The 110th Congress, like earlier ones, may consider numerous policy topics that involve wetlands. Changes in control and new leadership in both houses has resulted in some modifications in how wetland topics are addressed in the more than 25 wetland-related bills that have been introduced to date and in policy debates, such as formulation of the next farm bill. Even with these changes, there are also many similarities to how the 109th Congress examined controversies, such as applying federal regulations on private lands, wetland loss rates, implementation of farm bill provisions, and implications of court decisions affecting the jurisdictional boundaries of the federal wetland permit program. The 109th Congress considered almost 100 bills with wetlands provisions, but only enacted legislation reauthorizing the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (P.L. 109-294) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (P.L. 109-322). In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, congressional interest focused on the role that restored wetlands could play in protecting New Orleans, and coastal Louisiana more generally, but no legislation was enacted, beyond FY2006 appropriations and an offshore oil and gas revenue sharing bill (a provision of P.L. 109-432). The Bush Administration continues to express its interest in wetland protection, pursuing a goal of restoring 3 million wetland acres. The 110th Congress, like past Congresses, is also likely to involve itself in wetland topics at the program level, responding to legal decisions and administrative actions. Examples include implementation of Corps of Engineers changes to the nationwide permit program; redefining key wetlands permit regulatory terms in revised rules issued in 2002; and Supreme Court rulings in 2001 (in the SWANCC case) that narrowed federal regulatory jurisdiction over certain isolated wetlands, and in June 2006 (in the Rapanos-Carabell decision) that left the jurisdictional reach of the permit program
to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Legislation intended to reverse the Court's rulings has been introduced (H.R. 2421, S. 1870). Wetland protection efforts continue to engender intense controversy over issues of science and policy. Controversial topics include the rate and pattern of loss, whether all wetlands should be protected in a single fashion, the ways in which federal laws currently protect them, and the fact that 75% of remaining U.S. wetlands are located on private lands. One reason for these controversies is that wetlands occur in a wide variety of physical forms, and the numerous values they provide, such as wildlife habitat, also vary widely. In addition, the total wetland acreage in the lower 48 states is estimated to have declined from more than 220 million acres three centuries ago to 107.7 million acres in 2004. The long-standing national policy goal of no net loss has been reached, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, as the rate of loss has been more than offset by net gains through expanded restoration efforts authorized in multiple laws. Many protection advocates say that net gains do not necessarily account for the changes in quality of the remaining wetlands, and many also view federal protection efforts as inadequate or uncoordinated. Others, who advocate the rights of property owners and development interests, characterize them as too intrusive. Numerous state and local wetland programs add to the complexity of the protection effort.