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Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

Partnerships with Landowners under CWA Section 404

All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in the community, but his ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for). The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, animals, or collectively, the land. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

An increasingly popular way to strengthen wetlands protection is to foster innovative public/private partnerships and promote landowner participation in voluntary stewardship of wetlands.

Why Should Landowners be Interested in Wetlands Protection?

Wetlands conservation has positive, long-term impacts on the environment, commerce and quality of life. In contrast, continued wetland loss has negative impacts on water quality, biodiversity, the economy and human health and safety.

Approximately 75% of the remaining wetlands in the lower 48 States are privately owned. Recently, much of the national focus on wetlands protection has been on regulatory programs. However, regulatory programs only provide partial protection. In contrast, numerous voluntary programs in the public and private sectors provide educational, technical and financial assistance to private landowners for protecting wetlands.

Landowner Assistance Available

Private landowner assistance and partnership programs among government, nonprofit and private groups are areas of growing national interest. The potential for voluntary programs to protect wetland resources is being recognized by Federal, State and local governments.  See EPA's Wetlands Protection and Restoration website for information. EPA has also actively promoted landowner assistance and partnership programs through such activities as:

The EPA also helped develop a pilot project promoting voluntary wetlands programs in the State of Maryland. A report that came out of that project, Private Landowner's Wetlands Assistance Guide: Voluntary Options for Wetlands Stewardship in Maryland, may be obtained by contacting EPA Region III at 215-566-2718.

Upcoming Programs

Other States have indicated a strong interest in initiating a program similar to the Maryland program, including California, Arizona and Oregon.