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We Must Save America's Wetlands

Updated on October 10, 2013
Existing wetlands in the United States
Existing wetlands in the United States | Source
Typical wetland
Typical wetland | Source
Wetland
Wetland | Source
Nisqually Delta Wetland
Nisqually Delta Wetland | Source

May is officially designated as American Wetland Month, bringing awareness and appreciation for the wetlands not only in the United States but also the world. For twenty years now the United States has officially recognized this month in an attempt to halt the alarming loss of wetlands across the country.

Before we discuss the losses and the actions being taken to reverse those losses let us look at the definition of a wetland.

WHAT IS A WETLAND?

A wetland is defined as a land area that is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally but in such a manner that it becomes its own ecosystem complete with flora and fauna distinctive to that ecosystem. The important characteristic of a wetland is its soil structure which is hydric in nature.

Wetlands are composed of either saltwater, freshwater or brackish water and they are found on every continent except Antartica. They will sometimes be called swamps, marshes, bogs and other such designations.

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

The role that wetlands play in the environment is an important one. Not only do they provide a home for a variety of plants and animals but they also serve the following purposes:

· Water purification

· Flood control

· Shoreline stability

· Water cycle sustainability

· Storm protection


"You can't make positive choices for the rest of your life without an environment that makes those choices easy, natural, and enjoyable."
Deepak Chopra

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?

Well, prior to 1998 the losses were enormous. When the United States was first being settled it is approximated that there were 221 million acres of wetlands in this nation. Today there are only 100 million acres remaining.

From 1950-1970 this country was losing 500,000 acres of wetlands per year. Public awareness and action brought those losses down from 1986-1997 to 60,000 acres per year and for the period of 1998-2004 gains in wetlands actually exceeded losses for the first time in our country’s history. Unfortunately there is still a great amount of work still to be done. During that same span of 1998-2004 the Eastern United States still lost 59,000 acres of wetlands per year so the battle has clearly not been won.

WHERE HAVE THEY GONE?

Easily the number one culprit in this drama is urban development, accounting for 60% of the losses each year. As populations increase the need for more land increases and that need means less and less wetlands. It is an on-going battle that rages on as land developers dredge and fill once luscious ecosystems so that more homes can be built, more shopping malls erected and more industrial parks located in the continual march of urbanization.


Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park | Source
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park | Source

So What’s the Big Deal?

"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment."
Ansel Adams

Mankind is as dependent on the environment as any other species on this planet. Take away an ecosystem and that fact of dependence will become painfully clear. Wetlands provide oxygen for the environment. Wetlands provide a continual source of water for the groundwater that eventual flows through our faucets. Wetlands provide a home for millions of other species, each one a part of an intricate balance of plant and animal life. Wetlands provide protection from flooding and wetlands affect our climate.

Take away a piece of the puzzle and the puzzle becomes incomplete; eliminate one of the building blocks of life and life has no other option than to adjust and that adjustment could very easily be catastrophic.

There are those who say this is not an immediate concern. They will argue that if you do the math it becomes obvious that this is not an immediate concern. Losing 60,000 acres per year leaves this country with wetlands for the next 1,666 years so there really is no need to panic.

The math is accurate but the logic is flawed. When do the effects of loss of habitat begin? At what point do more floods begin? At what point does the groundwater become irreversibly affected? At what point does the atmosphere reach critical mass in its efforts to provide oxygen and at what point does the climate change in ways we cannot envision?

The fact of the matter is that scientists cannot answer those questions because they simply do not know. Certainly developers have no idea and judging from the increasing demand for land one can only surmise that the average citizen is not terribly concerned as well. Instant gratification in the United States has always trumped long-range concerns over the environment.


The Time for Action Is upon Us

So what can be done? Steps are being taken as we speak but it is a slow process, especially since anything done requires government action and funding.

Artificial wetlands have been built in the country for decades, mimicking natural wetlands and in effect providing all of the benefits of natural wetlands. They are without a doubt costly and the governmental studies and final actions take many years but it can be done and done successfully.

The most important action that can be taken is to protect the remaining wetlands so that development will never be allowed in their natural locale. This requires the action and commitment of citizens like you and me. Never underestimate the power of a determined group of activists. From small grassroots groups great things have been accomplished throughout the history of this country.

It is a proven fact that government will not act unless they are forced to do so and the force is applied by those who vote them into office. There are billions spent each year by special interest groups who would be perfectly happy to pave over the remaining wilderness of this nation in the name of progress.

What can a group of activists hope to accomplish against groups who would spend that much money to destroy nature?

