A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says there was a net gain in wetlands acreage from 1998 to 2004, the first such increase since the agency began recording such information in 1954. The report, released March 30, shows a 191,800-acre net increase, with a rise in shallow-pond wetlands offsetting swamp and marshland losses.

It estimates that in 2004 wetlands acreage in the lower 48 states totaled 107.7 million. The report excludes Gulf Coast wetlands losses from last year’s hurricanes.

But Julie Sibbing, National Wildlife Federation wetland specialist, contends the Fish & Wildlife data were “greatly manipulated and misread,” noting that most of the gains are from “open waters,” such as constructed ponds and reservoirs.