Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



Wetlands are an extremely important natural resource in the United States. They offer storm surge protection, sediment stabilization, groundwater recharging, carbon sequestration, and habitat for many species. Despite their values, wetlands have a long history of being misunderstood. It was not until the mid-1970s that scientific understanding helped transform policy from that of rapid conversion to that of conservation. By this time, the lower 48 states had already lost 53 percent of its total wetlands. The nature of wetlands and federal limitations make the management of this natural resource a primarily state-based responsibility. However, the way that states construct their wetland programs varies greatly. The theoretical framework of “policy determinants” has been continuously explored in past research that seeks to further understand what factors influence a state to adopt certain environmental policies. The goals of this study are to determine which states have the most active wetland programs and what underlying contextual factors may be of importance in explaining variation in those effects. California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have the highest level of wetland policy activity and Arizona has the lowest. Four categories of potentially influential underlying conditions include political capacity, bureaucratic and agency capacity, economics, and environmental conditions and pressures. A total of 13 independent variable measurements were used, along with “total wetland policies” as the dependent variable. A Pearson correlation analysis identifies multicollinearity among independent variables and a linear regression identifies which independent variables were significant relative to the level of wetland policy activity. Underlying conditions most present in states with highest levels of policy activity are high levels of historic wetland loss, more wetland area, and stronger environmental group presence. This research provides information that can help states further improve their own wetland programs.



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Committee Chair

Reams, Margaret