Talking Points on the Environment #13

Common Misconceptions About Wetlands and Wetland Policy

Misconception: Individual land-owners are primarily to blame for the loss of wetlands. Reality: Government is the principal culprit when it comes to wetlands destruction. In 1780, before the Army Corps on Engineers launched a systematic campaign to eradicate wetlands, there were 221 million acres of wetlands in the lower 48 states. Today there are just 104 million acres.

Misconception: Sharp government restrictions on private property use are necessary because wetlands continue to be lost at an alarming rate. Reality: The "no net loss" of wetlands goal of federal policy has apparently already been achieved. In 1994, for example, 108,000 acres of wetlands were lost, but 167,000 acres were restored, for a net gain of 59,000 acres of wetlands.

Misconception: The Clean Water Act gives the federal government the right to limit land use for the purpose of protecting wetlands. Reality: Wetlands are not explicitly protected under the Clean Water Act, nor, for that matter, any other legislation. The word "wetland" is not mentioned in Clean Water Act.

Misconception: The federal government has the right to limit the use of private property to preserve wetlands without restriction. Reality: Under the power of "eminent domain," the federal government does have the authority to take land for the "public good," but not without just compensation. When excessive regulation significantly diminishes that property value, a de facto taking of property has occurred.

Misconception: All wetlands are worthy of preservation. Reality: The official definition of what constitutes a wetland has fluctuated frequently and is too broad. By some estimates, 40% of drought-stricken California (even before the rains of 1992-1993) would have qualified as wetlands under the government's 1989 definition.

Information from Heritage Foundation Backgrounder Number 195 by John Shanahan.

Issue Date: September 21, 1994.

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #13, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 Tel. (202) 543-4110, Fax (202)543-5975, [email protected], http://www.nationalcenter/inter.net. For more information about Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #13 contact Bob Adams at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]


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