Wetlands: An Overview of Issues [December 5, 2013]   [open pdf - 365KB]

"Recent Congresses have considered numerous policy topics that involve wetlands. Many reflect issues of long-standing interest, such as applying federal regulations on private lands, wetland loss rates, and restoration and creation accomplishments. The issue receiving the greatest attention recently has been determining which wetlands should be included and excluded from permit requirements under the Clean Water Act's (CWA) program that regulates waste discharges affecting wetlands, which is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 (in the SWANCC case) that narrowed federal regulatory jurisdiction over certain isolated wetlands, and in 2006 (in the 'Rapanos-Carabell' decision), the jurisdictional reach of the permit program has been narrowed. […] The national policy goal of no net loss, endorsed by administrations for the past two decades, had been reached by 2004, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, as the rate of loss had been more than offset by net gains through expanded restoration efforts authorized in multiple laws. However, more recent data show wetlands losses of nearly 14,000 acres per year. Many protection advocates say that gains do not necessarily account for the changes in quality of the remaining wetlands, and many also view federal protection efforts as inadequate or uncoordinated. Others, who advocate the rights of property owners and development interests, characterize these efforts as too intrusive. Numerous state and local wetland programs add to the complexity of the protection effort."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL33483
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