Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



In 1988, candidate George H. W. Bush was in a tight race for the presidency, behind in the polls to the Democratic challenger, Michael Dukakis. Stung by the D+ grade given by the League of Conservation Voters, Bush was searching for a way to claw back some of the environmental vote.' He saw an opening in wetlands. Perceived as worthless swamps and wasted development opportunities for most of our nation's history, conversion of wetlands for agricultural and urban land uses has resulted in a staggering loss of resources. Beginning in the 1970s, however, views started to change, with growing recognition of the valuable services wetlands provide to human populations-from flood protection and groundwater recharge to wildlife habitat. As a result, wetlands loss has increasingly been denounced as the result of paving "paradise [to] put up a parking lot." Well aware of this widespread concern, Bush announced in a major policy statement a national goal of "no net loss" of our nation's wetlands. This proved effective on the campaign trail, and, as President a year later, he adopted the goal as official government policy.