Wetlands Reform and The Pine Barrens

JeffD

Explorer
Dec 31, 1969
180
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Recent federal proposed rulemaking on wetlands is a step in the right direction to protect wetlands while protecting private property rights.

No longer will the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have jurisdiction over wetlands isolated from bodies of water used for navigation. The original idea of the corps' regulations was to police the filling in of water bodies that would block the movement of a body of water used for commerce. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a recent case, said that regulating the filling in of isolated wetlands is not consistent with the commerce clause of the constitution, nor was it the intent of congress. In SOLID WASTE AGENCY OF NORTHERN COOK COUNTY v. U.S. ARMY CORPS, the court ruled that the Migratory Bird law could not be invoked to prevent the agency from using an abandoned gravel pit, which had started reverting back to forest, as a landfill, nor could it apply The Clean Water Act to stop the project.

Initially, the Corps of Engineers agreed to issue a permit for the landfill, but then some environmentalists, who said they saw some migratory birds stopping by ponded water on the site, challenged the decision. Lower courts kowtowed to the environmentalists, ruling in their favor. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision. http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/swanccnav.html

The bastardization of the Section 404 in the 1972 CLEAN WATER ACT started more than a decade ago. In the Spring, 1991 issue of POLICY REVIEW, Richard Miniter writes in THE QUAGMIRE OF WETLANDS REGULATION "In the name of wetlands protection, the EPA and the Army Crops of Engineers have punished a truck mechanic who cleaned up a tire dump in Pennsylvania, held up expansion of a homeless shelter in Alaska, penalized a farmer for plowing up a pasture in Missouri, required a forest to be leveled to compensate for wetlands lost when a highway was widened in Georgia, and temporarily stopped a Virginia county from providing clean drinking water to its residents. They have erected a system of national land-use regulation that brings minimal ecological benefits and substantial harm to the liberties of Americans."

In the Pine Barrens, a well-known cranberry grower was busted for filling in some bogs on his property to expand cranberry production. The saga continues. Recently, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Persecution decided that instead of working to reverse the rule established by former New Jersey Governor Christy Whitman, which allows cranberry growers to expand their bogs more over a time period, it will just let it sunset. http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/17871.html

On the EPA site is a study of a wetlands study done in the heart of the Pine Barrens, which shows that most of the wetlands here are isolated. http://wetlands.fws.gov/Pubs_Reports/isolated/report_files/3_section/Results/Region_5/d_stats/Atsion_NJ.html
http://wetlands.fws.gov/Pubs_Reports/isolated/report_files/3_section/Results/Region_5/d_pdf/atsion_nj.pdf (This pdf file map of the study area may take some time to download)

But why are cranberry growers prosecuted? And how? The cranberry is a wetland plant. The DEP claimed that the illegal filling of a pond on the property jeapardized the endangered Pine Barrens Tree Frog. The DEP , kowtowing to extremist environmentalists such as the Sierra Club, failed to mention that the Tree Frog was no longer endangered. Cranberry bogs is listed as Tree Frog habitat on a nature site.

The problem is that wetlands haven't been properly defined, until recently. http://search.epa.gov/s97is.vts An early 90s Army Corps of Engineers ruling warns property owners that if, in dragging a tree stump from their land, chunks of moist dirt should fall off, that might constitute filling a wetland. The 1989 Corps manural defined a wetland as any ground that is inundated or saturated to within 6 to 18 inches of the surface for seven consecutive days during the growing season. Bernard Goode, a representative from the Corps of Engineers who helpd write the manual, admitted that "In our efforts to not miss any important wetlands, we built in many capture provisions to encompass that one wetland that was special in the mind of the negotiators. But in the process, we captured many other areas that should never be called wetlands. In addition, we constructed a technique far more complicated and expansive than ought to be."

This opened a Pandoras Box, where environmental lawyers and bureaucrats would decide what constitutes a wetland.

In 1990, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers, wrote a memo to all EPA administrators to produce a "cluster of new cases...to provide an early deterrent to potential violations which might otherwise occur..." The idea, which New Jersey Govenor Mac Greedy and his comrads cotton to, is to foster litigation to teach landowners a lesson about how to use their property. http://www.cranberrystressline.com/editorial_010203.html

The EPA awarded a grant of $50,000 to the Chicago area's Sierra Club, a bounty to spy on developers and landowners to report what they believe to be wetland violations.

During the 90's, landowners testified before congress that environmental regulations were interferring with their business and violating their rights. In one hearing, a spokesman for farmers addressed the use of water on his land and the problems created by the Endangered Species Act. The abuse of the ESA was used in tandem with wetlands regulations by environmentalists to force their will on others. At some point, the ESA started to even upstage wetland regulations as a tool for tyranny.

Environmental reforms, which Disney Ecologists lament, are coming to fruition. The Bush administration and congress are working with landowners, much like former New Jersey Governor Whitman started to do, to allow landowners the freedom to have their business prosper while protecting the environment. When Michelle Byers, the president of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation checked out the property a cranberry grower planned to sell to the NJCF at a bargin rate, she said the land was "pristine."

I have never visited this property, but my recent visit to Double Trouble State Park gave me an idea of .
what well-managed rural industry is all about. Only a relatively small portion of this vast land was used (up until recently even when it was a park) for growing and other business, such as lumber. The property is a network of flowing streams, cedar swamps, a lake, uplands etc. A creek runs through it.

So what is the problem with wetlands, isolated ones which absorb excess nutrients before it gets to a river, and cranberry farms? It's the Woodstock mentality back-to-Eden crowd that doesn't want farms, logging, fire-suppression, or any other sign of human activity on their horizon who have the problem.

In another state, cranberry bogs have protected from a large body of water from environmental degradation. The water is not only kept free of debris to help navigation and interstate commerce, but for fishing and various other uses. The community is concerned, now that cranberry farms being coverted to developments, that the water will continue to be as well protected. http://www.s-t.com/daily/01-03/01-24-03/a14op071.htm

In the heart of the Pines, the isolated wetlands have helped the economy and provided healthy desired products for many years, while maintaining an uncluttered, rustic scene where there is clean water and clean air. The environmental regulatory reforms on the federal level should provide some protection against an already stressed rural industry.