Myths and Facts
About the Environment --
Part VIII: Wetlands

Myth: The federal definition of what constitutes a "wetland" is fair and reasonable.

Fact: According to the guidelines currently used by the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, the term "wetlands" is defined as "those areas that are 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." This definition has resulted in such areas as sediment ponds, drainage ditches, and pot holes in farmers' fields being declared wetlands by the federal government.

Myth: Despite current government efforts, we continue to lose wetlands at an alarming rate.

Fact: In 1994, 108,000 acres of wetlands were lost, but 167,000 acres were restored. That left a net gain of 59,000 acres of wetlands.

Myth: We can accurately document how much "original" wetland existed before the European colonists began settlement.

Fact: We have no way of measuring how much wetland existed in America before European colonization. No surveys were taken detailing the extent of swamps and marshes in early America. Even the Lewis and Clark expedition, in 1804, did not record "wetlands" as such.

Myth: The federal government has the right to limit the use of private property to preserve wetlands without restriction.

Fact: 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.

Information from Environmental Overkill by Dixy Lee Ray (Regnery Gateway, 1993); Heritage Foundation Backgrounder Number 195 by John Shanahan.

Issue Date: August 20, 1996

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #29, 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 #29 contact Bob Adams at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]


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