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Wetlands ExplainedWetland Science, Policy, and Politics in America$
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William M. Lewis

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195131833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195131833.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

What Wetlands Do, and How They Do It

What Wetlands Do, and How They Do It

Chapter:
(p.41) 3 What Wetlands Do, and How They Do It
Source:
Wetlands Explained
Author(s):

William M. Lewis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195131833.003.0005

Those who question the wisdom of wetland regulations sometimes tell a story about a landowner who proposes to build a fine home on a tract of land that is largely wetland. This landowner lives in a region where wetlands are abundant but is denied permission to build on grounds that construction would involve filling a wetland. Because he owns considerable property, the owner moves to higher ground, clears five acres of mature upland timber, and builds his home quite legally in this way. The irony is that the mature upland timber is much scarcer locally than wetland, and the stupidity of the regulation is to have forced someone to destroy the scarcer of two resources. The names, places, and other particulars of this story vary with the teller, but there is little doubt that wetland regulation has sometimes caused an environmental loss greater than the value of the wetland that is preserved. Perhaps the landowner in the story could have been given an exemption had he only been allowed to argue the great value of mature upland forest in his particular region. As a practical matter, however, special pleading can defeat the intent of almost any regulation. Thus, the rigidity in the regulation may be justified by its need to be faithful to the general intent of the underlying law and not by a need to be rational in every case. At any rate, the story may be specious as a generalization in that the Army Corps in most cases would have granted a permit to an individual for a small wetland conversion, or the conversion would have been covered under a general permit for small conversions (chapter 1). Those who question the wisdom of wetland regulations sometimes tell a story about a landowner who proposes to build a fine home on a tract of land that is largely wetland. This landowner lives in a region where wetlands are abundant but is denied permission to build on grounds that construction would involve filling a wetland. Because he owns considerable property, the owner moves to higher ground, clears five acres of mature upland timber, and builds his home quite legally in this way.

Keywords:   Biosphere, Colorado, Dirty Devil River, Great Salt Lake, Mississippi River Delta, Tulloch Rule, salinity

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