Craig Todd
District Manager, Monroe Country Conservation District
Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Craig Todd, an awardee in the local government category, has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the enforcement of wetland protection laws in Monroe County. In his present position as a district manager and formerly as an erosion control and sedimentation specialist in the county’s conservation district, Craig has demonstrated great innovation and persistence in his efforts to go beyond the confines of his position to protect the county’s wetlands.

Craig’s interest in wetland protection first began to gain momentum after his involvement in a 1984 Federal Water Pollution Control Act violation in the county. Although conservation districts are not specifically authorized to work on wetland issues, Craig was there because of his sincere concern for almost anything that affected the land and water resources of Monroe County. After settling that first enforcement case, Craig expressed his frustration over the rampant illegal wetland filling and the lack of either state or federal enforcement in his area. At that time, Monroe County was the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania. Craig and I discussed this problem over the next few months and agreed that the only way to solve the problem was for the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to target Monroe county for “special attention.” This special attention included close cooperation between the district and the FWS, the warning of wetland problems early in the planning process, substantially increased federal enforcement, and an extensive public education campaign.

To give the district a reason to be involved in wetland issues, Craig developed a Letter of Agreement (LOA) with the FWS that committed the district to increase its involvement in wetland-related issues and to work directly with the FWS to protect this resource. Under this LOA, the district routinely reviews proposals for subdivisions and other activities requiring an Earth Disturbance permit for wetlands and hydric soils by consulting National Wetland Inventory maps and the Soil Survey. If the site contains wetlands, Craig notifies the permit applicant of the presence of wetlands and the need for a permit, and sends a copy of the district’s letter to the FWS. The FWS then reinforces the district’s letter by notifying the applicant of the need for, and the difficulty in obtaining, permits for work in wetlands. Many substantial wetland fills have been eliminated through his early warning system.

Given the lack of state and federal enforcement in this region, it was clear that we would have to do more than just send warning letters. We would have to show that enforcement against illegal wetland fills was not a hollow threat. With Craig’s assistance, we began an intensive surveillance effort. Periodically, we sent teams of biologists on one-week trips to find and report illegal wetland fills. Our goal was to alert the Army Corps of Engineers to the high numbers of violations in this area and thereby encourage them to increase their enforcement presence in this part of the state. Craig frequently directed us to particular areas of the county and accompanied us on these trips.

The volume of illegal fills we reported eventually convinced the Corps to station an enforcement inspector in Monroe County. Because of our increased emphasis in the county, however, the workload was more than the new Corps biologist could handle. Accordingly, in 1987 Craig hosted a meeting of the FWS, the Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Pike and Monroe County Conservation Districts to discuss methods of enlisting more help on wetland issues in the Poconos. After determining that the only way to devote more staff to this area was to procure funding from outside sources, Craig agreed to contribute $5,000 to help the FWS hire a new person to work at the Monroe County Conservation District office. This contribution was matched by Pike County ($5,000) and EPA ($10,000). Craig also arranged for the FWS employee to receive free office space and support services at the district office. This is the first arrangement of this kind between the FWS and a county conservation district.

With increased staff and enforcement, the requests for assistance on wetlands problems skyrocketed. To respond to the sudden interest in wetlands, Craig began an extensive public education campaign. He arranged numerous public seminars on wetlands that featured presentations by state and federal wetland experts. After spending a considerable amount of his own time learning about wetland identification and regulation, Craig became “the authority” on wetlands in Monroe County. He co-hosted a one-hour radio show that frequently discussed wetland issues and worked with the press to ensure they fully understood all the benefits of a vigorous wetlands protection program. As a result, wetland issues receive more favorable attention from the press in Monroe County than anywhere else in the state. In addition, Craig developed a three-part adult education course on wetlands for Monroe County residents; a three-part program on wetland regulation and identification for local government officials, engineers, surveyors and developers; and a two-day wetland training program for high school students.

Moreover, to guarantee that wetlands are considered as early as possible in the planning process, Craig drafted wetlands protection ordinances for the county’s municipalities. His ordinances not only emphasize wetland protection, but some also provide for a 100-foot buffer zone around the marsh. To date, Craig’s ordinance has been adopted by 6 of 20 municipalities.

In 1984, wetland violators were out of control in Monroe County. I told Craig that it would take at least five years of intensive effort to reach a reasonable degree of wetland protection in his county. Five years later, we both agree that we have reached our goal. Our initial efforts in Monroe County have become a model for dealing with other counties in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, there is no one else quite as enthusiastic as Craig. Our office works with many private citizens, conservation groups, and local, state, and federal officials involved in wetlands protection. Many of these individuals are competent and dedicated to protecting our remaining wetland resource. There is not one, however, that has been as effective as Craig. He is the best example of what an ordinary citizen can do to effectuate wetlands protection.

-Edward W. Perry, Assistant Supervisor U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, State College, Pennsylvania