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The Planet

October 1997, Volume 4, number 8

Wetlands Timeline


Settlers dig ditches and drain what they think are useless swamps to make their land suitable for farming.


Congress endorses wetlands destruction for agriculture and development when it passes the Swamp Lands Act, granting Louisiana reclamation privileges for all federal swamp and overflow lands in the state.


The federal government shares the cost with farmers to drain wetlands; the Everglades in Florida are being drained to make room for farming.


Congress shows some recognition of wetland values when it enacts the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, in which fees collected from hunters go toward habitat conservation projects.

Late '60s, early '70s

The ivory-billed woodpecker, North America's largest, becomes extinct because, it is believed, of overlogging of mature bottomland hardwood forests, a type of wetland.


Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires a permit to discharge dredge and fill material into the nation's waters.


The EPA vetoes an Army Corps-issued permit for a shopping mall in South Attleboro, Mass., due to questions about how mitigation should be considered and what constitutes a "practicable" alternative.


As a result of a suit by the Sierra Club, the Army Corps is forced to consult with Fish and Wildlife in a case involving a combined federal highway and flood control project in San Diego County, Calif., affecting 40 acres of marshland.


The federal government closes a loophole in the Clean Water Act by adopting the Tulloch Rule, which prevents landowners from draining their properties prior to development to avoid wetland laws. (In 1997 a federal judge rules that agencies exceeded their authority by issuing the regulation. Soon after, a stay is issued by a higher court, leaving the rule in place.)


The Army Corps approves over 99 percent of all applications to destroy wetlands. The highest rate of permit denials occurred in the early 1980s (it reached 4.4 percent) and it has steadily declined under Clinton to less than 1 percent.


The Army Corps decides in favor of a two-year phaseout of the nationwide Permit 26 process, which allowed fills of up to 10 acres in some wetlands with minimal review. The phaseout means more applications will get individual scrutiny.


The Sierra Club's analysis of U.S. flood damage shows that floods have killed more than 500 people and destroyed $34 billion in homes and property in the last four years.

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