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A new bill seeks to improve the management of protected wetland areas

A plant with pink flowers stands in front of a wetland, with mountains in the background
Billings Brett, USFWS
Wetlands are an important habitat for Utah's wildlife.

Wetland Amendments, sponsored by Representative Casey Snider, a republican from Paradise, would change how wetlands are managed and protected from development in Utah. Currently, Snider said, the disruption of wetlands is federally regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“You see this in Logan, because we're having wetland impacts as we grow, and generally what happens is they'll protect one little wetland in town …and you're going to have this isolated pocket either like a small wetland around the development, or 30 acre piece here or 20 acre piece there that the Army Corps required as a function of doing that wetland mitigation,” Snider said.

The Wetland Amendments, HB 118, propose to implement an inland fee program, which would allow developers to contribute to the conservation of a larger wetland area instead of preserving small isolated patches.

Riley Peck, legislative liaison for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said this bill is good for wildlife.

“The bill gets somewhat complicated, but it ultimately it is for the protection of large wetlands and so we do not get fragmented wetlands, which is not the best for shorebirds, waterbirds that would use that area,” Peck said.

Snider says communication and collaboration with state officials and other organizations will be key to appropriate wetlands management.

“The reason I didn't just run a bill and say this is how it's gonna be, is because I wanted to have that dialogue… the Division of Wildlife Resources and the Department of Natural Resources are all going to be involved. The main purpose for the legislation is to create the space to have that conversation,” Snider said.

Peck said he appreciates Representative Snider’s efforts to cooperate with the DWR.

“That is one where we have played more of a consulting role in a reacting role and I appreciate when that happens. And so we feel like they are friendly bills to the division and do good things," Peck said.

HB 118 has passed the House and has been scheduled for a second reading in the Senate.

UPDATE: Since this story was written, HB 118 passed its second reading in the Senate and has been placed on the Senate 3rd Reading Calendar.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.