During the past century, Oklahoma has lost in excess of sixty percent of its natural wetlands. These losses have resulted from increases in agricultural and transportation projects, as well as the growth of urban areas. Furthermore, wetlands are continually impacted by a myriad of sources ranging from oil/gas exploration to reservoir construction.

Wetlands were once thought of as barriers, prohibiting movement from one place to another and precluding traditional farming practices on otherwise “useful” land. As a result, many wetlands were ditched and streams straightened to facilitate drainage and use for agriculture. The inherent functions and values of wetlands were largely unknown prior to the 1970’s.

In 1972, legislation was passed by the United States Congress regulating the discharge of material into wetlands and the waters of the United States. These regulations are commonly known as the Clean Water Act. Today, both Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act protect and conserve wetlands and waters of the US by regulating the discharge of dredged and fill material and activities affecting navigation.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the agencies responsible for the regulation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and are thereby tasked with the protection and conservation of our nation’s valuable wetlands. In an effort to balance wetland conservation with society’s need for development, the USACE, EPA, and other agencies developed the concept of wetland mitigation. Within the last decade, wetland mitigation has been proven to be a key component to the successful restoration and future protection of wetlands, and is becoming increasingly important in replacing wetland losses nationwide. With this technique, credits or acreage is made available to permittees to offset impacts to wetlands and waters of the US.