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Effective Wetlands Protection Begins with Local Government: 

Effective Wetlands Protection Begins with Local Government Skip Stiles Wetlands Watch www.wetlandswatch.org

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Who is Wetlands Watch? All-volunteer, non-profit organization working on the conservation and protection of wetlands in Tidewater Virginia Three modes of operation: Public Education Policy Analysis Direct Intervention in Permits

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“To the end that the people have clean air, pure water, and the use and enjoyment for recreation of adequate public land, waters, and other natural resources, it shall be the policy of the Commonwealth to conserve, develop, and utilize its natural resources, its public land, and its historical sites and buildings. Further, it shall be the Commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction for the benefit, enjoyment, and general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth.” Environmental Protection – Constitutionally Guaranteed

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But…..Property Rights Rule in Virginia …it is declared to be the public policy of this Commonwealth to preserve the wetlands, and to prevent their despoliation and destruction and to accommodate necessary economic development in a manner consistent with wetlands preservation Virginia Tidal Wetlands Act of 1972

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Land Use Linked to Environmental Protection Once land use designation has elevated (residential, commercial, industrial), it becomes harder to “balance” environmental and economic issues in favor of conservation “accommodating necessary economic development” gains priority… especially given local government dependency on property taxes

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Political/Economic Realities Limit Regulatory Flexibility By the time a permit application is filed, momentum favors issuance of the permit Pre-permit conferences have narrowed outstanding issues Political/Legal pressures drive the process toward resolution of the rest

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OPTIONS? Change the economic v. conservation balance in the laws/regulations Get involved in the early decisions on land use at the local level

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Land Use Decisions Are Made at the Local Government Level Comprehensive Plan Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals

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Effective Environmental Activism MUST Start with Land Use Decisions by Local Government Local Government and Regulators MUST provide better notice of pending actions Conservation Community MUST become better informed of these processes and participate in them Conclusions

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