May is National Wetlands Month, and on May 1 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced it has completed a comprehensive inventory of the country’s wetlands.
The Wetlands Inventory Mapper makes available to the public a survey of all wetlands in the lower 48 sates, Hawaii, some US territories, and parts of Alaska. The inventory is in part a planning tool, not only for conservationists but also for government planners, developers, permitting authorities, and others.
Wetlands continue to shrink rapidly, particularly in coastal regions. Some innovative restoration work is taking place, however, as highlighted in this article from the latest issue of Erosion Control.
Court cases in recent years, such as Rapanos v. United States in 2006, have made it essential for landowners and developers to understand exactly what is considered a wetland and what actions are permissible. Although the US Supreme Court decided in that case that isolated wetlands are not considered “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, discussion around the issue has continued in subsequent cases. In April EPA released a proposed rule defining waters of the US, including more specific information on wetlands; the 90-day public comment period on that rule runs through July 21. You can find more information in the Federal Register notice here.