult to predict.
(Sources: Pace, M.L., and P.M. Groffman. 1998. Successes, Limitations, and Frontiers in Ecosystem Science. Springer Press; Zedler, J.B. 1996. Ecological Issues In Wetland Mitigation: An Introduction to the Forum. Special Issue. Ecological Applications 6(1): 33–37; EPA Wetlands Division www.epa.gov/OWOW/wetlands/WetPlan/wetplan4.html)


A History of Legislative Actions and Policies Affecting Wetlands
1871 U.S. Fish Commission created. First federal attempt to stop natural resource depletion.
1890 Rivers and Harbors Act gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority to regulate dredging and filling activities affecting navigable waters.
1902 Reclamation Act. Led to a survey of "wastelands" that could be reclaimed for agriculture.
1934 Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. Duck Stamps to be purchased by hunters; revenues for acquiring land or easements on duck habitat.
1934 Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must consult the Bureau of Fisheries and the Biological Survey about any plans to impound rivers. Established foundation for water quality control and need for biological integrity.
1937 Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act. States given grants to acquire, restore and maintain wildlife areas.
1940 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS) created.
1940 USDA assisted landowners in draining wetlands under the Agriculture Conservation Program. For Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, this ended in 1962 if wildlife were threatened. Remainder ended in 1977 with President Jimmy Carter's order.
1946 Amendment to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act allowed lands acquired for flood control to be used in fish and wildlife propagation.

1958 Amendment to the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act gave fish and wildlife concerns equal weight in plans for water-resource projects (dams, flood control, irrigation, generating plants).
1961 Wetlands Loan Act. Interest-free loans for wetlands acquisitions and easements.
1963 Massachusetts became the first state to protect wetlands.
1964 Land and Water Conservation Fund Bill. Allowed fees to be charged in national parks and revenues to be used in further park acquisitions.
1965 Water Quality Act required states to adopt and enforce water quality standards.
1966 Clean Waters Restoration Act provided funds for wastewater treatment facilities and a study of estuarine water quality.
1967 Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act.
1968 Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.
1968 National Estuary Protection Act. Required surveys to identify marshlands to protect; established goal of acquisition and restoration.
1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Required environmental impact analysis of federal projects.
1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Required permits to discharge dredged and fill material into navigable waters.
1972 Coastal Zone Management Act.
1973 Clean Water Act. Amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Section 404 regulates disposal of dredged or fill material in the waters of the United States.

1977 President Carter signed Executive Order 11990 (Protection of Wetlands), requiring federal agencies to minimize wetland loss and protect wetland values and Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management) requiring agencies to avoid activities in floodplains.
1978 Council on Environmental Quality defined mitigation alternatives under NEPA (i.e. avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, compensate).
1985 Food Security Act of 1985. Eliminated subsidies to farmers who converted wetlands to agriculture.
1986 Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986 (PL 99-645). Congress directed preparation of National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan.
1988 President George Bush established the "No net loss" policy.
1989 US FWS published the National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan. Acquisition to be prioritized by degree of public benefit, representation of rare or declining wetland types within an ecoregion, and subject to further loss or degradation.
1990 Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act established the Wetland Reserve Program: Landowners may volunteer to be paid to restore previously drained wetlands. Amended the "Swampbuster" provisions in the Food Security Act of 1985; denied benefits to farmers who planted crops on wetlands converted after December 23, 1985, or who converted wetlands to agriculture after Nov. 28, 1990 (USDI 1994).
1993 President Bill Clinton endorsed the "no net loss" policy.
1996 Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbit made the Cowardin et al. (1979) classification system the federal standard for classifying wetlands.

(Excerpted From Zedler, JD., M.Q. Fellows, and S. Trnka. 1998. Wastelands to Wetlands: Links Between Habitat Protection and Ecosystem Science. Pp 69–112. In M.L Pace and P.M. Groffman ed. Success, Limitations and Frontiers in Ecosystem Science. Springer-Verlag, New York.)