Members of Congress:
On Earth Day 2004, the President set a bold new goal to move beyond the national policy of no net loss of wetlands to one of achieving an overall gain by creating, improving, and protecting three million acres of wetlands by Earth Day 2009. I am pleased to inform you, in this fourth annual progress report on President George W. Bushs Wetlands Initiative, that the Presidents goal has been achieved and exceeded. And we have accomplished this goal one year ahead of schedule. More than 3.6 million acres of wetlands have been restored, protected, or improved in the four years since the President established our new national goal. By Earth Day 2009, the original date set forth in the Presidents initiative, we anticipate that nearly 4.5 million acres of wetlands will likely be restored, protected, or improved, exceeding the Presidents goal by 50 percent.
This report chronicles the contributions of federal agenciesworking together and in partnership with state and local governments, corporations, and a wide range of nongovernmental organizations and individualsto achieve the Presidents conservation vision.
Our collective accomplishments are a testament to the effectiveness of proactive conservation programs, such as the Wetlands Reserve Program, National Wildlife Refuge System, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program, and the National Estuary Program. These programs cover 20 times more area than our regulatory mitigation programs that replace wetlands developed for other uses. Regulatory agency programs deliver on the no overall net loss of wetlands policy by replacing the ecological functions of wetlands developed, which amounts to about two acres of wetlands conservation for every acre of development, or a total of 46,000 acres of mitigation for about 23,000 acres of wetlands developed in a given year. The real largescale conservation, however, is taking place through programs contributing to the Presidents Wetland Goal, which have conserved approximately 900,000 acres annually.
Cooperative Conservation continues to be the cornerstone of our ongoing success. Under the Cooperative Conservation Executive Order 13352, the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency, work in partnership with each other and with state, local, and tribal governments; private institutions; and other nongovernmental entities and individuals to meet conservation goals. These partnerships leverage the best of what each has to offer. Through Coastal Americas Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, more than 400 corporations and NGOs work together to provide matching funds and in-kind services, resulting in significant contributions to wetlands restoration and protection.
While we have achieved much in these past four years, we must continue our conservation efforts with the same sense of purpose that has resulted in exceeding the aggressive goal set by the President in 2004. Future progress will depend on our close attention to the types and quality of wetlands. Many of the wetlands we are restoring or improving through the cross-cutting programs of this initiative involve planting grasses and trees, or flooding areas to create habitat for wetland species. Over time, as plants mature, shallow-water wetlands will become meadow or forested wetlands. We must ensure this succession of growth results in a distribution of wetland types serving diverse ecological roles that benefit wildlife as well as communities and people. The success of future wetlands conservation will continue to rely on the teamwork and dedication that has brought us this far. The President appreciates the time and efforts of all, both in and outside of government, who work together to conserve, protect, and enhance our nations valuable wetlands.
James L. Connaughton