Wetland Policy Timeline

Science and Publications

Wetland Science relevant to policy

June 1953 USFWS issues "Classification of Wetlands of the United States," defining wetlands and codifying 20 types, financed largely by the sale of duck stamps. This effort was in coordination with the first national survey of wetlands, undertaken by the Office of River Basin Studies in the early 1950s.
1956 USFWS issues Circular 39, containing the results of the early-1950s survey.
January 1975 First meeting of the workshop of wetland scientists to draft the classification system to be used with the NWI
1979 Finalization of the USFWS classification system as Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States (Cowardin et al., 1979), firmly entrenching the tripartite soils/hydrology/vegetation definition.
10/1/1979 The National Wetlands Inventory begins its survey.
November 1981 Corps Institute for Water Resources presents draft results of a "regulatory impact assessment" questionnaire, "Impact Analysis of the Corps Regulatory Program," but it is never released officially.
1982 FWS announces findings of NWI: nation has lost 54% of its wetlands
4/1983 Publication of Status and Trends of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats in the Conterminous United States: 1950s to 1970s. [1983 Status Trends]
1984 Publication of Wetlands of the United States: Current Status and Recent Trends by Ralph Tiner, presenting the first findings of the NWI: the continental US has lost approximately 60% of its presettlement wetlands, going from 220 million acres to 105 million.
March 1984 OTA releases Wetlands: Their Use and Regulation, a report on the operation of the 404 permitting program.
1985 EPA revises draft manual for wetland delineation, and circulates it for testing and review.
1985 Publication of Margaret Race's article in Environmental Management on mitigation success in San Francisco Bay, summarizing data from 1977 to 1982; the first of many reports finding general failure in on-site mitigation.
January 1987 The Corps' Environmental Laboratory releases its Wetland Delineation Manual, causing a Congressional uproar when it is realized that it would define some areas as wetland that had previously been considered non-wetland, and thus expand the jurisdiction of the CWA enforcement agencies.
May 1988 The NWPF convenes to draft its report. Although the report is not officially released until November 11, its call for "no net loss of wetlands" is taken up by the Presidential campaign of Vice-President George Bush.
1988 FWS publishes a detailed survey of the 12 wetland banks (all but one public) in existence.
7/28/1988 GAO releases Wetlands: The Corps' Administration of the Section 404 Program, a generally negative report on COE practice highlighting the total lack of monitoring, faith in permittee-provided data, and the extreme rarity of permit denials.
1989 Release of a revised delineation manual by the Federal Interagency Committee for Wetland Delineation, composed of the COE, EPA, NRCS and FWS. Its definition dramatically expands the jurisdictional covereage of the CWA; Pressure from the Bush Administration and Congress results in the manual's withdrawal. [1989 Federal Wetlands Manual]
1990 Publication of Wetlands Losses in the United States: 1780s to 1980s. [1990 Status Trends]
1990 Publication of Kusler and Kentula's Wetland Creation and Restoration: The Status of the Science.
1991 Publication of Wetlands: Status and Trends in the Conterminous United States, Mid-1970's to Mid-1980's. [1991 Status Trends]
1991 Publication of K. Erwin's report by the SFWMD finding that only 6% of compensatory mitigations in Florida were meeting performance standards, and that fully 66% of the required acreage had never been built.
8/14/1991 Bush Administration releases its own wetland delineation manual, but its conservative definitions dramatically restrict the jurisdiction of the CWA, and cause an uproar among environmentalists; it is never adopted.
1991 Bush's Domestic Policy Council urges market-oriented private wetland banking.
1992 Beginning of the COE's national WMB study, to last until 1996.
1993 second edition of Mitch and Gosselink's Wetlands, now including a section on the state of the science of restoration.
8/24/1993 Clinton Administration releases its Wetland Plan, stressing advanced watershed planning and wetland identification.
March 1994 NRCS releases third edition of NFSAM, its wetland delineation manual, implementing the recent MOA.
1995 National Academy of Science releases its study of wetland delineation and identification, the outfall of the fracas over the 1987-1989-1991 manuals.
1996-1997 Corps IWR publishes reports on the integration of economics, culture and risk into environmental decision-making in their Evaluation of Environmental Investments Research Program
2000 Publication of Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 1986 to 1997. [2000 Status Trends]
August 2001 Release of NSF report on status of compliance with the CWA. The NSF committee recommends the abandonment of the "on-site, in-kind" standard and looks favorably on consolidated mitigation as a solution to the evident problems of individual permit mitigation. No preference for banking or ILF is stated.