THE Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is making an important move by proposing that developers replace wetlands and streams that they fill or remove during construction. That's a good idea, although the proposal isn't tough enough.
As important as it is to preserve the environment, the proposal could be stricter in order to ensure that replaced wetlands are closer to being like the natural lands they displaced, since studies have shown that man-made wetlands don't have the same attributes as natural ones.
With urban sprawl eating up streams and wetlands, the EPA needs to act to stem the environmental loss. Nearly 200 development projects displaced 167 acres of wetlands and altered more than 459,000 feet of streams in this state in the 2004 fiscal year.
Under the current rules, developers must improve streams that are near construction sites and build wetlands in different locations to make up for damaged areas. The value of the lost natural property would be assessed under the new rules, and before developers could obtain building permits, they would be required to promise to build wetlands or streams of the same quality. Then, for five years, builders would have to submit annual reports showing how their attempts at copying natural wetlands and streams fare.
Conservation groups would like tougher guidelines. And we would like assurances that new wetlands are established reasonably near those that are lost, not in some distant county or even state.
All is not said and done. The EPA could come up with other rules or alter these based on what it learns at public hearings. It's important, though, that any set of rules the agency sends to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review for approval ensure that developers improve on wetlands and streams that they remove or fill.
Man's efforts to copy nature haven't always gone well. However, these proposals are an attempt to redress the balance, and they can only help replace the lost nature and streams for wildlife.
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