Date of Award

Spring 4-3-2024

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Shane Nordyke

Second Advisor

Meghann Jarchow

Third Advisor

Sarah Wittmuss


Sackett, EPA, Wetlands, Tile Drainage, Regulation, Protection

Subject Categories

American Politics | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Law | Environmental Policy | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Other Environmental Sciences | Other Political Science | Sustainability | Water Resource Management


Wetlands are some of the world’s most valuable ecosystems, serving as provisioners of species habitat, carbon sequestration, flood mitigation, water quality purification, and other ecosystem services. Human development has resulted in substantial wetland loss the world over. In the 1970s, the United States Congress passed the Clean Water Act, giving the EPA broad authority over wetland protection. However, in the summer of 2023, the United States Supreme Court decided Sackett v. EPA, limiting the EPA’s jurisdiction over wetlands to those indistinguishably connected to generally recognized “Waters of the United States” and removing federal protection for millions of acres of wetlands, particularly in the Midwest. Tile drainage is one of the greatest contributors to wetland loss in agricultural areas. Though Congress has routinely enacted Swampbuster provisions which provide that producers who drain wetlands for agricultural purposes are ineligible for many USDA benefits, the Government Accountability Office found the enforcement of these provisions in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa is lacking. With federal protection limited, state protection becomes remarkably important. This study analyzed state approaches to wetland protection and tile drainage, serving as a foundation for understanding the true threat to wetlands the nation over in the wake of Sackett and cross-state collaboration in wetland protection policy development.



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