ELR’s Wetlands Deskbook
Few areas of environmental law have invited as much controversy and litigation as federal wetlands law.
And, few areas are as importa nt to the health of our ecosystem s a nd t he protect ion of drinking water
sources. Althoug h there is no single wetlands statute, a number of federal and state statutes and programs
address protection and use of wetlands. Federal statutes that impac t water pollution, agricultural produc-
tion, sh and wi ldlife habitat, and certain federal benet programs all touch on wetlands. is compli-
cated legal structure resu lts in an array of denitions, prohibitions, and policies applicable to activities
that aect wetlands. All of this has created signic ant challenges for the regulatory agencies charged with
overseeing the nation’s wetlands and generated a signicant number of U.S. Supreme C ourt ca ses, rang-
ing from U.S. v. R iverside Bayview Homes to Solid Waste Agenc y of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through R apanos v. United States and then to Sackett v. EPA.
Wetlands law must consider the very delicate ba lance of private land rights, since wetlands often occur
on privately owned land, versus the considerable public interest in preser ving and protecting the ecologi-
cal benets of wetlands. is ba lance is reected in laws and policies that set up procedural safeguards,
delineation guidance, a nd mitigation requirements in some c ases. e balance can also be seen in the
various federa l wetlands acquisition programs and was at the heart of the rec ent Supreme Court decision
Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, which addressed regulatory takings. In short, federal
laws and their implementation by federal a nd state a gencies demand careful study and underst anding by
all practitioners in this important area.
e Wetlands Deskbook is pa rt of ELI’s comprehensive program to protect we tlands, one of our most
valuable natural resources. ELI’s Wetlands Program provides professiona ls a nd the public with timely,
balanc ed i nformation on wetland s law, policy, science, and management i n order to prevent wetlands
loss and result in a net gain of wetla nds across the United States. e Wetlands Program has three major
areas of focus: education and outreach to promote the best in wetlands protec tion; convening experts
and sta keholders; a nd resea rch and policy an alysis on cutting-edge issues, pa rticu larly mit igation ba nk-
ing. is Deskbook is an exa mple of the program at work, as we seek to make wetland s law more acc es-
sible to practitioners.
e Wetlands Deskbook is pa rt of ELI’s Deskbook series, which combines t he inva luable experience of
the top practitioners in the eld with the encyclopedic coverage and keen insight provided by the sta
of the Environmental Law Reporter. Deskbooks provide practicing attorneys, students, environmental
professionals, and government ocials a n “at-the-ngertips” resource for accessing a nd understanding
environmental law. e series covers climate change, endangered species, NEPA, TSCA, FIFRA, and
many other topics by combining in-depth analysis of the topic with necess ary reference materials, such as
regulations, guidance documents, and form s.
e Deskbooks are natural partners to ELI’s agship resource, the Environme ntal Law Reporter. ELR
is an attorney-edited gateway to researching and understanding environmental law and policy, with
coverage since 1971 available onl ine in an e asily searchable format. ELR couple s thousands of insig htful
article s on environmenta l law and policy with the most impor tant updates, decisions, statutes, regula-
tions, and agency documents and a cumulat ive index and bibliography to help you navigate this high ly
complex area of law. More information about t he Deskbooks, ELR, and ELI’s Wetla nds Program is
available at ww w.eli.org.
e Wetlands Deskbook was authored by Pegg y Strand and Lowell Rothschild, both expert s in this
important area. e Wetlands Deskbook has become known as one of the most authoritative sources on
this a rea of law due to the insight and care Peggy and Lowell have put i nto this work over many yea rs.
e signica nt reworking of t he fourth edition reects m ajor changes in the area of law and the aut hors’
careful rethink ing of how best to present this to readers. We are very grateful to them for their hard work
and dedication in bringing the Deskbook into being. ELR sta also deserve s our sincerest thank s for their
eort and sk ill in helping u s to create this valuable resource.