Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

bos2We’re at an Infrastructure Crossroads

By Howard Neukrug – US Water Alliance May 23, 2016
In today’s modern American cities, we enjoy the benefits of the water infrastructure networks designed and built over the last two centuries.  And the passage of America’s great water laws just over four decades ago allowed for new level of expectation and significant progress in public health and environmental protection.  However, we are at an infrastructure crossroads— and we are beginning to witness the effects of a weakening in our water infrastructure’s armor. For full blog post, click here.

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wppGoing Hog Wild in the Marsh

By Rebecca Heisman – Hakai Magazine – June 23, 2016
Sharp has spent the past three years on a quest to understand how feral hogs are affecting the fragile saltwater marshes that line much of the East and Gulf Coasts. And that effort is paying off. Sharp’s preliminary results now suggest that up to half the saltwater marshes in Florida have been damaged by hogs—a problem that has, until now, been largely overlooked. For full article, click here.

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cwlogoBy Jeanne Christie

I am not a birder.  I have many good friends who are and I admire their passion.  I’m not sure why I never caught the birding bug.  Perhaps it’s because binoculars quickly give me a headache.  Perhaps it’s because birds seem so elusive – just a flicker in the distance or a puffins1song in the trees and I crave outdoor experiences that are more tangible.

Even so some of my most memorable moments outdoors have been encounters with birds and one of the best occurred last month in Scotland when I went ‘sunning with puffins’.

puffins2Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) are pelagic (ocean-living) birds that nest in large colonies on coastal cliffs, often located on islands in the North Atlantic. Puffins can live 20 years.  They form strong pair bonds often returning each year to join their mate on the cliffs where they were born.  Their brilliant bills are only present for breeding season and are shed later in the year revealing a smaller, less colorful true bill beneath.

puffins3The male builds the nest tunneling down about 2-3 feet and lining the burrow with soft grass.  The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate the egg and feed the chick.  The new family winters at sea far from their summer home.  The new chicks spend a few years at sea before returning to find a mate and start a family of their own on the cliffs where they were born.

island062316Staffa Island, only 82 acres in size, is one of the islands that make up the Inner Hebrides in Scotland.  It is famous for its largest sea cavern which was the inspiration for the Hebrides Overture by Felix Mendelssohn.  There are also puffins.

Tourists are taken to the island by boat and dropped off to visit the cave—and to linger at the top of a special cliff where the puffins are nesting.

Scotland is famous for its inclement weather, but the weather the day we arrived on Staffa was uncharacteristically warm and sunny. The tour operator pointed to the cliff with an orange marker on top and told us if we climbed up cliff062316there and sat on the grass the puffins would come up and sun with us on the top of the cliff.  He explained the puffins there were constantly harassed by seagulls. Various species of gulls may prey on puffins or steal their food.  The presence of humans discouraged the seagulls.  This puffin colony took advantage of the respite provided by the humans by flying to the top of the cliff and relaxing.

grass062316So we sat on the grass under the sun and the puffins flew up to us.  They stood on their orange feet and groomed each other gently clicking their beaks together and basked in the sun and we sat in the grass and watched and took pictures.

Maybe I should think more seriously about becoming a birder.

birder062316

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bos2Incorporating Environmental Justice into all Regulatory Efforts

By Charles Lee and Kelly Maguire – EPA Blog – Environmental Justice in Action –June 7, 2016
Today marks an important moment in environmental justice history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its first-ever Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance).  This guidance represents a significant step towards ensuring the impacts of EPA regulations on vulnerable populations are understood and considered in the decision-making process. For full blog post, click here.

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wppThe Rise of Ocean Optimism

By Elin Kelsey – Hakai Magazine – June 8, 2016
Things are far more resilient than I ever imagined. Me, green sea turtles, coral reefs blown to bits by atomic bombs. In a twist of fate that even surprised scientists, Bikini Atoll, site of one of the world’s biggest nuclear explosions, is now a scuba diver’s paradise. Bikini Atoll, located in the Pacific’s Marshall Islands, didn’t just inspire the famous bathing suit; the US Army detonated the first hydrogen bomb there. Between 1946 and 1958, 23 nuclear explosions were carried out, at an incalculable cost to the people and the marine environment. Fifty years later, scientists record a thriving coral reef habitat that includes large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks the diameter of dinner plates. “It’s made a brilliant recovery,” says Zoe Richards, a scientist at the Australian Museum. For full article, click here.

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For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

In 2014, the Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) published a report titled “Ecosystem Service Valuation for Wetland Restoration: What It Is, How To Do It and Best Practice Recommendations” which endorses the valuation of ecosystem services as an advantageous method for the promotion of wetland restoration. The report provided an introductory peek into the world of environmental economics and the various methods available to elicit qualitative and ecosystemreport061616quantitative values for the many benefits provided by wetlands such as habitat, floodwater attenuation, storm surge protection, stormwater filtration and recreation, among many others. The findings from the report were shared through presentations offered at ASWM’s Annual Meeting and the Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration in 2014, as well as at the Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting in 2015. A swath of valuation tools were identified in the report, but the report did not include an in-depth analysis of the various tools and their usability for state wetland programs. Some of the attendees at the presentations commented that an overview of the usability of the various valuation tools and methods available would be useful.

analysis061616So in 2015, the Association hired an intern, Mark Healy, from Southern Illinois University, who with the guidance of his academic advisor, Dr. Silvia Secchi, conducted an extensive review of existing decision support tools and selected six tools that maintain “off-the-shelf” capability for wetland program managers. Over an eight month period, ASWM held regular check-in calls with Mark and Silvia to discuss parameters and provide focus for the report. Advice and assistance was provided by partners at the U.S. EPA Atlantic Ecology Division and the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, as well as the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and Industrial Economics. The final report, titled “A Comparative Analysis of Ecosystem Service Valuation Decision Support Tools for Wetland Restoration” was completed at the end of February, 2016.

