Wetland Policy Timeline

Culture and Practice

Events in the culture and practice of our relationship to wetlands

1835 First use of drainage tile in the United States, in Geneva, NY by a Scots immigrant.
1860s Rapid expansion in the use of tile drainage, from western NY through the corn belt.
1870 First drainage districts formed.
Early 1880s Market production of first tile ditching machines.
Early 1890s Invention of steam ditchers.
1908 First gasoline-powered tile ditchers.
1927 Massive flooding on the Mississippi River stimulates new watershed management strategies at the federal level.
Early 1930s first noticeable crash in waterfowl populations.
1933 Introduction of hybrid corn results in accelerated wetland drainage in corn belt.
1935 Founding of the More Game Birds in America foundation by Joseph Knapp, to become Ducks Unlimited in 1937.
1947 Peak year for drainage assistance to farmers from the USDA.
1958 First Sapelo Island conference on ecosystem research, hosted by Eugene Odum.
1962 Publication of Silent Spring.
1966 Publication of The Life of the Marsh, by Bill Niering.
1969 Publication of Life and Death of the Salt Marsh, by John and Mildred Teal.
1969 The Corps’ Coastal Engineering Research Center begins funding research on the creation of artificial wetlands as a way of stabilizing dredge spoil in rivers and harbors.
4/22/1970 First Earth Day.
2/2/1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands signed in Ramsar, Iran. [Ramsar]
1973 Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz urges farmers to “plant fencerow to fencerow,” explicity advocating the drainage and cropping of wetlands in agricultural areas.
1977 First National Wetlands Symposium.
10/29/1982 Tenneco Oil Company hosts a federal/state interagency meeting to discuss the possibility of creating a mitigation bank on 7,000 acres of Louisiana wetlands.
1983 Harris Poll finds that 83% of Americans believe that preserving remaining wetlands is “very important.”
1983-1985 Peak of farm crisis, prompting federal policy to take unproductive or marginal farmland out of production, and, as a consequence, the restoration of formerly farmed wetlands.
1/3/1984 A subsidiary of the Tenneco oil company opens the first privately-owned mitigation bank, of 5,000 acres, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.
March 1986 Developer gives 522 acres of Melaleuca-dominated wetland to the City of Pembroke Pines as consolidated off-site mitigation. In 1993, this becomes Pembroke Pines Mitigation Bank, the first entrepreneurial wetland mitigation bank. [Pembroke Pines]
August 1987 EPA enlists Conservation Foundation to have its subsidiary organization, the National Wetland Policy Forum (a forum of “all stakeholders” in wetlands issues) issue a report on wetland policy reform.
August 1988 Vice-President Bush makes several campaign speeches featuring his call for “no net loss” of wetlands
February 1989 President Bush’s budget address features NNL policy.
6/6/1989 Bush announces his wetland policy at a Ducks Unlimited forum.
1990?? Formation of National Wetlands Coalition, an industry lobbying group opposed to wetland regulation. NWC disappears by 2005, its efforts taken up by FEEP. [National Wetlands Coalition Website]
8/28/1991 Florida WetlandsBank Inc. becomes the first entrepreneurial bank to apply for a COE permit.
12/18/92 COE permit issued to Millhaven Bank in Georgia, the first permit to a bank originally conceived as an entrepreneurial venture.
July 1993 Massive floods in the upper Mississippi River.
June 1994 following the 1993 Mississippi floods, an interagency floodplain management review committee outlines new strategies for avoiding flood damage, de-emphasizing levees in favor of allowing some flooding in backwaters, and federal purchase of bottomlands.
1994 Senate Transportation and Environment Committee hearings bring wetland bankers together, they meet and discuss forming the NMBA