Wetland loss still outweighs gain despite 20 years of progress

nt to discharge materials - such as soil or sand - into a wetland to get permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before doing so. It also requires individuals to provide "compensatory mitigation" - such as creating a wetland elsewhere - as a condition for issuing a permit.

"Some sites we studied met the criteria for permit compliance and show promise of developing into functional wetlands," Mitsch said. "But in many cases, wetlands are created in areas where they simply can't thrive or the required compensation actions are poorly designed or carelessly implemented."

The NRC report suggested that sound mitigation plans could result in a gain of 78 percent in wetland area nationally. But even though 1.8 acres of wetlands were created or restored for every acre lost during the past eight years, the United States still lost wetlands.

"Some wetland loss is not covered by Section 404," Mitsch said. "Also, created or restored wetlands are often poorly constructed."

Since the 1780s, the contiguous United States has lost more than 50 percent of its wetlands, Mitsch said, though the loss has slowed in the last two decades.

"Either enforcement of Section 404 is having some effect as a deterrent to filling wetlands, or we are simply running out of wetlands to fill," he said.

In addition to poorly implemented mitigation, wetland monitoring

Contact: William Mitsch
Ohio State University

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