400,000 Acres of Wetlands are Now Unregulated in the Hoosier State

Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager

Highlights

  • Wetlands provide vital fish and wildlife habitat, mitigate flooding, reduce nutrient runoff, and contribute to the health of clean, productive waters.
  • Indiana Senate Bill 389 (SB 389) eliminates several important protections for the majority of Indiana’s wetlands.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners worked to amend SB 389 to maintain protections for Indiana’s wetlands, but the bill was ultimately amended to strip protections throughout the state.
  • CSF is encouraging the Governor’s office to veto this legislation.

Why it Matters: Wetlands play a vital role in our country. They provide a unique habitat critical for many species, as well as some of our most beloved game species and furbearers. Wetlands also help filter our water, improving water quality for our lakes and streams. Finally, wetlands can mitigate flooding and filter nutrients contained in agricultural runoff. In Indiana, Senate Bill 389 threatens the state’s wetlands by removing key protections that promote the conservation of these important ecosystems. Due to the critical services and habitat that wetlands provide, legislators should focus on efforts that maximize wetland conservation for the benefit of our natural resources, sportsmen and women, and local communities who benefit from these ecosystem services.  

All wetlands, big or small, serve an important and unique role in Indiana. Wetlands provide fish and wildlife habitat for a diverse array of species, filter water, mitigate flooding, capture and cycle nutrient runoff, and serve as a water source during dry periods. More than one-third of the threatened and endangered species in the U.S. inhabit these critical ecosystems. Wetlands are also important to some of our most prized gamebird species, including waterfowl, woodcock, and pheasant. Many wetlands also provide a home to fish and quality angling opportunities, while filtering water to help keep our lakes and rivers clean. For example, a 1-acre wetland can filter the nitrate runoff of over 100 acres of crop land, which   is important as these nitrates can contribute to algal blooms that deprive the water of oxygen and create conditions that are uninhabitable for fish and wildlife.  

On April 12, the Indiana House of Representatives voted in favor of Indiana Senate Bill 389 (SB 389).  This bill originally repealed the law requiring a permit from the Department of Environmental Management for activities that would impact a state regulated wetland. CSF previously reported on this bill as it passed out of committee with favorable amendments. However, the bill was amended again on the House floor during its final vote to exclude all Class I wetlands from state regulation and expanded exemptions for Class II wetlands. These changes potentially leave over 400,000 acres of wetlands unregulated in Indiana.

CSF sent a letter to members of the Indiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus outlining the important role wetlands play in the state and asked caucus members to vote on the bill as passed out of committee. The bill is now on the Governor’s Desk and CSF is working with the Governor’s office and our partners in the state to encourage the Governor to veto the bill.

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