U.S. Supreme Court Muddies the Waters on Isolated Wetlands

August 1, 2006 | Roger McEowen

On June 19, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered an important decision concerning the ability of the federal government to regulate isolated wet areas on private property. The issue is important for farmers and ranchers due to the presence of seasonally ponded areas, drainage ditches, intermittently dry streams, prairie potholes and other wet areas located on farm and ranch land that may be adjacent to other waters and over which the federal government may claim jurisdiction. In that event, agricultural activities can be curtailed substantially. Unfortunately, the Court failed to reach a majority opinion, issuing a plurality opinion, two concurrences and two dissents. The case represents neither a clear win for private property rights nor the sweeping regulatory approach that the government sought.

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