Transforming useless swamps into valuable wetlands: Evaluating America's policy, 1970-2008

Andrea K. Gerlak, Jeanne N. Clarke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This paper traces the evolution of America's wetland policy beginning with passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972. This law, for the first time, established a federal program to protect wetlands, dramatically elevating the value of these ecosystems. However, despite attitudinal changes and new governmental programs, the nation continues to lose its potentially valuable wetlands -- albeit at a slower rate than was the case in the 1970s and prior to the passage of the CWA. This paper offers an objective evaluation of the federal wetlands protection policy. We place this evaluation within a broad societal context, showing that since 1970 there have occurred sweeping demographic, economic, and political changes that clearly have impacted the extent of wetlands in the United States. We argue that Section 404 has failed to reverse the net loss of wetlands in the U.S. Moreover, it has evolved into a policy lightening rod within the water resources arena and been a major factor in Congress' failure to revise and reauthorize the Clean Water Act. Finally, we offer some recommendations designed to improve the policy, arguing for heightened wetlands protection through partnerships and acquisitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWetlands Ecology Conservation and Restoration
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781604569957
StatePublished - 2008


  • Clean water act
  • Section 404.
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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