The wetlands are needed "as places to hide, gather food, drink or nest by most species of wildlife," said Richen M. Brame, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs. "Over two-thirds of the state's endangered species require wetlands habitats at some point in their life cycle."
To stem the loss, Arthur Davis, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Resources, proposed the "Wetlands Protection Action Plan" in October. The plan calls for identifying wetlands, issuing permits for development and enforcing wetlands laws.
The plan does not require approval by the legislature, but proposals to weaken wetlands protection were introduced in the last session and are expected to be introduced again this year.
Michael Krempasky, of the Citizens' Advisory Council to the DER, said that ''it's time we work together to protect our wetlands in a way that is fair, reasonable, but above all, effective."
Brame said existing law would protect wetlands if the DER had enough employees to enforce the law and provide environmental reviews of proposed projects.
The state has about 500,000 acres of wetlands, which include marshes, mud flats, ponds, bogs and swamps. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about 1,200 acres of wetlands are destroyed each year in Pennsylvania.