Light purple flowers wave in the wind with wetland in background.
Vanishing Wetlands Senate Bill 389 puts wetlands at risk. © John Shuey/TNC

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Stop the Repeal, Protect Indiana’s Precious Wetlands

Stop Senate Bill 389

Statement co-authored by:
Larry Clemens, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Indiana;
Emily Wood,  Executive Director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation; and
Joe Schmees, Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts 

Indiana’s State Senators didn’t intend to galvanize Hoosiers to protect isolated wetlands, but their vote last month to repeal regulation of these important ecological features sure did the trick.

How You Can Help

Get all the facts about wetlands repeal

TNC and partners have developed a detailed analysis of the current situation and offered a point-by-point set of alternatives.

Contact your representative

We appreciate your concern regarding this bad bill and all of the outreach you’ve made in the effort to defeat it. Please keep it up. We’re at a critical juncture. Find out who your legislators are.

 

More than 50 conservation and environmental organizations are working to maintain state protection for some 700,000 acres of wetlands in Indiana. Thousands of Hoosiers have voiced their concern and asked their legislators to stop this short-sighted effort.

Senate Bill 389 is a bad bill and it should fail.

This broad and deep concern for the environment is easy to understand. Wetlands filter groundwater, store floodwaters and provide habitat for rare and endangered species. We’re dedicated to conserving wetlands because without them Indiana is a less hospitable place. The argument for repeal is flimsy and not supported by the facts.

Let’s break it down. We’ll start with water quality and control; two important functions Indiana’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts know well since they work with them daily.

Without wetlands it costs more for communities to treat their drinking water. And when it comes to flooding, wetlands can store massive amounts of water that otherwise would cause worse flooding downstream. According to Purdue University, an acre of isolated wetland one foot deep can hold 330,000 gallons of water that otherwise would flood surrounding areas.

Insects and animals depend on wetlands for habitat. From monarch butterflies to mergansers, when it comes to migratory species, wetlands act as rest areas and filling stations to the diverse wildlife that travel through our state. Potentially endangering about 700,000 acres of habitat across Indiana would be a devastating loss for wildlife. This loss could also hinder numerous recovery programs that the Indiana Wildlife Federation support to ensure wildlife and pollinators can thrive for people across the state to enjoy.

This is a task shared by The Nature Conservancy in Indiana. Its preserves, and those of partner land trusts and the Department of Natural Resources, include wetlands that are free to perform their ecological work. TNC works with the government and private sectors to find ways that conserve nature without stifling development.

That’s another reason why SB 389 doesn’t make sense. Isolated wetlands do not inhibit development. Homebuilders in Central Indiana received permits for nearly 8,700 new houses last year, the most since just before the housing bust in 2008. Regulations are not stopping development.

Nor are they inhibiting farmers who are exempted from isolated wetlands regulations if they continue to farm their land. Many Indiana farmers are enrolled in programs meant to protect wetlands, streams, and rivers adjacent to their fields. They recognize the importance of ecological balance and conservation, and they work hard to achieve that balance.

The truth is Indiana invests far less in its natural resources than neighboring states. Programs that protect wetlands like the President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust and Clean Water Indiana are chronically underfunded. That’s why many are so surprised to learn that Indiana is one of just eight states that protect isolated wetlands.

“Nearly 20 years ago Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly worked hard to find a compromise after a U.S. Supreme Court decision left the isolated wetlands unprotected. Then Governor Frank O’Bannon even vetoed the original bill, not because it was regulatory overreach, but rather that it did not do enough to protect Indiana’s wetlands.”

The Indiana House of Representatives is about to consider SB 389. We urge you to contact your representatives and ask them to vote against the bill or, at the very least, amend it to create a study committee.

Indiana’s wetlands are too important to get short shrift in the General Assembly. Members should hear from Hoosiers who care about clean water and good habitats.

There simply is too much to lose, otherwise.
 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 75 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 38 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.