By Enrique Saenz, Indiana Environmental Reporter
Gov. Eric Holcomb has appointed the 13 members of a task force that will research strategies to protect Indiana’s isolated wetlands and develop measures to incentivize their protection.
The task force was created as part of Senate Enrolled Act 389, a law passed by the Legislature earlier this year that removed state protections for half of the state’s remaining wetlands and weakened protections that remained.
The task force appointments include representatives from various fields that are impacted by the state’s wetland policies, including surveyors, farmers, water managers, ag professors, local government leaders and land developers.
The task force will be chaired by Will Ditzler, president of RiverBirch Executive Advisors and former chair of the Nature Conservancy in Indiana. Ditzler is also a licensed real estate broker.
“I know the development, agriculture and environmental communities well and plan to bring a balanced perspective to this issue through a fact-based and objective process. It is important Indiana gets this right, and our task force will help policymakers make informed decisions about Indiana’s natural resources,” said Ditzler. “With more time to study and discuss the issues, my hope is we can make a real difference and help determine a path forward for the State of Indiana on the stewardship and regulation of wetlands.”
The task force’s mission includes developing strategies to mitigate the costs incurred by builders and developers to comply with state regulation of wetland activity.
The Indiana Builders Association, a lobbying group representing the interests of the state’s builders, developers and remodelers played a key role in the bill’s introduction and passage.
The bill’s primary sponsors, Sens. Chris Garten, Mark Messmer and Linda Rogers, are all IBA members and own businesses that stand to benefit from weakened state wetland protections.
The IBA argued that wetland mitigation costs made building homes expensive for developers and potential home buyers.
The task force will also research the flood reduction benefits and carbon dioxide storage potential of the state’s isolated wetlands and review current state wetland classification, mitigation ratios and potential future wetland legislation.
The task force will issue a report on its findings by Nov. 1, 2022.
Here is the full membership of the Indiana Wetlands Task Force:
- Tippecanoe County Surveyor Zach Beasley
- Will Ditzler, president of RiverBirch Executive Advisors, who will also serve as chair of the task force
- Jill Hoffmann, executive director of the White River Alliance
- Jared Kakasuleff, farmer at Kakasuleff Farms
- Jeremy Kieffner, environmental permit manager at Lochmueller Group
- Sara McMillan, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University
- Matt Meersman, director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission
- Michael Novotney, Porter County Engineer and director of engineering
- Bruno Pigott, Indiana Department of Environmental Management commissioner
- Kyle Rorah, regional director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited
- Joe Schmees, executive director of the Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts
- Richard Strick, Mayor of Huntington
- Jeff Thomas, co-owner and vice president of Oakmont Development LLC
Also read the article here at the Indiana Environmental Reporter website.
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Featured image: Coastal wetlands (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)