NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wetland Conservation Through Private-Public Partnerships

March 12, 2003

Over the last 25 years, government officials and environmental activists have largely relied on the Clean Water Act's regulations to protect wetlands. However, nonregulatory conservation efforts by private land owners and partnerships between citizens and all levels of government have proved highly effective, say Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

Partnership programs provide government funds and technical assistance to individuals and organizations to rehabilitate both public and privately owned wetlands.

  • In 2000, the last year for which complete figures are available, 1.96 million acres of wetlands were safeguarded and preserved through nonregulatory efforts.
  • That figure does not include the voluntary efforts of private land owners to restore or protect wetlands on their own -- such as the New England Forestry Foundation's Pingree Forest easement in Maine, which protects 72,000 acres of wetlands.
  • Nor does it include expanded private-federal collaborations through citizen stewardship and cooperative conservation programs; for example, under the Interior Department's Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, landowners restored 48,800 wetland acres in 2001 and 65,000 acres in 2002.

Cumulatively, these projects add up to big gains for wetlands protection. For example,

  • In Orange County, N.C., one extended family joined with the partner program and Natural Resource Conservation Service to restore 17 acres of wetlands in 2001.
  • In Cooperstown, N.Y., Earle Petersen created the Greenwood Conservancy and, with government support, restored two wetlands on an abandoned dairy farm.
  • And in Oregon's Sprague River Valley, Dan and Kathy Ridgeway worked with the government to repair 260 acres of wetlands along 2.5 miles of riverfront in the Klamath Basin.

If government is to meet its goal of wetlands conservation, it must reach beyond traditional regulations, including leveraging public dollars to expand voluntary partnerships.

Source: Gale Norton (secretary of the interior) and Ann Veneman (secretary of agriculture), "There's More Than One Way to Protect Wetlands," New York Times, March 12, 2003.


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