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EPA Sets Policy on the Protection of Wetlands

June 1973

Citation: ELR 10082

The Environmental Protection Agency recently established a policy to preserve the nation's wetlands and to protect wetland ecosystems from destruction through wastewater or nonpoint source discharges. It need hardly be pointed out that wetlands, which include marshes, swamps, bogs, and other low-lying areas, have tremendous environmental value. They provide habitats for important fur-bearing mammals and many species of fish and waterfowl, moderate extremes in water flow, aid in water purification, maintain and recharge groundwater, and offer unique recreational opportunities. Hence, it is appropriate that EPA adopt a policy especially favoring their protection.

An interesting aspect of EPA's statement of policy is its explicit reliance upon the National Environmental Policy Act as authority for refusing, as a matter of principle, to grant funds for treatment facilities to be constructed on wetlands, except when no other alternative is "feasible." Instances of creative reliance by federal agencies on the expanded authority conferred on them by NEPA have been hard to find. Yet, NEPA does confer such authority, as the new draft CEQ Guidelines1 and Zabel v. Tabb2 indicate.

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