The Bush Administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to cleaning and protecting our water resources. On Earth Day 2004, President Bush announced a new strategy to move beyond the old standing policy of "no net loss" of wetlands to increasing wetlands overall annually. The EPA has created a Water Quality Trading Policy, boosting efforts to clean up rivers, streams, and lakes. In 2003, the EPA announced $15 million in grants to support the Bush Administration"s initiative to preserve, protect, and restore waterways across the country. The Interior Department"s Water 2025 Initiative calls for focusing Federal financial and technical resources in key western watersheds and on critical research and development to help predict, prevent, and alleviate water supply conflicts. From expanding and protecting wetlands to securing our water supplies to preventing water crises, the Bush Administration is implementing long-needed policies with the goal of providing clean, safe water to the American people.
Expanding and Protecting America's Wetlands
"Our national commitment to wetlands is showing good progress.really better than good progress when you think about the fact that we were losing a half-a-million acres a year not so many years ago. . So today, I'm committing our government to a new policy. We will move beyond the no net loss of wetlands in America to having an overall increase of Americans' wetlands over the next five years. We can achieve this goal. It is a realistic goal. To do so, we will work to restore and to improve and to protect at least three million acres of wetlands over the next five years."
President George W. Bush
Announcement of Wetlands Initiative on Earth Day
Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Wells, Maine, April 22, 2004
On Earth Day 2004, the President announced an aggressive new national goal - moving beyond a policy of "no net loss" of wetlands to achieve an overall increase of wetlands in America each year. To help meet that goal, the President said the Federal government will create, improve, and protect at least three million wetland acres over five years in order to increase overall wetland acres and quality. To meet this goal, the President has called on Congress to pass his FY 2005 budget request, which includes $4.4 billion for conservation programs that include funding for wetlands - an increase of $1.5 billion (53 percent) over FY 2001. The FY 2005 budget proposes to spend $349 million on our two key wetlands programs - the Wetlands Reserve Program and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Grants Program - which is an increase of more than 50 percent over FY 2001 for those two programs. New figures released in April 2004 by USDA show that, for the first time in history, America has reversed the annual net loss of wetlands on our farms. The United States was losing almost 500,000 acres of wetlands per year 30 years ago, but today, that loss is down dramatically.
The Administration has taken several other important actions to protect and restore the Nation's wetlands:
- The 2002 Farm Bill will provide more than $40 billion over the next decade for conservation on farms--a doubling in funding for conservation programs, including those programs that will protect millions of acres of wetlands and other aquatic resources.
- The Administration issued an EPA-Army Corps of Engineers rule to protect America.s wetlands by more effectively regulating mechanized earth-moving activities in wetlands. This rule (the Tulloch Rule) helps prevent loss of wetlands by ensuring that developers understand when they are required to obtain permits for activities affecting wetlands. This action will help stem the loss of thousands of acres of wetlands annually.
- In December 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, in conjunction with the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and Transportation, strengthened the commitment to preserve our Nation's wetlands with the release of a comprehensive National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan and improved guidance to ensure effective, scientifically-based restoration of wetlands impacted by development activities. The multi-agency action plan will help advance technical capabilities for wetlands restoration and protection, as well as clarify policies to ensure ecologically sound, predictable, and enforceable wetlands restoration completed as part of Clean Water Act and related programs. This action was the result of extensive multi-agency collaboration. The action plan consists of 17 items that the agencies will undertake to improve the effectiveness of restoring wetlands that are impacted or lost to activities governed by clean water laws. Completing the actions in the plan will enable the agencies and the public to make better decisions regarding where and how to restore, enhance, and protect wetlands; improve their ability to measure and evaluate the success of mitigation efforts; and expand the public's access to information on these wetland restoration activities.
- The Army Corps of Engineers issued new nationwide permits, which are general permits that authorize categories of activities that have minimal impacts on aquatic environments, such as certain residential, commercial, and agricultural activities affecting ½ acre or less of wetlands. The new permits, which replace permits that expired in February 2002, support a "no net loss" goal for wetlands and, for the first time, call for documented compliance with that goal at the Corps district level. The permits also strengthen environmental protections for mining-related activities by ensuring full mitigation of impacts and case-by-case review to ensure that impacts are minimal. They also provide Corps districts with more authority to ensure that mitigation projects are tailored to the specific needs of local watersheds.
- The Corps and EPA collaborated to finalize a proposal of the previous Administration to clarify the definition of "fill material" used by the Corps. section 404 regulatory program, adopting the approach to this issue that EPA has used for 25 years. This eliminated regulatory inconsistency and uncertainty and strengthened the environmental regulations governing mountaintop mining. Although this type of mining has been common for more than 20 years, the regulations governing it were unclear about which agency should regulate valley fills. Rules were proposed in 2000 to address this ambiguity and the Bush Administration has completed and finalized the rules. The rules also clarify for the first time that trash and garbage may not be disposed of in our Nation's waters as "fill" material.
- In 2001, mitigation of wetlands by the Department of Transportation's Federal-aid highway program created a net increase of over 2,000 acres of habitat. This program achieved an average compensatory replacement of 2.1 acres for each acre of wetland impacted.
- In coordination with four private foundations and the State of California, the Bush Administration agreed in May 2002 to purchase 16,500 acres of wetlands that will become part of the largest tidal restoration program ever undertaken on the West Coast. The restoration program will directly benefit thousands of species of fish and wildlife, including endangered species such as the California Clapper Rail, the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, the California Least Tern, and the Western Snowy Plover. Approximately 9,600 acres of the acquired property will become part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded more than $47.2 million in grants to 19 States to conserve, restore and protect coastal wetlands. States awarded grants for FY 2003 under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program were Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The grants, which will help fund 61 projects, will be supplemented by $132 million from State and private partners.