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The fluid definition of the ‘waters of the United States’: Non-uniform effects of regulation on US wetland protections
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  • Jeffrey Wade,
  • Christa Kelleher,
  • Adam Ward,
  • Rebecca Schewe
Jeffrey Wade
Syracuse University

Corresponding Author:jswade@syr.edu

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Christa Kelleher
Syracuse University
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Adam Ward
Indiana University Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs
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Rebecca Schewe
Syracuse University Department of Sociology
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Recent revisions to the definition of the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) have considerably altered how wetlands are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. The two most recent modifications to WOTUS, the Clean Water Rule (CWR) and the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), represent two opposing approaches to the federal wetland policy. Despite their implementation, the impacts of these rules on the regulation of wetlands have as of yet been poorly characterized at broad spatial scales. Using New York State (NYS) as a case study, we evaluated the jurisdictional statuses of more than 373,000 wetlands under the CWR and the NWPR to assess the landscape-scale effects of WOTUS re-definitions. We found that statewide and within each of NYS’s hydrologic regions, the NWPR protects fewer wetlands and less total wetland area than the CWR. The efficacy of the two regulations varied considerably in space across NYS, highlighting the need for comprehensive, nationwide assessments of wetland policy outcomes. We also observed that both rules produced non-uniform patterns in jurisdiction across a range of landscape positions and wetland sizes, preferentially protecting large wetlands close to the stream network. This effect was particularly pronounced under the NWPR, which excludes all geographically isolated wetlands from protection. Our findings in NYS emphasize the existence of unique patterns in protected wetlands across spatial scales, highlighting the value in applying geospatial analyses to evaluate environmental policy.
02 Apr 2022Submitted to Hydrological Processes
05 Apr 2022Submission Checks Completed
05 Apr 2022Assigned to Editor
05 Apr 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
15 May 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
16 May 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Major
04 Sep 20221st Revision Received
07 Sep 2022Submission Checks Completed
07 Sep 2022Assigned to Editor
07 Sep 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
06 Oct 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
09 Oct 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
20 Oct 20222nd Revision Received
20 Oct 2022Assigned to Editor
20 Oct 2022Submission Checks Completed
20 Oct 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
20 Oct 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
20 Oct 2022Editorial Decision: Accept
Nov 2022Published in Hydrological Processes volume 36 issue 11. 10.1002/hyp.14747