Converted Wetlands Classification Abuse of Discretion.


Byline: Derek Hawkins

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Rita Boucher v. United States Department of Agriculture, et al.

Case No.: 16-1654

Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and FLAUM and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Converted Wetlands Classification Abuse of Discretion

In the mid- to late-1990s, the late David Boucher cut down nine trees on his family farm in Indiana. For almost two decades, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has disagreed, first with Mr. Boucher and now his widow, plaintiff Rita Boucher, about whether that modest tree removal converted several acres of wetlands into croplands, rendering the Bouchers' entire farm ineligible for USDA benefits that would otherwise be available.

Since at least 1985, federal law and regulatory policy have tried to remove financial incentives for destruction of environmentally important wetlands. In this case, however, the record shows arbitrary and capricious action by the agency. The USDA repeatedly failed to follow applicable law and agency standards. It disregarded compelling evidence showing that the acreage in question never qualified as wetlands that could have been converted illegally into croplands. And the agency...

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