Two days ago the U.S. Supreme Court heard the first arguments in a pair of cases involving Michigan landowners (Carabell v. United States and Rapanos v. United States) that could determine whether millions of acres of U.S. wetlands will be protected under the Clean Water Act.

  • The original landmark legislation empowered the federal government to control the discharge of pollutants into “navigable waters.”
  • In 1985, the Supreme Court expanded protections to wetlands “adjacent” to navigable waters.
  • A 2001 Rehnquist Court ruling then limited the law’s scope to wetlands with a “significant nexus” to navigable waters, a decision that, according to Army Corps of Engineers data, has resulted in the opening of some 14,000 to 20,000 acres of wetlands to development over the last two years.

Sportsmen’s groups and environmentalists fear that this number could skyrocket if the new Roberts court were to side with property rights advocates and further limit CWA protections to wetlands with a direct connection to navigable waters. It’s a complicated, nuanced, and very important issue. Here are several links with all the details.