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Wetland experts say they weren't consulted on state bill reducing protections

A closeup of a wetland plant at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve near Bloomington.
Beanblossom Bottoms is a wetland nature preserve near Bloomington. HB 1383 would lower the number of wetlands that could fall into Class 3 — the only class that didn’t lose significant protections when the state changed its wetlands law in 2021.

An outgoing state wetlands employee has joined a growing list of stakeholders that say they weren’t consulted on a bill that would reduce wetland protections. HB 1383 would lower the number of wetlands that could fall into Class 3 — the only class that didn’t lose significant protections when the state changed its wetlands law in 2021.

While leadership with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management met with the building industry to craft the bill — IDEM wetland experts who carry out the work told the Indianapolis Star they weren’t invited.

Neither were several members of a state wetlands task force created to find solutions to conflicts between developers and wetland regulators, some wetland consultants, and several environmental and conservation groups in the state.

READ MORE: One state wetland bill would reduce protections, another gives tax breaks for preservation

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Proponents of the bill say it gives developers more ways to help replace wetlands. But Jill Hoffmann said that process itself is flawed and a lot of those wetlands fail. Hoffmann was on the wetland's task force and is executive director of the White River Alliance.

“The wetland you’re removing has established function and large trees and deep root systems that take decades to form. That’s why they have to replace at a greater acreage to offset that loss. So we’re not gaining wetlands," she said.

About 75 percent of wetlands destroyed in Indiana don’t have to be replaced at all.

The bill passed committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration. It already passed the state House. Environmental groups say the bill is being pushed through the Senate faster than most legislation.

According to, the bill’s author, Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil), received at least $42,300 from groups representing home builders, general contractors, real estate agents, and other construction advocates since 2010. Co-authors Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart), Rep. J.D. Prescott (R-Union City) and Rep. Timothy Wesco (R-Osceola) have received at least $56,400, $33,200 and $16,650 from those groups respectively since their time in office. Sen. Chris Garten (R-Charlestown) authored the bill that changed Indiana’s wetlands law in 2021, removing many protections. He has received at least $124,583 from those groups since 2018.

However, this isn’t unusual for Indiana lawmakers. Last year the Indiana Association of Realtors and Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana/Kentucky were two of the top donors to lawmakers in the state overall.

This story has been updated to include information about donations lawmakers have received from industry groups.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.