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DEP Assumes Federal Wetlands Permitting Program

Florida’s wetlands are vital to our environment and economy. They store and clean freshwater, replenish our drinking water supply, and aid in our resilience against flooding and storms. But after a multi-year battle, federal and state regulators have made it easier to destroy our remaining wetlands.

As of Dec. 17, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been officially granted the assumption of the federal permitting program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into wetlands and other waters of the United States.

In October, Executive Director Aliki Moncrief spoke with wetlands and wildlife experts Royal Gardner and Amber Crooks on this issue. Learn more about the details of the assumption, about wetland permitting, and other concerns raised by environmental advocates.

WATCH: Florida’s Wetland Woes

Statement from Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Voters

Today’s announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency amounts to an abdication of its responsibility to protect our wetlands. This complete shift of authority to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is a giant step backward when it comes to protecting our waters and remaining wetlands. As Florida continues to grow, we should be increasing protections for our wetlands, not decreasing them. Because of this decision, developers and special interests will now be able to fast track plans to fill and destroy what is left of Florida’s wetlands.

The Trump administration has rolled back more than 100 protections for our water and environment. Florida needs state leaders who will stand up for our wetlands, and yet we see today that they are complicit in their destruction. Wetlands are nature’s water storage systems, filter pollution, and provide a first line of defense against damaging storms and hurricanes. Florida legislators have pledged to address flooding issues in the upcoming 2021 legislative session, but today’s decision will harm any such efforts because it will make it easier for developers and builders to destroy our remaining wetlands. Assumption of federal permitting will put additional burdens on FDEP, which is already falling behind on its oversight of numerous environmental programs. Requests to destroy wetlands require the utmost review, and federal oversight provides numerous benefits including a review of protections for endangered species.