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VII. Trends in Losses of U.S. Wetlands

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on the status and trends of wetlands in the conterminous U.S. for the period 1985 to 1995 estimates the average national losses of wetlands at 117,000 acres for the period, with a 95 percent confidence interval of 60,000 to 175,000 acres. This represents a 60 percent reduction in the rate of loss from the period of 1975 to 1985. Past USFWS reports had estimated net losses at about 460,000 acres per year through the mid-1970s and 290,000 acres per year through the mid-1980s.

The numbers reported by the USFWS differ from recent reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Vice President Gore, in his October 1997 announcement of Clean Water Act initiatives, directed that the differences in the approaches be reconciled for future reports. An interagency working group is developing a plan to accomplish that. For more information and debate on wetland gains and losses for the United States see the July-August and November-December 1997 editions of the National Wetlands Newsletter, 1616 P Street, NW, Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone: 202-939-3800; email: orders@eli.org.

It’s important to remember that the statewide or national measure of wetland gains and losses is much less critical than that measure for a local community or watershed. Wetland protection and management at the local level can account for the unique state of the natural resources of a particular community. Without stated goals, wetland protection means little; such goals are best developed and achieved through planning efforts of local communities, with support and oversight by state and federal partners. The 1996 amendments to the WCA provide a mechanism for local governments to develop comprehensive wetland protection and management plans to address the unique requirements of their community. Appendix F shows which communities are involved in wetland planning efforts and the status of their work thus far.

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