Bay Journal

Topics: Conservation + Land Use

New wetlands rule imperils Bay cleanup, groups say

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The Trump administration’s plans to remove federal oversight from some streams and wetlands will leave those waterways without protection in some of the Bay watershed states, while increasing the regulatory burden on others, officials and conservationists say.

The net result of the rule change, they say, will be another setback for the multi-state and federal effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay and the vast watershed it drains.

“When you take away the federal standard and leave that to the states to decide, then you’re going to get dramatically different protection in the states, and the Chesapeake is going to suffer,” said Geoff Gisler, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

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About Conservation + Land Use

Since colonial times, no change to the Chesapeake ecosystem has been greater than the alteration of its landscape. A vast expanse of forest once absorbed most of the rainfall and held most of the sediment in place.

Over time, the forests have been replaced with farms and development, all of which have greatly increased the amount of runoff and pollution reaching streams and the Chesapeake Bay. While forests still comprise the greatest land use in the region, they have been greatly altered, consisting of smaller trees and lacking many of the species — such as American chestnut — that were common in the past.

The rapid rate of development in recent decades has accelerated the spread of impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs and parking lots, dramatically increasing runoff and degrading stream health throughout the region. Conservation efforts are underway to identify, and protect, some of the high priority landscapes and resources that remain.

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