HARTFORD–The Supreme Court has ruled that the authority of the Wilton Inland Wetlands Commission does not include protection of the spotted salamander, the Hartford Courant reported Oct. 4, 2003.
The newspaper said that the unanimous decision, welcomed by developers, explicitly states that “such agencies have no juridiction over wildlife and the protection of species that may use wetlands at some point during their lives.”
“We conclude, therefore, that the [Inland Wetlands] Act protects the physical charateristics of wetlands and watercourses and not the wildlife,” the newspaper quoted Justice Christine Vertefeuille as writing.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had intervened in the case for the Department of Environmental Protection, said:
“We felt strongly that the inland wetlands protection should cover species that are dependent on these natural resources for large parts of their life cycles.” He said the decision marked a “sad day for environmental protection” and added he hopes the legislature will recast the law.
The decision came in connection with a project of AvalonBay that included a recreational area in the wetlands buffer zone.
In the at least temporary absence of state authority to protect wetlands wildlife and in the probable rush of developers to take advantage of the vaccuum, it appeared likely that environmenalists increasingly will seek the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.