Wetlands are a vital element in the biosphere, but they are disappearing and being degraded rapidly. Until recently, they have been regarded largely as nuisances to be drained, cleared, filled, or inundated. Now we have begun to realize that in their natural state wetlands produce numerous benefits for society, benefits which are either irreplaceable if lost or can only be replaced at great expense.

While some Federal programs are designed to protect wetlands, others encourage economic development projects which sometimes destroy wetlands. Further, these projects have too often turned out to be of questionable economic merit. Thus, in 1985, as a precursor to developing greater consistency in Federal policies with respect to wetlands, Congress directed a study of Federal programs and subsidies which affect wetlands, together with a comprehensive examination of conservation options. Although more vigorous regulation or increased acquisition would preserve more wetlands, these approaches can be costly and unpopular. The Administration prefers to redesign Federal programs to reduce undesirable effects rather than increase expenditures for land acquisition or impose stricter regulations. Accordingly, this study identifies Federal programs which could promote the conversion or degradation of wetlands, and examines ways to revise the programs to accomplish three important goals: reduce economic inefficiencies and inequities, ease the drain on the Federal budget, and conserve environmentally significant wetlands with a minimum of Federal involvement and expenditure.

This is the second of two reports to Congress on this topic. Volume I focused on two of the most important wetland regions in the country: the bottomland hardwoods of the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the Prairie Pothole Region of the Upper Midwest. Volume II covers all other major wetland regions in the United States.

This report was developed over a number of years, but has received policy level review in the Clinton Administration and reflects the views of the Administration. It is the joint product of the Department's Office of Policy Analysis and the Fish and Wildlife Service. It was produced under the direction of Jon H. Goldstein, Office of Policy Analysis. For their advice and counsel throughout the preparation of this report, special recognition is due to H. Theodore Heintz, Assistant Director - Economic Analysis, Office of Policy Analysis and Merritt W. Sprague, formerly Director, Office of Policy Analysis.

(signed by)

Secretary of the Interior

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