The USFWS wetland inventory map. An arrow shows the bulldozed Sackett property.

It took all of 5 minutes to create the above map, using the US Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands mapper. Had the Sackett’s taken the time to to look into it before bulldozing their property and filling it with gravel, or had they made a call to the US Army Corps of Engineers for an advance wetland determination, they could have avoided the legal mess that they find themselves in. 

Indeed, it is so easy that since 2008, Bonner County has required this minimal wetlands reconnaissance prior to granting Building Location Permits.

This map is not the final word, because before EPA actions can be enforced by a court, experts will need to discuss, for example, whether the map is accurate, whether the soils are wetland soils, and whether the plants are wetland plants. Foremost, the EPA will need to prove that there is federal jurisdiction, by proving there is “a significant nexus” to “navigable water.”

Ultimately, the Sacketts could very well be right about the non-existence of wetlands on their property. Still, a modicum of due diligence should be a prerequisite for a Supreme Court case of Constitutional due process.  It takes very little effort to avoid EPA enforcement actions.

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