This website is the culmination of various interests and knowledge I have picked up from several classes during my time at Michigan State University. These class topics ranged from wetland management, federal environmental impact assessments, environmental law, and how water affects society– all of which inform the contents of this website. Its purpose is to teach the general public the importance of wetlands and how our perception of them has changed over our history, both on a national and local level. The central question I will attempt to answer is, how has wetlands law changed with scientific understanding of their significance and how has this affected their management and public perception?
Dobie Road Preserve in Okemos, Michigan
Wetlands are systems that provide a variety of benefits to the surrounding watershed– such as improving water quality, ecosystem and human health, and flood protection. In the United States, wetlands were historically considered public health threats and impediments to travel, agriculture, and development. As a consequence, vast amounts of wetlands were destroyed. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimated in 1980, that approximately 53 percent of the wetlands in the continental United States have been converted (Mitsch, 2015, pg 702). As you can see below, the impacts were disproportionate. Much of the loss occurred in areas with large amounts of agriculture– the central Midwest, along the Mississippi River, and California.
Image Credit Dahl, 1997
With the rise of the environmental movement, many laws were passed in the mid-1970s to protect water resources and human health. Some of these laws indirectly covered wetlands, but was usually not explicit. So the case has been pushed for wetland protection from a variety of people– anglers and hunters, engineers, activists, conservationists, lawyers, and scientists all have worked to protect wetlands and enshrine it in law. In this blog I will be exploring and explaining the shift in perspective and how the laws have changed as a result.