Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: The Written Word Can Change the World –Not Always as We Imagine

Students of history learn about documents that changed the course of history.  These include famous texts such as the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
  More than one list of the greatest films of all time http://www.filmsite.
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But here’s what’s tough about communication, including the written word.  The message sent is not always the message received.  Upton Sinclair learned this when he wrote The Jungle in 1906 to highlight the “plight of the working class and to remove from obscurity the corruption of the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century.” Instead of being horrified by the treatment of workers, the public was horrified by tubercular meat and unsafe food.   George Kennan learned the same lesson in 1947 when his anonymous “Article X” was published describing the Soviet Union’s highly mistrustful view of capitalism and the United States.  Misinterpretation of the article by the U.S. government would lead to establishing a policy of containment of the Soviet Union, which would endure for three decades  

Both ability of the written world to herald changes in policy and to be ‘misinterpreted’ or perhaps more accurately ‘differently interpreted’ holds for wetlands as well.  For example one of the first policy documents to signal a shift in federal policy toward wetlands was the Protection of Wetlands Executive Order No. 11990 issued in May of 1977 under President Carter.  Other important documents have been mentioned in previous Compleat Wetland blogs.

With respect to ‘differing interpretations’ of wetlands policy—there are many varied and strong opinions about the failure of federal agencies, courts, and past Administrations to correctly interpret wetland policy.  Examples in the courts range from NRDC v. Calloway to SWANCC and Rapanos.  Certainly the recent discussions in Congress about the relevance of the terms such as ‘navigable’ and ‘significant nexus’ in identifying waters of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act are of profound importance to the future of federal water policy in the U.S.

NRDC v Callaway
ASWM Rapanos webpage 
ASWM Clean Water Act webpage:

So this week ASWM has started a new wetland page to help us understand both where we’ve come and where we are going in wetland policy.  It’s called ‘Historical Interest’ and right now it contains just a few of the documents that have shaped nationals wetlands policy.  Many obvious documents will be added by ASWM including “The Clean Water Act”.  There are also the various versions of the federal wetland delineation manual that created so much controversy in the early 1990s about the extent of jurisdiction including 1987, 1989 and the proposed 1991 manuals.  The Mitigation Memorandum of Agreement between the Corps and EPA formalized the use of sequencing—avoidance, minimization and mitigation.  The conservation provisions of the Farm Bill established important voluntary protection programs such as the Wetland Reserve Program.  On the international front the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has been critical to international efforts to protection wetlands.

ASWM has some ideas on what to add, but there are important documents that may be overlooked.  We need your help.  What belongs there? And Why?

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3 Responses to The Compleat Wetlander: The Written Word Can Change the World –Not Always as We Imagine

  1. Terry Hickman says:

    I think “The Tragedy of the Commons” should be listed.

  2. John Dorney says:

    To this excllent list, I would add the EPA publication (1987?) that encouraged states to start or expand their 401 Certification Programs. This document certainly got much attention in NC and arguably started us out on a pathway to regulatory reform. Thankx

  3. Grace de Haro says:

    I would like to know if thre are any studies on the geological history of wetlands. ¡ow have wetlands been used by primitive societies ? and I also understand that they are specially valuable as evironmental archives.
    The Finnish geologist did some work on wetlands in Patagonia, is there anything like that for the northern hemisphere?

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