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The United States has lost half of its wetlands since the Colonial era, according to a recent report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Swamps and marshes are disappearing at an increasing rate, and the Supreme Court added to the pressure with a 2023 ruling that sharply cut back federal protection for them.

Environmental law scholars Steph Tai of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michael Vandenbergh of Vanderbilt University see hope in actions by private businesses, including banks, insurers and retailers that want to show their sustainable bona fides. By adding wetland protection to their investment decisions and supplier guidelines, Tai and Vandenbergh assert, private companies can help prevent these valuable ecosystems from being filled in or paved over.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Cities Editor

Roads divide what once was a larger wetland into four smaller pools in east-central North Dakota. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The US is losing wetlands at an accelerating rate − here’s how the private sector can help protect these valuable resources

Steph Tai, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Michael Vandenbergh, Vanderbilt University

The Supreme Court drastically reduced federal protection for wetlands in 2023. Two environmental lawyers explain how private businesses and nongovernment organizations can help fill the gap.

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