Wetland Policy Timeline


Laws that influenced wetland policy

[Bills and Resolutions included after 1972 are those which passed and refer to wetlands, or those which didn't pass but have 'wetlands' in their short title]

1847 First Congressional hearings on wetlands, concerning the sale of federally-owned marshland in Indiana.
3/2/1849 Congress grants "swamp and overflowed lands" to Louisiana in "An Act to aid the State of Louisiana in draining the Swamp Lands therein." No other definition of wetland is given. [SLA1849]
9/28/1850 Passage of the Arkansas Act, which replicated the Louisiana act for other states with large acreages of wetlands, turning over to the state all parcels that were more than half wetland, defining such lands as those "unfit for cultivation." Swamp Lands Acts conferred 15 million acres of wetlands to Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and California. Illinois turned over swampland titles to county governments for sale. [SLA1850]
3/2/1855 [SLA1855]
3/3/1857 [SLA1957]
3/12/1860 Swamp Lands Acts granted for Minnesota and Oregon wetlands. [SLA1860]
1882 First RHA
1890 Passage of Rivers and Harbors Act gives COE authority over navigable waters, but it is poorly-defined.
1899 Passage of revisions to the Rivers and Harbors Act; Section 10 gives the COE authority to require a permit for any filling activities. Passage of the Refuse Act of 1899; Section 13 gives the COE authority to regulate discharge of materials into navigable waters.
3/4/1913 Migratory Bird Act accidentally signed into law by President Taft, asserting that the federal government holds primary jurisdiction over migratory birds and the conservation of their habitat.
1913 fourth RHA
1916 Migratory Bird Treaty signed with Canada, making the conservation of migratory birds and their habitat a part of United States treaty obligation.
1928 Passage of the Norbeck-Andreson Migratory Bird Conservation Act establishes the Migratory Bird Commission with the goal of acquiring bird habitat, but the Commission is unfunded until 1934.
1934 Passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, authorizing the sale of one-dollar stamps to finance "waterfowl refuge" acquisition – usually large wetlands.
1934 Passage of Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, requiring federal agencies building dams to consult with the Bureau of Fisheries to make provisions for fish migration. Current interpretation requires any federal agencies that regulate or engage in wetland-based activities to consult with the FWS.
June 1937 Passage of the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds wetland research and acquisition by states through an excise tax on the manufacturers of firearms and ammunition. Appropriation made permanent in 1951.
1938 fifth RHA
6/30/1948 Passage of the first Federal Water Pollution Control Act, aimed primarily at issues of public health and drinking water sanitation.
1961 Passage of the Wetlands Loan Act funds acquisition of wetlands.
1963 Massachusetts passes first state-level coastal wetland protection act.
1/2/1970 Passage of the National Environmental Policy Act, requiring the assessment of all major federal projects that impact the environment, and introducing the concept of "mitigation" for environmental losses
10/18/1972 Passage of sweeping amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (later known as the Clean Water Act) establishes Section 404 permitting program for impacts to "navigable waters".
12/28/1973 Passage of the Endangered Species Act, forbidding any damage to an endangered species or its habitat, as determined by the FWS.
12/27/1977 Passage of the Clean Water Act, amending and renaming the 1972 FWPCA and clarifying that wetlands are to be considered covered by the act. "Navigable waters" was specifically defined for the Act as "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS), and is defined to include "adjacent wetlands" and "isolated wetlands, lakes… prairie potholes, and other waters … the degradation of which could affect interstate commerce." The 404(f) exemptions were created, including most agricultural wetlands, and the new law made provision for the system of General Permits. These concessions made the tightening of wetland regulations politically palatable to the development and agricultural community, and can be seen as one result of the Corps’ inflammatory "Option A" of the 1975 regulations.
1983 Sen. John Chafee introduces the Administration’s wetlands legislation, the Protect Our Wetlands and Duck Resources Act, to place "environmentally significant" wetlands within a special reserve system. This bill was authored primarily by Secretary of the Interior James Watt, and Chafee introduced it with reservations that the Corps and EPA must be much more aggressive in their wetland protection activities, and that the Act must be fully-funded.
1984 Sen. Chafee convenes hearings in the Environmental Pollution Subcommittee on charges that the COE has been misadministering the CWA Section 404 permit program.
12/23/1985 Passage of the Food Security Act (PL 99-198), containing the "swampbuster" provision by which all farmers planting crops in wetlands after the enactment date forfeit any federal subsidy. The Wetland Reserve Program is initiated by this act.
1986 Tax Reform Act eliminates tax breaks for wetland drainage.
1986 Passage of the Water Resources Development Act decommissions most unbuilt COE water resource projects, and requires COE to emphasize habitat conservation in all construction plans. Mitigation designed in advance of impacts is explicitly encouraged, to proceed concurrently with the project.
5/4/1986 Signing of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan with Canada, an unfunded landscape planning policy that recognized habitat destruction (rather than hunting) as the primary cause of waterfowl decline.
