GREENSBORO, N.C. — A new law, that in part adopts national standards for wetland protection, may not address the state's diverse environments, a North Carolina biologist says.

What You Need To Know

  • The North Carolina Farm Act of 2023 recently became law over Gov. Roy Cooper's veto

  • The law makes changes to agricultural and wastewater rules of this state, bringing some definitions in line with federal standards

  • A North Carolina biologist says the changes may not meet that state's unique needs

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 582, the North Carolina Farm Act of 2023, but the General Assembly overrode that veto late last month.

The measure, which was ratified with bipartisan support, makes changes to state agricultural and wastewater laws and clarifies the term "wetland," making it the same as the federal definition.

“It rolls back North Carolina protection on wetlands that are specific to the coastal Piedmont and mountain regions of N.C. to more of a national level of wetland protection that does not necessarily address the needs of N.C.," Malcolm Schug, professor and head of the biology department at UNC Greensboro, said. 

In his veto message, Cooper said he objected to a section of the measure that removes protections from certain wetlands.

Wetlands help absorb water runoff and mitigate flooding, Schug notes, and they also play a vital part in supporting different kinds of life.

"Wetlands are among the top habitats for biodiversity, on par with rainforests, so by destructing them, we are causing significant losses in biodiversity in our region,” he said.