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California's Legacy of Swamplands


California is living with a legacy of swamplands. The consecutive Swamp Land Acts (1949, 1850, and

1860) were among the ?rst federal water policies to reach newly minted western and southern states,

designed ostensibly to encourage reclamation and settlement of wet and inundated areas. They are

known today to have displaced indigenous cultures, retooled ecological systems, incentivized risky

prospecting, and left California and large swaths of America with aging ?ood infrastructure projected

to cost billions. However ?awed, the legacy (and trappings) of the Swamp Land Acts are worthy of

further consideration as a vast environmental, cultural, and technical experiment that aimed to build

extensive drainage and ?ood infrastructure throughout millions of acres on a shoestring budget.

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