Environmental Management

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 71-81

First online:

Critique of present wetlands mitigation policies in the united states based on an analysis of past restoration projects in San Francisco Bay

  • Margaret Seluk RaceAffiliated withProgram in Human Biology, Stanford University

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A detailed evaluation of past wetland restoration projects in San Francisco Bay was undertaken to determine their present status and degree of success. Many of the projects never reached the level of success purported and others have been plagued by serious problems. On the basis of these findings, it is debatable whether any sites in San Francisco Bay can be described as completed, active, or successful restoration projects at present. In spite of these limited accomplishments, wetland creation and restoration have been adopted in the coastal permit process as mitigation to offset environmental damage or loss of habitat. However, because the technology is still largely experimental, there is no guarantee that man-made wetlands will persist as permanent substitutes for sacrificed natural habitats. Existing permit policies should be reanalyzed to insure that they actually succeed in safeguarding diminishing wetlands resources rather than bartering them away for questionable habitat substitutes. Coastal managers must be more specific about project requirements and goals before approval is granted. Continued research on a regional basis is needed to advance marsh establishment techniques into a proven technology. In the meantime, policies encouraging or allowing quid pro quo exchanges of natural wetlands with man-made replacements should proceed with caution. The technology and management policies used at present are many steps ahead of the needed supporting documentation.

Key words

Marsh restoration Man-made marshes Coastal zone management Mitigation Coastal wetlands