Fear Wetlands Are Being Sacrificed
- Local preservationists are not so sure President Bush
has the best interests of the environment at heart with
his new guidelines for wetlands restoration.
Bush administration has changed the guidelines for replacing
wetlands lost or destroyed through development from an
emphasis on acre-to-acre replacement to one that places
more importance on "equal ecological value."
Pendlebury, representing the N.H. Office of the National
Environmental Trust and N.H. Global Warming Campaign,
said, "I think that new proposal gives more leeway, but
will remove a lot of the protective buffer zones around
you replace acre-for-acre, it protects the continuity
of the area. Here we may be talking about a much more
finite area, where the ecological system might not include
a buffer zone."
officials said the 17-point plan outlined Thursday is
meant to clarify previous regulatory language and will
not diminish the role that swampy or boggy areas play
in providing habitat to wildlife, flood control and water
governing wetlands, based on the administrationís direction,
will affect how and where people must compensate for wetlands
lost to development projects.
actions affirm this administrationís commitment to the
goal of no net loss of Americaís wetlands and its support
for protecting our nationís watersheds," said Christine
Todd Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection
federal agencies, including the EPA, decided that their
oversight should focus more on the quality of new wetlands
being created than on maintaining total wetlands acreage.
Former President George H.W. Bush in 1989 had set the
goal of "no net loss" of wetlands.
of thousands of acres of wetlands across the nation are
being lost to development each year, reducing those areas
of land that are critical in helping to filter and cleanse
drinking water, retain flood waters, harbor fish and shellfish
and support other wildlife - by providing stopping points
for migratory birds, for example.
destruction of wetlands contributes to flooding, pollution
runoff into streams and rivers, and the loss of important
habitats for fish and wildlife.
is our greatest commodity, so we should do nothing that
puts us at danger of losing our clean drinking water,"
Pendlebury said. "This is just another case of using less
precaution, allowing greater pollution and threatening
our ecological systems without directly hampering it.
I would have concerns that ecological systems often are
connected by more indirect means, and this could result
in us missing out on a lot of the connectiveness of nature
and of the means to maintain a healthy ecological system."
Bush administrationís chief aim is to prevent wetlands
losses and to continue emphasizing that wetlands being
created must be similar to what they are intended to replace,
EPA spokesman Joe Martyak said.
underlying needs of a watershed will be given more emphasis
than the conventional focus on any net loss of acreage,
said Martyak. The administrationís approach will be based
on "not just acre-for-acre" comparisons, he said, so that
regulators in some cases might conclude that "itís a numerical
loss, but itís an ecological gain."
aspects of the plan include using better tools for monitoring
and measuring successes or failures, such as an interagency
database and an annual public "report card" on replaced
administrationís approach is a response to criticism from
the National Academy of Sciences and the General Accounting
Office, the investigative arm of Congress, which found
that many wetlands replacement projects were failures
and not well tracked.