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American Wetlands Month

Well over half of America's wetlands have been lost.  It's time to preserve and celebrate what we have left.

 

 

“Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.” -Henry David Thoreau

 

Every May, the Environmental Protection Agency celebrates  American Wetlands Month.  The observance was instituted by the EPA in 1991 amid the growing concern over the loss of wetland areas across the nation.  Despite the fact that they can be found in every county of the United States, public awareness on swamps and marshes is poor compared to other types of habitat.  Often perceived as inaccessible and thus useless for human development, wetlands have over the years been drained, paved on, and trampled. 

 

In fact, well over half of America’s wetlands have already been lost due to climate change, invasive species, erosion, sea level rise, extreme weather events, increasing amount of pollutants, and – most importantly – urban and rural development.  California alone has already drained 91% of its wetland habitats.  Although the trend has slowed down over the last several decades, the U.S. still loses about 60,000 acres of wetlands every year.

 

Yet, as a place where both land and aquatic worlds meet, wetlands are extremely productive and biodiverse areas.  Combining water, land, nutrients, and the energy of the sun, they provide an excellent habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna.  They host about 30% of North America’s plant species, and offer breeding grounds for 50% of the continent’s birds.

 

Moreover, they provide the economy with a wealth of ecosystem services, from decontaminating water pollutants, preventing excessive flooding, providing water storage, to working as excellent recreational grounds.  Many treatment plants across the country have used wetlands as a natural filtration system in addition to traditional water treatment processes. 

 

The loss of wetlands, then, means not only diminishing populations of birds, fish, and other animal and plant species.  It also means increasing needs for public funding for storm water collection and treatment, climate change abatement, as well as flood and drought prevention and alleviation measures.  Why pay for it, if nature could do the same for free? 

 

This is why this month, the EPA and its partner organizations, including nonprofits and other federal, state, tribal, local, and private entities organize various events and celebrations in order to increase public awareness and encourage conservation efforts for this precious yet dwindling habitat.

 

What You Can Do

 

Find more information about American Wetlands Month on the EPA website.  

 

Learn about wetland habitats, discover and explore the wetlands in the local area, and find resources to take action to protect them on the EPA’s Surf Your Watershed and on the  website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Support these national, regional, and local wetland conservation nonprofits, and check out their websites to find local events and celebrations:

 

(Updated from an earlier post)