Hoeven: FWS Finalizes Appeals Process for Wetlands Maps

Senator Worked with Interior Secretary to Ensure Due Process, Protect Landowners’ Property Rights

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee and a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today issued the following statement after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released guidance to finalize an administrative process to appeal wetlands maps and resolve questions regarding compliance with wetlands easements. Further, the agency has directed its personnel to help ensure landowners’ activities are not needlessly restricted on non-easement lands to avoid unnecessary legal action, while also protecting wetlands from drainage. This follows Hoeven, along with Senator Kevin Cramer, hosting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in North Dakota to highlight the need for due process and regulatory relief for farmers and ranchers impacted by FWS wetlands easements. 

“This appeals process is an important step toward protecting landowners’ property rights,” said Hoeven. “We appreciate the administration for continuing to work with us to address our concerns with the FWS’s wetlands easements. A collaborative approach that ensures due process for farmers, ranchers and other landowners will allow for good environmental stewardship without the burden of costly litigation, and we will continue our efforts to ensure the new appeals process achieves these goals.”

“I credit the leadership of Senators Hoeven and Cramer in recently bringing this issue to light. Today’s announcement is our next step to provide better government services to the American people and further minimize conflict between farmers and protecting waterfowl,” said Interior Secretary Bernhardt. “By working collaboratively and cooperatively with landowners, we can better achieve our mutual wildlife conservation goals.”

During the meeting with Bernhardt, Hoeven outlined the differences between the wetlands regulations at the FWS compared to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), under which Hoeven sought to provide regulatory relief as a member of the 2018 Farm Bill conference committee. This includes:

  • Maintaining Private Property Rights: In defense of the private property rights of farmers and ranchers, and at Hoeven’s urging, a proposal to authorize permanent easements was not included in the farm bill.
  • NRCS Site Visit: Improves the quality of the wetland appeals process by requiring NRCS to conduct a site visit with the participant after an appeal has been filed.
  • Report on Small Wetlands: Directs the NRCS to report the number of wetland acres in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa that have been delineated and are less than one acre.