U.S. EPA Involvement
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with other federal agencies, and state, local, and tribal governments, is responsible for restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. Because of the value and function of wetlands as an integral part of those waters, EPA is also charged with protecting wetland resources. The major federal regulatory tool for this is Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which is jointly administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and EPA. Section 404 establishes a permit program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have important advisory roles in the permit review process under the Clean Water Act, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service has the lead responsibility for identifying wetlands on agricultural lands.
EPA recognizes that a truly effective program to protect our nation's wetlands must include supplemental approaches to the Clean Water Act, along with the cooperation of federal, state, and local agencies; developers; farmers; foresters; environmental groups; the scientific community; and the public. Active citizen support and participation is an essential ingredient of such a program.
EPA uses a number of non-regulatory programs to supplement the Section 404 program: distribution of publications and fact sheets about wetlands; partnerships with private landowners and state and local governments; comprehensive watershed planning; education programs for the public; and support of efforts to improve wetlands management (e.g., workshops, conferences, and research). EPA is also involved in a long-term project to monitor and assess the ecological resources of our country.