potholes in this manner. Wetland vegetation has quickly reappeared, and ducks have returned in profusion (see Prairie Pothole case study, Appendix A). However, marsh vegetation may not replicate the historic community, and some animals have not returned. In small-scale restorations of the lower Mississippi valley, forested wetlands are being reestablished themselves on the alluvial soils that retain moisture for long periods following precipitation, even where federal flood control levees and channels block riverine overbank flooding. However, these small-scale wetland restorations are not often subject to rigorous scientific evaluation.
The Swampbuster program of the 1985 Food Security Act, as amended in the 1990 Farm Act, changes in the tax treatment of agricultural drainage in the Tax Reform Act 1986 (P.L. 99-514), and the Clean Water Act Section 404 program, as well as lower grain prices, have reduced significantly the rate of agricultural conversions of wetlands since the early 1980s. Yet the rate of restoration has been very slow. The major impediments are more often legal, institutional, and financial rather than technical. Former wetlands now in agricultural use are almost all in private ownership, and restoration can occur only when financial arrangements with landowners are available to promote reconversion. In some cases, federal flood control projects will have to be modified. The small-scale restorations described above have occured in the last 3 to 4 years because such programs have become available.
Small-scale wetland restorations have occured in the last few years as a result of foreclosures on former wetlands by the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) and the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) in response to the bankruptcies of farms and savings and loan institutions, respectively. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Resolution Trust Corporation have an arrangement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assess these lands for their value as wetland or other wildlife habitat before they are auctioned, resold, or in the case of some FmHA foreclosures, returned to their original owners, typically at bargain prices. In some cases, the U.S. government through the FWS has retained title to these former wetlands that are now being restored.
In the 1990 Farm Act, Congress established, for the first time, a significant wetland restoration program. Known as the Agricultural Wetland Reserve Program (AWRP), it provides that, of the remaining 6 million acres of cropland eligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), up to 1 million acres may be wetlands for inclusion in the AWRP over the next 5 years. The AWRP has a limit of 200,000 acres per year. However, in contrast to the CRP, easements are to have terms of 30 years or longer. Although this program may cost