11/11/1986 Passage of the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act provides funding for federal acquisition of threatened wetlands, extending the Wetlands Loan Act, and funding the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. Charged the FWS with producing a wetlands "Status and Trends" report every ten years.
1986 Senate ratifies the Ramsar Convention, dedicating the country to protecting wetlands of international significance.
1/22/1987 Rep. Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, sends a letter to GAO requesting a review of the implementation of Section 404.
3/21/1989 Wetlands Conservation Amendment Act of 1989 introduced by Rep. Dorgan (D-ND) to restrict definition of Swampbuster wetlands and provide for exemptions based on intent. Does not pass. [HR 1526 1989 Summary] [HR 1526 1989 Text]
4/10/1989 Wetlands No Net Loss Act (HR 1746) introduced by Rep. Bennett (D-FL), requiring DOI to fund large-scale mapping and acquisition of wetlands through a non-profit Wetland Preservation Trust and the establishment of an Office of Wetland Identification and Preservation within DOI which would issue state grants. Not passed. [HR 1746 1989 Summary] [HR 1746 1989 Text]
12/13/1989 Passage of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (submitted 4/17/1989 as S 804 by Sen. Mitchell (D-ME), 5/11/1989 as HR 2322 by Rep. Davis (X-MI) and 6/8/1989 as HR 2587 by Rep. Conte (X-MA)), authorizing appropriations for international wetlands conservation measures pursuant to the Migratory Bird Treaty and establishing an unfunded North American Wetlands Conservation Council that will recommend conservation projects to the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. [S 804 1989 Summary] [S 804 1989 Text] [HR 2322 1989 Text] [HR 2322 1989 Summary] [HR 2587 1989 Summary] [HR 2587 1989 Text]
1990 Passage of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act revises the "swampbuster" policy of the 1985 FSA.
1990 (1?)Comprehensive Wetlands Conservation and Management Act (Tauzin et al) introduced, would institute ABC classification.
2/28/1990 Agriculture Wetlands Exemption Act (HR 4133) submitted by Rep. Alexander (X-AR); would exempt all wetlands from Section 404 regulations that were farmed prior to enactment. Dies in committee. [HR 4133 1990 Summary] [HR 4133 1990 Text]
3/7/1990 Wetlands Conservation Initiative Act (HR 4212) introduced by Rep. Hayes (D-LA); allows tax credits for wetland conservation. [HR 4212 1990 Summary] [HR 4212 1990 Text]
3/21/1990 Permanent Wetlands Agricultural Reserve Act (HR 4347) introduced by Rep. Ridge (R-PA); amended FACTA to include funding for acquiring wetlands from farmers at market value. [HR 4347 1990 Summary] [HR 4347 1990 Text]
3/21/1990 Wetlands Conservation Reserve Program Act (HR 4353) introduced by Rep. Stangeland (R-MN); includes wetlands and surrounding uplands in CRP, extends CRP through 1995. [HR 4353 1990 Summary] [HR 4353 1990 Text]
4/18/1990 Wetlands No Net Loss Act (HR 4528) re-introduced by Rep. Bennett (X-FL), significantly modified to become a broad-ranging act expanding the 404 permit program, transferring some FWS powers to DOC, and altering state assumption regulations. [HR 4528 1990 Summary] [HR 4528 1990 Text]
4/26/1990 Comprehensive American Wetland Act of 1990 (HR 4640) introduced by Rep. Anderson (D-AR) to revise treatment of wetlands under Swampbuster. Dies in committee. [HR4640 1990 Summary] [HR 4640 1990 Text]
7/1/1990 "National Ducks and Wetlands Day," as designated by HJ Res. 599 introduced 6/12/1990 by Rep. Stangeland (R-MN) and SJ Res. 338 introduced 6/21/1990 by Sen. Boschwitz (R-MN). HJ Res 599 passed House 6/28/1990 and Senate 6/29/1990. Signed as PL 101-133 on 7/13/1990. [HJ Res 599 1990 Text] [HJ Res 599 1990 Summary] [SJ Res 338 Summary] [SJ Res 338 1990 Text]
4/24/1990 Sen Johnson (D-LA) introduces SJ Res 299 to designate 10/1/1990-10/1/1991 as "Year of the Wetlands". Rep. Tauzin (D-LA) introduces cognate HJ Res 641 8/23/1990. Not passed. [HJ Res 641 1990 Summary] [HJ Res 641 1990 Text] [SJ Res 299 Summary] [SJ Res 299 Text]
11/28/1990 Passage of the US Water Resources Development Act, instructing the COE to pursue a goal of "no overall net loss" of wetlands. It also authorizes the COE IWR study of the feasibility of wetland mitigation banking.
1991 Passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act (ISTEA), which featured banking.
6/16/1992 Corps and EPA issue proposed joint regulation on the definition of "discharge of fill material," and confirming that prior converted wetlands are not Waters of the US. [Tulloch and Prior Converted Rule 1992]
1993 Flood Disaster Relief Bill gives $15 million to the Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program, and $85 million more in 1994.
1993 Two major federal wetland reform bills introduced that feature banking: S.1114 and HR 1330.
3/11/1993 HR 1330, The is introduced by Rep Hayes (D-LA), a major wetland reform bill that features banking and categorization.
[I have a lot of the 93-94 documents in the history file – add them all]
9/6/1996 Reauthorization of the Farm Bill leaves Swampbuster and the WRP funded and intact. Crucially, Swampbuster now allows wetland impacts as long as they are mitigated with created, restored or enhanced wetlands of the same functions and values.
1998 Passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) expresses congressional preference that mitigation for federally-funded highway impacts be mitigated at a bank if credits are available. The impact on the principle of sequencing is unclear.
March 1999 First introduction of Rep. Smith’s American Wetland Restoration Act as HR 1290, promoting a standardized national practice for wetland banking. Subsequently reintroduced as S. 2948 in July 2000.
4/4/2001 Rep. Smith re-introduces American Wetland Restoration Act, outlining rules for banking.
9/20/2001 Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held on American Wetland Restoration Act HR 1474.
7/24/2002 House and Senate versions of the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act introduced by Rep. Oberstar and Sen. Feingold.