Prior to European settlement, 24% of Indiana was wetland. By the 1980’s, Indiana had lost 85% of its wetlands to make way for roads, buildings, and farms.
Wetlands are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. They store excess stormwater, which reduces flooding, and while it’s stored, the water is soaking in to recharge groundwater. That water storage also slows stormwater making it less erosive. Wetlands purify water, and they provide habitat for 50% of Indiana’s species with small or declining populations.
Isolated wetland means a wetland that is not directly connected to a river or stream. It also means a wetland that does not have federal protection. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Sackett case in May 2023 means that the majority of Indiana’s wetlands do not have federal protection. The fate of our remaining wetlands is up to the state. There are actions you can take to advance wetland preservation in Indiana.
There are many types of wetlands: bogs, dune and swale, fens, cypress swamps, pothole wetlands, seeps, marshes, swamps, forested fens, sedge meadows, and more.
A bill in the 2021 Indiana legislative session, SB 389 was passed into law and significantly reduced protection for Indiana’s isolated wetlands. Advocacy by HEC and many partners around the state succeeded in reducing the harm of the original bill.
Indiana Wetland Task Force Report
The legislature created the Task Force when it passed SEA 389 in 2021. The Task Force included representatives of the state’s major wetland stakeholders for in depth discussion of this critical natural resource. The final report emphasizes the essential need for more wetland preservation and restoration.
One notable exception to the multi-stakeholder process was the Builders Association which had a seat on the Task Force, but their representative attended none of the meetings. This was despite the fact that the Builders Association was the primary driver behind SEA 389 which significantly reduced protection for state jurisdictional wetlands in Indiana.
Learn more about wetlands from these online forums:
Wetland and Water Permits
The Hoosier Environmental Council recorded training webinars on how to watchdog water and wetland permits. This task is well-suited to the staff member or volunteer who is detail-oriented and willing to spend time on the computer digging through documents. The watchdogging effort is worthwhile because it can push the state and federal agencies to consider community concerns and write a permit with more environmental benefits. More resources for permit tracking and commenting.
Webinar I – How to Watchdog Wetland and Water Permits
- the basics of the water regulatory processes,
- how to track the permits,
- how to prioritize which permits to comment on
Webinar II – How to Draft Effective Comments on Wetland and Water Permits
Indiana Wetlands Advocacy, Preservation, and Restoration – October 20, 2021
Hosted by the Hoosier Environmental Council and Indiana Wildlife Federation, this webinar covered wetland preservation and restoration through state efforts and land trusts, options for property owners to restore and preserve wetlands, and advocacy for wetland policy.
Indiana Wetlands II: Where are We Now? – October 5, 2021
Hosted by the White River Alliance and Purdue Center for the Environment, this webinar covers some of the ecosystem functions of wetlands and this year’s changes in state and federal wetland regulation. View the agenda and recording.
Wetland Protection in Indiana: The Way Forward – February 24, 2021
HEC, the White River Alliance, and the Indiana Land Protection Alliance talk about state wetland policy and alternatives to SB 389.