Derb Carter
Southern Environmental Law Center

When environmentalists want to protect wetlands in North and South Carolina, they seek out Derb Carter. Since he returned to his native Carolina in 1982, Derb has been working with conservation groups to force state and federal agencies to scrutinize and regulate large-scale wetland conversions in the two states.

Mr. Carter’s most recent project is protecting tens of thousands of coastal North Carolina wetlands from unregulated drainage. The U.S. Court of Appeals’ 1338 invalidation of the “Tulloch rule” left wetlands nationwide vulnerable to drainage without federal regulation. Derb Carter led the effort to stop the massive wave of wetland drainage on several fronts. He spearheaded an in-depth investigation of numerous huge drainage projects, and he worked with regulators to stop the unprecedented wetland destruction. He also led a coalition of environmental groups in convincing North Carolina to promulgate and use state standards to protect wetlands in the wake of the Tulloch decision. The enforcement of these standards stopped drainage activity at many sites.

In the early 1980s, Derb Carter’s efforts to force environmental scrutiny of large-scale wetland conversions stopped a 36,000-acre agricultural conversion project and a 35,000-acre peat-mining project, both in the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound watershed. The wetlands were subsequently transferred to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Derb Carter’s command of and respect for the science, law, politics, and stakeholders on all sides of the wetland debate, makes him a highly respected voice for wetland protection. Both locally and nationally, has raised the level of debate and substantially advanced the cause of wetland protection.

— Jan Goldman-Carter, environmental attorney, Edina, Minnesota