Wetlands protection has gone downhill under Bush administration

The Bush administration has radically curtailed protection of wetlands and waterways in the past four years, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. It found that prior to 2001, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asserted its jurisdiction over most waters if migratory birds could use them — even those that were isolated and non-navigable — requiring developers to seek permits before starting projects in such areas. But in 2001, the Supreme Court determined that the corps could not judge jurisdiction by migrating birds alone. Since then, the corps and the U.S. EPA have scaled back their oversight far in excess of what the court ruling required. Corps officials told GAO investigators that they no longer sought regulatory authority over many wetlands or waterways because it seemed clear agency management was against it. The loss of wetlands along the Gulf Coast contributed to the devastating power of Katrina, as coastal wetlands help blunt the force of hurricanes.

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