Wetlands issues and programs



Wetlands are ďLands characterized by the presence of water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, wetland vegetation or aquatic life, and are commonly referred to as bogs, swamps, or mashes.Ē[1] The importance of wetlands is tied to their role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems and providing for human needs. Wetlands are important in that they provide habitats for aquatic plants and animals; provide flood protection for areas downstream; control erosion; maintain water quality through the removal of pathogens and pollutants; wetlands are also considered to be sites of recreation, aesthetics, scientific study; historical, archaeological and cultural value. Human benefits are derived from the commercial harvesting of fish and plants from the wetlands. Wetland programs and issues assess when to allow development to occur in a wetland area.

Michigan has wetland protection programs under the Michiganís Wetland Conservancy Strategy which is run by Michiganís Wetland Advisory Committee composed of 12 individuals representing the different perspectives on issues pertaining to wetlands including federal, state, county, professional and volunteer agencies and is coordinated by The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Land and Water Management Division. The main goal of this program is to prevent the loss of wetlands through the use of laws and private initiatives.

The Wetland Reclamation Initiative falls under the Michiganís Wetland Conservancy Strategy. Under this program wetland restoration is the main focus and this is done through the projects aimed at protecting habitats for fish and wildlife and protecting and improving water quality and the enhancement of food protection. The reclamation program also helps property owners who want to protect wetlands on their property through the provision of financial incentives, technical assistance, regulatory information and coordination. The Michiganís Wetland Conservancy Strategy also provides public school education on wetland conservation and preservation. The strategy also has the Wetland Policy Development and Regulatory Protection of Critical Non-Contiguous Wetlands which involves the review, analysis and development of wetland policy and regulatory activities and the procedure for notifying property owners with non-contiguous wetlands on their property. Promulgation of wetland water quality and standards is also used to deal with the development of quality standards specific to wetlands in terms of their hydrology, chemistry and land use and the review of activities on the wetlands by MDEQ, LWMD and Surface Water Quality Division. The Michiganís Wetland Conservancy Strategy also aims to keep the public and other interested parties in the wetland programs and issues abreast with the current information on wetland science.

Wetland programs have created misunderstandings when property owners are denied the right to develop or given many restrictions due to the presence of wetlands on their property and this lowers the propertyís value. This has led to the view that

Federal and state wetlands regulation continues to generate lawsuits claiming that a wetland owner's property has been "taken," and therefore should be compensatedÖ When a wetland owner is denied permission to develop, or offered a permit with very burdensome conditions, the property's value may drop substantially. Wetlands programs also may impose costly development delays. For these reasons, federal and state wetlands regulation continues to generate "takings" lawsuits by landowners. Such suits allege that by narrowing or eliminating the economic uses to which a wetland can be put, the government has "taken" (permanently or temporarily) the wetland under the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause. (Wetlands Regulationand the Law of Property Rights "Takings")

The environmental economists argue that the development by the individual will rob the society of the benefits to be derived from the wetlands, and the owner points out that the general public benefits from the wetland without compensating the loss in developmental rights and decrease in property value. In most case however the landowner does not win.

In Kalamazoo County, the Drain Commissioner who works under the office of the Department of Environmental Quality is the person responsible for wetland issues. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette of Thursday October 25 2001, the wetland programs as implemented by the Drain Commissioner, have affected development in County as exemplified by the failure of a developer, Jim Bloomfield, to have his project of lower priced housing in Dells in the eastern Kalamazoo Township as his project did not have safe drainage and would result in erosion,[2] the Drain Commissioner correctly points out that this kind of development is unsustainable in the long run.



1.      Michigan Wetland Conservation Strategy http://www.mde.state.md.us/wetlands/michigan.pdf

2.      Wetlands Regulation and the Law of Property Rights "Takings" http://cnie.org/NLE/CRSreports/Wetlands/wet-6.cfm

3.      EPA: Management Measures for Wetlands, Riparian Areas, and Vegetated Treatment Systems


[1] Michiganís wetland statue, Part 303, Wetlands Protection, of the Protection Act, 1994 PA 451 as amended.

[2] According to the Kalamazoo Conservation District erosion is a problem as sediment is the leading pollutant by volume to surface waters for Michigan State. The erosion and sedimentation results in degradation of habitats for aquatic life and the lost of recreational value of the wetlands and promotes the growth of nuisance weeds. Urban drains and construction site erosion are sited as some of the major contributors to the stated problems.