President Bush's Commitment to Preserving Wetlands

Wetlands are an important part of our nation's ecosystem. They act as a buffer zone to filter out pollution and excess nutrients that may harm rivers, lakes or coastlines. Further, they are vital to migratory birds as a stopover, to fish and other aquatic species as breeding grounds, and are diverse wildlife habitats.
  • Wetlands also aid local economies, as they are popular recreation areas for 14 million American hunters, 35 million fishermen, and nearly 60 million migratory birdwatchers.
On Earth Day 2004, President Bush announced his Wetlands Initiative, the latest in a series of initiatives and funding proposals to restore and expand the nation's wetlands inventory. It includes:
  • Preservation and creation three million acres of wetlands over five years
  • Expansion of his mandated "no net loss" of wetlands into annual "net gains."
  • A FY05 budget request of $4.4 billion for a variety of wetlands programs, a $1.5 billion increase.
Several federal agencies oversee thirty separate programs to protect and restore the nation's wetlands. Some of these programs include:

The North American Wetlands Conservation Fund is allocated $54 million in the Administration's FY05 budget, an increase of $16.5 million to help private landowners protect wetlands on their property. Since its passage in 1989, the law is responsible for protecting and restoring over 8.7 million acres of wetlands.

The Wetlands Reserve Program dedicates $295 million to provide landowners with incentives, such as easements and cost-share payments. Enrollment in the program is doubled, from 1.075 million acres to 2.275 million acres.

The Wetlands Conservation Program ("Swampbuster") is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and works with farmers to ensure that wetlands on agricultural land are maintained and restored if damaged by agricultural activities.

The EPA's Five Star Restoration Program provides grants for public-private partnerships to help communities restore wetlands, riparian buffer zones and coastal habitats, such as marshland, and assist in long-term management of these habitats.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's "Partners in Wildlife" is a public-private partnership providing grants and management expertise to help landowners preserve wildlife habitat on private property.
  • In total, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has committed $47.2 million in grants to 19 states to protect wetlands. These public-private partnerships will also be aided by $132 million in state and private funding.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission meets several times a year to decide federal acquisition of key inland and coastal wetlands to add to the National Wildlife Refuge System to provide habitat, stopover areas and breeding grounds for migratory waterfowl. In 2003, over 6,000 acres were added to the System.

The Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency in ensuring the "no net loss" wetlands. The Corps must conduct extensive environmental reviews before a wetland can be disturbed by adjacent activities or construction, and then ensure that any wetlands impact is mitigated by the creation of new wetlands.
  • The Corps is responsible for the restoration for the Florida Everglades, one of the world's most unique wetland ecosystems.
  • The agency has also begun efforts to restore Iraq's historic and culturally important wetlands on the Tigris River.
The Bush Administration reinforced an Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers rule concerning remote wetlands to protect those that are not adjacent to bodies of water, preserving thousands of acres of "isolated" wetlands annually.
  • Strict environmental guidelines and scientific study must be conducted to determine if it is a "true" wetland before it can be disturbed.
  • Many of these isolated wetlands provide key migratory stopover points and unique wildlife habitat.
The Department of Transportation's federal highway aid program creates 2 acres of wetlands for every acre that is impacted. In 2001, this project created over 2,000 acres of wetlands.