The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVI, Issue 6
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
Oct. 6, 2000

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Larson weighs in on wetlands case
on Supreme Court docket

by Paula Hartman Cohen, News Office staff

J oseph S. Larson, professor emeritus and former director of The Environmental Institute, is one of 18 nationally known wetland scientists to participate in a friend-of-the court brief for a case that will be heard next month before the U.S. Supreme Court.

     The brief is in support of the Army Corps of Engineers which, under the federal Clean Water Act, denied permission to the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, Ill., to put a waste-disposal landfill on a site containing 21 acres of ponds. The Solid Waste Agency is challenging the right of the Corps to regulate so-called "isolated" wetlands that are not directly adjacent to ponds and streams with surface outlets to navigable waters.

     Larson and the group of scientists support the decision of the Corps to regulate these wetlands because, in many cases, wetlands are connected to navigable water systems through groundwater connections. In a brief written by the non-profit organization Environmental Defense, the scientists point out that isolated wetlands provide critical habitat to endangered and migratory wildlife. Furthermore, when these wetlands are filled or drained, water and pollutants they normally capture will run overland to ponds and streams, thus contributing to stream flooding and reduced water quality.

     Larson is a nationally known expert on functions and values of freshwater wetlands. The Pelham resident received the Chevron Conservation Award in 1990 and was named Conservationist of the Year in 1997 by the Massachusetts Wildlife Federation. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from UMass, and a Ph.D. in zoology from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

     Larson currently serves as the endangered species habitat expert on the state's Fisheries and Wildlife Board, and is on the advisory committee for the state's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

 
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