Most people think they know a wetland when they see one, but the delineation of wetlands for the purpose of granting permits has proven enormously controversial. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an area is defined as a wetland when a combination of three technical criteria are met: Wetland hydrology (land that is saturated within 18 inches of the surface for more than seven days per year), Hydrophytic vegetation (a list of plants that will thrive in wet areas), and Hydric soil (mucky and peat-based soil). The continual destruction of these valuable lands is due mainly to farmers, oil and mining interests, and development groups (Russel, p.36). It is estimated that 30-40% of the original wetlands in the United States have been lost, and about 300-400,000 acres are destroyed each year (Hollis, p. 36). Recent concern has led to an increase in wetland restoration and creation to reduce the impacts of activities in or near wetlands, compensate for additional losses, and to restore or replace wetlands already degraded or destroyed (Nicholas, p. 39).
Wetlands serve many purposes and are considered one of the most productive natural systems in the world. They serve as crucial "pit-stops" for migratory bird, house several species of plants and animals, cleanse and purify water, as well as providing utilitarian needs such as flood control (Allen, p.13). If fifteen percent of the wetlands destroyed in Ohio and Iowa would have been saved (over the history of wetland destruction), then two-thirds of the destructive flooding that happened throughout 1993 in the Midwest could have been prevented saving the U.S. a great deal of money. Maintaining the protection and restoration of the nation’s wetlands is more economical than just losing them to development. Seventy-five percent of the nation’s $4-billion annual harvest of fish and seafood come form fish varieties that are dependent on wetlands for breeding and feeding (Cone, A23).
Wetland restoration is more complex that it may appear on the surface. Random transplantation of plants will not qualify as restoration. Wetland restoration and creation proposals must be viewed with great care, particularly where promises are made to restore or recreate a natural system in exchange for a permit to destroy or degrade an existing more or less natural system (Abalone, p.15). Expertise in planning and careful project supervision at all project phases is essential. Careful attention to wetland hydrology is needed in design because different sites will require specific alterations, that is to say, there is no "cook-book" approach to wetland restoration. Wetlands should be designed to be self-sustaining systems. There should be no need for continued water level manipulation after establishment. Restoration should be favored over creation, as it is extremely difficult to create a natural habitat, and there is a much greater success rate in restoring wetlands (MacDonald, p....