Breath of Clarity

Comment #2: Wetland Management, Laws and Restoration

Original Post by Jennifer Thach:

1. To effectively argue one side of an issue, one must be familiar with the other side so…. You are a developer who has owned a freshwater marsh wetland for some time and would like to develop the land. Use the regulations and information in the textbook to convince the federal agencies that it is a good idea to develop the land.

The first step that I would need to accomplish if I wanted to turn my freshwater marsh into a development would be to request for a permit by the USACE. Wetland protection and regulation in the U.S. is under Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)/Clean Water Act that requires a permit for anyone to dredge or fill in “waters of the United States” (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 507). To ensure that my reasoning for acquiring a permit is as strong as possible, I would include the three sequential approaches are clearly addressed: avoidance, minimization, and mitigation. It is vital that these three approaches are detailed because the USACE district engineer is the one who issues the permit based on conservation, economics, and aesthetics and the U.S. EPA also holds statutory authority “to designate wetlands subject to permits and also has veto power on the Corps’ decisions” (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 508).

To meet permit approval on the standards set by the USACE, US EPA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and my state agency, I would present my development to only cover a portion of the marsh while the remaining portion remains intact. I would also present sufficient evidence that shows that development activities would not negatively impact or substantially disrupt the ecosystem of the marsh, the marsh still offers flood protection during storms, and the water flow of the marsh will not be immobilized. I would also make sure I have a wetland expert to routinely evaluate the freshwater marsh and collect quantitative data so that on-site inspections would not be required and the wetland meets the guidelines of the USACE definition of wetlands (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 512-515).

Choose a Ramsar site and share with the class why it is of international importance … do not just give a website.

The Ramsar Convention was adopted in 1971 during an international conference in Ramsar, Iran. This is a global treaty that “provides framework for the international protection of wetlands as habitats for migratory fauna that do not observe international borders and for the benefit of human populations dependent on wetlands (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 521). There are three pillars to the Convention that include member countries promoting “wise use” of wetlands in their territory, designating at least one wetland as a Ramsar site, and member countries should cooperate with one another in the conservation of shared species and affecting wetlands (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 522).

The Ramsar site I’ve chosen is Lake Pinaroo located in New South Wales, Australia. Because of its location, this is a large, episodic lake that remains dry for most of the year with random wet phases (Ramsar 2011). There is little vegetation present so any vegetation that survives until the next wet phase are extremely drought tolerant. The sheer size of this terminal basin allows for water retention over extended periods of time and in turns provides an important habitat for various endangered bird species and other waterbirds when the basin is completely full of water (Ramsar 2012). Other small mammals and reptiles also depend on Lake Pinaroo as a habitat. This lake is a Ramsar site because of its ability to support a wide variety of endangered and threatened wildlife with its long periods alternating between wet and dry periods. For example, there are numerous threatened and endangered migratory bird species that use Lake Pinaroo as a “stop over” site such as the black tailed godwit and the common greenshank bird that are listed under international migratory bird agreements in Japan and China (Ramsar 2011).

What wetland ecosystem are you researching for your final? And if you are studying a specific wetland as an example, what wetland is that?

Since I currently reside in the Northern Virginia area, there are a few freshwater marshes close to me and I’ve frequented down to the Outer Banks area and have seen saltwater marshes. However, for my final presentation I will be researching mangrove wetlands because I have never actually visited one before and would love to one day. The mangrove forest that I plan on using as my example will be the mangrove forest located in Palu Bay, Indonesia. In Palu Bay, only ten hectares of intact mangrove forest are left, which has been named the Gonenggati (Ningtyas 2019). I believe the nearest Ramsar site to Palu Bay is the Pulau Rambut Wildlife Reserve (Links to an external site.) which serves as one of the most important wetlands along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway for several migratory birds.

Indonesia is home to 23% of the world’s mangrove forests and these wetlands help protect the coast from erosion, floods, and tsunamis and it serves as a carbon sink. But more than 40% of Indonesia’s mangrove forests have been depleted for housing, boosting the tourism industry with building hotels and boating docks (Ningtyas 2019). Mangrove forests have also been known to be destroyed for palm oil production and displaces important species like the Orangutan population. The destruction of mangrove forests at this large of a scale is extremely worrisome as more conservation efforts and protection of these wetlands need to be implemented.


Mitsch, William J. and James G. Gosselink. 2015. Wetlands. 5th ed: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Ningtyas, Ika. 2019. “Mangroves Against Climate Change”. Development and Cooperation. April 15, 2019. (Links to an external site.).

Ramsar. 2011. “Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS): Lake Pinaroo (Fort Grey Basin)”. Ramsar Sites Information Service. (Links to an external site.).

Ramsar. 2012. “Lake Pinaroo”. Ramsar Sites Information Service.

My Comment:

Hi Jennifer (Question 1),

The wetland is better kept preserved and restored:

The argument in favor of developing the land is grounded upon ability of the permit process to thoroughly protect the wetland. Having so much emphasis on satisfying the permit process implies that the developer is only going to do the minimum amount required by the permitting process to appear that ecological principles are being taken into account. That said, evidence that shows that development activities would not negatively impact or substantially disrupt the ecosystem of the marsh needs to be more than the permit’s definition of “sufficient”. The use of Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)/Clean Water Act for wetland protection has been controversial, as well as the subject of continued lower and Supreme Court actions and revisions of regulations (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 507). Back in the 1990s, a report by the National Research Council (NRC) concluded that performance expectations in the permits required by Section 404 have often been unclear (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 517). Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) tightened up its procedures as a response to the report, it brings into question the remaining ambiguity that still exists in the permit approval process. When the Supreme Court ruled on wetland development in 2013 as part of the Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, it resulted in less rigorous mitigation requirements required by federal and state agencies (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 521). Water resource managers must not simply be approving development projects in wetlands as it would be abandoning their duty to protect the public interest and put communities and wildlife in harm’s way (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 521). In 1975, USACE even declared that as environmentally vital areas, wetlands constitute a productive and valuable public resource, and the unnecessary alteration or destruction of which should be discouraged as contrary to the public interest (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 508). So, in order to convince me anything else aside from preserving and restoring the wetland, I would need to know how this development is a necessary alteration or destruction of the wetland (Mitsch and Gosselink 2015, 508). Crucially, no wetland development can be permitted if a practicable alternative exists.


Mitsch, William J. and James G. Gosselink. 2015. Wetlands. 5th ed: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.