Alternate Title

An Examination of Legislation for the Protection of the Wetlands of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast States

Document Type



The most useful aquatic areas in the world are in serious danger of destruction. The estuaries, where fresh water, land and sea meet in a dynamic and highly productive zone, are today gravely threatened through unwise and unplanned excessive use of their valuable but finite capacities. Estuaries include the coastal zone which is affected by both the run-off of fresh water from the land and the salt water from the sea. This zone includes tidal rivers, marshes, bays and river mouths. The value of these estuarine regions has been well established by biologists. However, this value is fully appreciated by only a handful of people. The intense uses to which the coastal zone is being placed are so expansive, so competitive and potentially so destructive. Much shipping for industrial and military purposes begins and ends in estuaries. The waste products of the industries which crowd the coastal zone and of one-third of the population of this country are daily being poured into these waters. Estuaries are directly linked to suitable conditions needed for the development of three-fourths of the fish and shellfish taken for food production and recreational fishing. In addition, the use of these so important coastal regions is ever increasing by our growing population for aesthetic and recreational purposes.

Each of the above uses is an important human use. However, each of these uses is potentially destructive. Even aesthetic uses, which have heretofore been above reproach, can irretrievably destroy this fragile ecosystem when vast areas are developed for housing projects by dredging and filling in the land. In fact, this action may destroy the very reason why people wish to move to the shore. All of these uses, and others, have developed without sufficient comprehension of their effects and interactions and totally without planning for an optimal balance for present and future human uses. Present and potential human uses involve vast and complicated economic problems, political and geographic difficulties, and grave social and legal complications. It is with the latter, the legal problems of wetlands preservation and utilization, that this paper is concerned.

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