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REALTORS PLAY LARGE ROLE IN WETLANDS ISSUE

 WASHINGTON, April 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Critical of the long delays and policies that fail to consider private property owners, Rep. Jimmy Hayes (D-La.), told Realtors attending a political/legislative forum that the federal wetlands regulations are failing "dramatically." The forum was part of the National Association of Realtors' 1993 Midyear Conference and Trade Exhibition here April 23-28. Nearly 7,000 Realtors and guests are attending.
 Hayes, who this year, with Rep. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.), re-introduced H.R. 1330, which calls for establishing a new federal regulatory program that would clearly define the approval process for allowing wetland areas to be used for various purposes, told Realtors he attributes many of the problems that plague the current federal wetlands policy to a system that is "designed wrong."
 H.R. 1330, which NAR supports, also calls for the creation of a priority ranking system based on property values and functions that would "reflect local conditions." The proposed measure also would allow for the use of mitigation banking -- a wetlands exchange -- and would require affected property owners to be notified of wetlands classifications. The measure also would provide a clear definition of wetlands by class and allow for compensation to landowners for the takings of property based on a permit denial in certain types of wetlands.
 Hayes was critical of the current regulations governing the use of wetlands saying that many people who lose a wetland property are losing the only property they own. In addition, he said under current law, the permit process is costly and can often times take years to complete due to the layers of red tape created by the numerous federal agencies involved in the process.
 Referencing his own state of Louisiana, Hayes said requests for use permits of wetlands areas often are misunderstood by the federal agencies involved in the process.
 "We are not talking about destroying property. In many instances, we are talking about enhancements to the land that will eliminate (such problems as) erosion caused by salt water intrusion," he explained.
 Hayes attributed these misunderstandings to the fact that representatives of the agencies involved in the permitting process are located great distances from the actual wetlands site. In addition, he said, "because federal agencies are not able to offer compensation and benefits like private industry can, we often have people involved in the process who have little environmental and practical experience."
 Hayes said H.R. 1330 would provide a method by which experts -- the landowners themselves -- and local governments could deal directly with situations in their jurisdictions.
 Hayes called for greater involvement by private individuals and companies, especially since three-quarters of the country's wetlands are owned privately.
 Hayes called on NAR to seek additional support for H.R. 1330 by lawmakers. He suggested that Realtors discuss actual wetland situations that might be occurring in their own states with their lawmakers in an


effort to provide them with first-hand accounts of the impact current regulations have.
 "Realtors are a part of the solution. The answer is not to run over the rights of individual property owners," he said, but to educate both sides about what is really being done to the land and what long-term impacts those improvements will have.
 In regard to his own state, Hayes said it is common for owners of property defined as a wetland area to end up losing the only piece of property they own when a permit is denied, especially because a majority of them don't have the financial resources to fight the denial.
 "It's not a democratic process when you're rolling over small landowners with no resources. That's something I'm not proud of," he added.
 The National Association of Realtors, "The Voice for Real Estate," is the nation's largest trade association, representing nearly 750,000 members involved in all aspects of the real estate industry.
 -0- 4/26/93
 /CONTACT: Annemarie Roketenetz, 202-383-7560, or Iverson Moore, 202-383-1290, both of the National Association of Realtors/


CO: National Association of Realtors ST: District of Columbia IN: ENV SU: LEG

DC-MH -- DC041 -- 0971 04/26/93 16:46 EDT
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Date:Apr 26, 1993
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