Local Planning to Preserve Wetlands Assets: Community, Baselines, and Ecosystem Services
BEYOND RAPANOS: THE NEXT GENERATION OF WETLAND REGULATION, Kimberly Connolly, ed. 2013
18 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 7, 2012
Wetlands store and transport water, support plants and wildlife, provide transition areas between uplands and watercourses, capture waterborne sediments and pollutants, and help to recharge aquifers. These “ecosystem services” are critical to human survival and wellbeing. As such, when wetlands fail to function, often due to human destruction and enjoyment, we seek replacement services at an enormous cost. Healthy, functioning wetlands are assets, and the next generation of wetlands regulation must capitalize on these assets.
This essay explores the best regulatory structure for protecting wetlands assets based on the ecological economics of ecosystem services, an approach that attributes value to the goods and services provided by nature. Based on the controversies over mountaintop removal mining, this essay compares the current federal regulatory scheme to an alternative approach that recognizes the productive value of wetlands based upon the services they provide. Furthermore, this essay discusses the value of looking to local communities in order to determine the hidden values and valuable functions of wetlands, acknowledging that local communities possess valuable insights into the relationships between ecosystems and local needs. Finally, this essay highlights successful local involvement in assessing and protecting the value of wetland assets in Saratoga County, New York, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, and Portland, Oregon.
Keywords: wetlands, ecosystem, environmental law, natural resources law, ecosystem services, ecological economics, local government, local environmental law, zoning, land use planning
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