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National Marine Fisheries Service habitat conservation efforts related to federal regulatory programs in the southeastern United States
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    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) in the southeastern region of the United States regulates development activities affecting thousands of acres of wetlands every year. Although significant, the amount, type, and geographical distribution of affected habitats and even the exact number of individual projects were largely unknown. In 1981, the National Marine Fisherles Service (NMFS) Habitat Conservation Division's Southeast Region initiated a computerized database to track projects that would alter wetlands. During 1989 the NMFS reviewed 3,683 projects and has detailed information on proposed habitat losses for 763 of these projects. Overall, alteration of more than 27,354 wetland acres was proposed. The NMFS recommended conservation of 15,745 acres and 7,451 acres of mitigation. The COE, in 1989, accepted NMFS habitat conservation recommendations on about 78 percent of the projects reviewed. Recommendations were partially accepted or rejected on 4 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The database now contains information on 39,050 projects reviewed between 1981 and 1989. In a subsample of 9,148 of these projects, alteration of roughly 683,731 acres of wetlands was proposed. Of this amount, implementation of NMFS recommendations would have conserved at least 371,366 acres. Mitigation amounting to 176,536 acres also was recommended. However, a survey of 2,009 permits issued by the COE between 1981 and 1989 reveals that the COE accepted NMFS comments on 61 percent of these permits. Recommendations were partially accepted or rejected on 18 percent and 21 percent of the issued permits, respectively. The COE issued permits allowing 44 percent more habitat alteration than recommended by the NMFS.
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