ELR’s Wetlands Deskbook
e federal government’s approach to wetlands law is highly complicated because there is no single federal
wetlands law. Rather, a number of federal statutes and programs address protection and use of wetlands. Wetlands
provisions are part of federal statutes that address water pollution, agricultural production, sh and wildlife habitat,
and certain federal benet programs. is piecemeal legal structure results in a confusing array of denitions,
prohibitions, and policies applicable to activities in or concerning wetlands. is makes it confusing for regulated
property owners trying to gure out what they can and can not do in developing their property. is structure
also has caused jurisdictional and enforcement problems for the regulatory agencies charged with overseeing the
nation’s wetlands, and recent Supreme Court decisions bring into question the scope of federal authority over
wetlands and water pollution.
Since wetlands occur on privately owned land, wetlands law arises in the context of the management of private
property, which involves balancing the public interest in the ecological benets of wetlands with the rights of the
private property owner. is balance is reected in laws that allow some destruction of wetlands while protecting
against other harmful activities; it is seen in the various federal wetlands acquisition programs; and it is responsible
for the emerging law regarding compensation for regulatory takings caused by decisions to protect wetlands. In
short, federal laws reect compromises among important policy interests that compete with wetlands protection.
e Wetlands Deskbook is part of ELI’s comprehensive program to protect wetlands, one of our most valuable
natural resources. ELI’s Wetlands Program provides professionals and the public with timely, balanced information
on wetlands law, policy, science, and management in order to prevent wetlands loss and result in a net gain of
wetlands across the United States. e Wetlands Program has three major areas of focus: education and outreach
to promote the best in wetlands protection, convening experts and stakeholders, and research and policy analysis
on cutting-edge issues, particularly mitigation banking. is deskbook is an example of the program at work, as
we seek to make wetlands law more accessible to practitioners.
e Wetlands Deskbook is part of ELI’s Deskbook series, which combines the invaluable 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 an “at-the-ngertips” resource for accessing and 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 necessary reference materials, such as regulations, guidance documents, and forms.
e Deskbooks are natural partners to ELI’s agship resource, the Environmental Law Reporter. ELR is an
attorney-edited gateway to researching and understanding environmental law and policy, with coverage since 1971
available online in an easily searchable format. ELR couples thousands of insightful articles on environmental
law and policy with the most important updates, decisions, statutes, regulations, and agency documents and a
cumulative index and bibliography to help you navigate this highly complex area of law. More information about
the Deskbooks, ELR, and ELI’s Wetlands Program is available at www.eli.org.
e Wetlands De skbook was authored by Peggy Strand and Lowell Rothsc hild. e Wetlands Deskbook has
become known as one of the most authoritative sources on this area of law due to the insight and care Peggy and
Lowell have put into this work over many years. e signicant reworking of the third edition reects major
changes in the area of law and the authors’ careful rethinking 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
our sincerest thanks for their eort and skill in helping us to create this valuable resource.
e Environmental Law Institute makes law work for people, places, and the planet. With its nonpartisan,
independent approach, ELI promotes solutions to tough environmental problems. e Institute’s unparalleled
research an d highly respected publications inf orm the public de bate and build the in stitutions needed to
advance sustainable development. We hope the Wetlands Deskbook provides valuable insight into this vital area
of environmental law and regulation.
Environmental Law Institute