We will never know unless we try!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Fantastic hub, as usual, billybuc! Makes me wanna go out and enjoy the nearest wetland. And with all the waterfowl migrating, take a bunch of pictures. :) Voted up and 3 cheers. :)

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      What a great explanation of the disappearance of American wetlands. I am so totally on the same page with you here. Thanks for drawing attention to this very important subject.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey TT, good to see you. I do believe there are some wetlands in North Dakota, so the opportunity is there for ya. Have a great weekend taking pictures and thanks as always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Roberta, my pleasure and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      This looks like a hub of the day to me. I didn't realize there was a month to celebrate wet lands. They are so vital to the Earth's wellbeing. Great hub!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Tammy, I gave up hope of getting a Hub of the Day a long time ago. :) Thank you my friend and have a great day back east. We'll be dodging rain drops.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 5 years ago

      Well done Billibuc!

      You have given us enough facts to check on Uncle Sam and its lobbyists. Developers are going to destroy this legacy from nature in the name of progress. We will see if things change in the next 20 years, for the sake of those generations to come. Great article Wlliam!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Wetland day is also celebrated in Nepal.

      Thanks for sharing American perspective.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lord; I greatly appreciate it. I hope at some point, before it's too late, that this new generation wakes up and does what is right and not what is convenient.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting, Vinaya, thank you for sharing that info. I'm always fascinated to hear about the rest of the world.

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 5 years ago

      Hi Billy, what a great and interesting hub this is. As a 'non-American' I had no idea about wetlands. You have put together a wonderful piece here with so many facts, and I have learnt something new today. Take care.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Katrine; it seems the trend is being reversed but...I have no faith in our government.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you for writing on this very important subject! Although wetlands are supposedly protected, in many areas, especially desirable building locations near the coast, it seems that wetlands are shrinking each year due to development. Luckily, there are there are those who fight to preserve the environment and the wetland habitat. Your hub does a great job of highlighting the importance of wetland preservation!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Stephanie! I feel pretty strongly about protecting the environment and I'm glad you enjoyed this piece.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Hooray, wetlands! I work in/on a salt marsh, so South Carolina's wetlands are pretty important to me. Thanks for highlighting our American wetlands! Voted up and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Natasha, I had the feeling I'd be hearing from you. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      The wetlands are so important, yet they will disappear lest we be vigilant and fight the greedy who use our natural resources without a thought of the future. It is not just the big oil companies, the multi rich farmer's lust for land is a great example...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are correct, Ruby, the blame cannot be laid on just one porch step.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      A truly fascinating hub to read. I agree that the building blocks are what keep our ecosystem balanced. We must look into this for our future preservation of life. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Teaches; as you probably know I'm a fairly vocal advocate for the environment and what is being done to wetlands and forests in the name of progress makes me sick.

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      what an uplifting hub for our dear wetlands, which have decreased significantly 'cause of mankind's errors. The oil spill around the coast also affected these wetlands and the animals living around them.

      I upload your concern for our environment. many votes and sharing it across.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruchira, my faithful follower and friend. The fact that you care about the environment does not surprise me at all.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 5 years ago from Southern Clime

      "The math is accurate but the logic is flawed. When do the effects of loss of habitat begin? At what point do more floods begin? At what point does the groundwater become irreversibly affected? At what point does the atmosphere reach critical mass in its efforts to provide oxygen and at what point does the climate change in ways we cannot envision?"

      These questions should get anyone's attention. It is frightening to think what could happenen if not anything is done to stop the problem. This is great information that has enlightened me. Thanks for sharing. I will certainly share it myself.

    • BWD316 profile image

      Brian Dooling 5 years ago from Connecticut

      Great hub! I didn't know May was designated as America's Wetland month, great information and layed out in a very understandable way. In addition to what you have said coastal wetlands are also being threatened by sea level rise and sinking ground (like in tidewater Virginia), this along with coastal development prevents the wetlands from retreating inland and eventually being flooded to the point they disappear!! Voted up, interesting, useful, awesome and SHARED

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Levertis, thank you and thanks for sharing and commenting. Important subject that I would hope more people will consider.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      BWD, great points you make and thank you for them. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving such a great comment.

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      THANK YOU for writing this! Great pics too! I am a biologist at heart - started by watching the discovery channel as a kid and then studied biology in college and grad school. Anything that can raise pubilc awareness and interest is a huge deal! Scientists can study and preach all they want, but if the public doesn't "get it" it will do no good.

      Love the song choice too. One of my favorites! :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dana, I'm really glad you liked this; I'm working on one about deforestation that I'll post in a few days. You are right, public awareness is the key since the politicians and businesses don't seem to care.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      Congrats! I know I've commented on this hub before, but I just noticed it on the HB twitter feed. Cool stuff!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Natasha! I hadn't noticed that but I appreciate you taking the time to let me know.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Fantastic photos. Agree with what you say here. A shame so much of the marshlands were destroyed in Louisiana by the oil spill. Things haven't improved much there, but when the reporters leave, people lose interest. I wrote a hub about it on the 2 year anniversary and it's received fair attention, mostly from people who are serious about saving our environment. The choir so to speak.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Au fait, I have found that to be true with all hubs I do on injustice.....once the spark goes out people lose interest.....and the spark in the environment is slowly going out permanently.....sigh!

      Thank you my friend and have a great weekend.

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