Paul J. Morrow

Document Type

Book Review


In recent years, environmental awareness has come to the forefront as society continues to realize the negative environmental impacts that arise from the uninhibited growth of modern economies. Terms such as “green electricity,” “hybrid,” “Energy-Star,” and “organic” have come into common use. Likewise, concerns about global warming, ocean pollution, and Arctic melting have resulted in political activism across the world. At the same time, the benefits derived from modern economic development create an implicit need to balance the costs of such development with environmental sustainability. Like it or not, mankind’s impact on the environment will never be eliminated. Instead, creative solutions must be found to enable society to better harmonize economic development with environmental protection. To date, the development of environmental enforcement standards has been inconsistent, and the complexity of economic and environmental coexistence has created difficulties for regulators and politicians alike. This review focuses on the legal, economic, and social implications of the use of wetlands, as analyzed by Professor Royal C. Gardner in his book, Lawyers, Swamps, and Money: U.S. Wetland Law, Policy, and Politics. As Professor Gardner states: [W]etlands pay society’s bills. Wetlands provide a host of ecosystem services, functions that benefit people. Long viewed as the mosquito-breeding nuisances that must be drained, wetlands have recently had their reputations rehabilitated. We now recognize that wetlands provide important habitat for animals and plants, support the seafood industry, protect homes and businesses from floods, and help improve water quality. Sadly, we often appreciate the value of wetlands and their ecosystem services only after they are gone (or degraded). Professor Gardner’s book takes on the laudable goal of providing its reader with a fundamental understanding of the inner-workings of wetland policy. It accomplishes this task in the short span of 200 pages, bringing the reader through the regulatory framework of wetland law and into the world of definitions and mitigation techniques. Along the way, Gardner entertains us with various cases and political stories that have helped to define the field. The result is that Professor Gardner’s unique perspective makes this book a must-read for any individual interested in wetland law.



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