The six tools chosen for review include InVEST, TESSA, Co$ting Nature, Wildlife Habitat Benefits Estimation Toolkit, ARIES and SolVES. The first section of the report defines and introduces twelve criteria for comparison and differentiation between the six selected decision support tools. The twelve assessment criteria for choosing the selected tools include: accessibility, interface, analysis scale, analysis type, data input demand, valuation units, cartographic output, tool requirements, time requirements, skill requirements, user support and cost. Each tool is evaluated side by side in a comparative matrix. Three ecosystem service categories were used (biogeochemical, hydrological and ecological) to provide a conceptual framework that aligns with wetland restoration defined as “the manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of returning natural/historic functions to a former or degraded wetland” (U.S. EPA 2012).

In section two of the report, each tool is expanded on in individual one page profiles that include a brief description, target users, ecosystem service models, background/methodology, development outlook, general information as well as references and additional resources. The third section of the report compares each tool side by side in another comparative matrix that evaluates them according to their handling of ecosystem services, including climate regulation, water purification, sediment retention, inland flood regulation, coastal protection, habitat, aesthetic value and recreation value. A thorough discussion of each tool’s performance in addressing these ecosystem services is provided in the pages following the matrix.

The Association is extremely pleased with the excellent research performed by Mark and is very grateful for all the guidance of his advisor, Dr. Secchi. I’ve had the honor of markhealy061616mentoring several other interns and volunteers in my professional life, but have never done so remotely before. So I was very pleased when Mark’s abstract was accepted for the Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting in Corpus Christie, TX this spring where I had the pleasure of finally meeting him in person. It’s wonderful to see such a young, intelligent and hard-working individual in the wetlands community. The report is available for free download on ASWM’s website. So for Peat’s Sake, check it out – it’s a must read by anyone interested in performing an ecosystem service valuation for their wetland restoration project.

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wppWetland restoration was a family journey

Herald Times Reporter – May 24, 2016
“I can remember planting corn and beans here,” landowner and Wisconsin Wetlands Association member Paul Becker said, standing at the edge of a wetland where dragonflies and birds now fly. The wetlands, part of Becker’s family property in northeast Wisconsin, have been restored and, for the past 20 years, have provided the Becker family with hunting and recreational opportunities and improved water quality. For full story, click here.

 

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bos2Restoring a Stream, Restoring a Community

By Lori Reynolds – EPA’s Healthy Waters Blog – June 9, 2016
While I enjoy coming into the office and working side-by-side with my colleagues on water infrastructure financing, whenever I get the chance to get out and see how those funds are making a difference in communities and to shake hands with our partners, I jump at it.  Numbers on a ledger come alive in real projects helping real people. I had that opportunity last Friday for the opening of the Nash Run stream restoration and trash capture project, located in the Kenilworth neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C. For full blog post, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst

I had my car worked on this week.  Most of us find this a stressful experience:  the pop-up of unexpected expenses. The concern that if they get into the engine and start fixing something, something else could break.  Then, if they find something wrong that doesn’t need to be fixed immediately, having to make the decision (read: gamble) about whether to wait and spread out the hood1cost over time or invest beyond planned costs to avoid a potentially more expensive fix down the road.  Risk.  It’s a stressful thing.

This idea of risk and reward is nothing new in the world of wetlands.  When we think about wetlands there are all sorts of conundrums that wetland professionals face.  What if this wetland restoration fails?  What if there are unexpected costs or complications?  How do I make development of a wetland mitigation bank in my state a viable financial opportunity?  What if sea level rise impacts the mitigation site?  How do I help the developer community understand and work efficiently and effectively through a permitting process while also adequately protecting wetlands?  How do I do my work in a political or budget environment that does not value wetlands the way I do?

stream1I think about these issues every day in my job.  I find myself in awe of the complexity and the risk involved.  However, I am equally impressed by how much ingenuity there has been across the country in addressing these issues.  Having conducted a comparative analysis of all fifty U.S. state wetland programs over the last two years, I am impressed by the diversity of approaches and solutions that states have come up with to address these and other concerns.  As state wetland program managers have faced challenge after challenge, they have also worked to adapt and develop new tools, processes and assurances to get over those same bumps. If there is a problem, someone else has probably been thinking of it.  In good old American fashion, necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Here at ASWM we are constantly working to ferret out those gems and highlight them through peer-to-peer sharing opportunities.  Whether it is learning about financial assurances, tools to improve wetland monitoring and assessment, ways to plan taking climate trends into decision-making, tips of the trade on reviewing pipeline permits, or moving beaver from one location to another in order to attenuate water flow, it’s out there.  So when you think you are alone with a problem, you may very well not be.  And if you are new to the wetland program management world, please know that there are people out there that can help when you hit a roadblock.  Collectively we can help you figure out how to manage your risk and connect with the right people to ask.

crab1So, like my car that came back with an unexpected condition, it’s not always good news.  What to do?  A brainstorming session with the garage found a somewhat reasonable solution to the issue, even though it was not what they first proposed.  It was not without its cost, but it didn’t break the bank.  Most importantly, it addressed the problem.  At the Association of State Wetland Managers we’re privileged to have the opportunity to work with other wetland professionals to explain innovative ways to help wetland programs and partners work through the challenges and risks associated with the management and restoration of wetlands to find solutions.

Keep the questions and sharing coming, we love to hear from you.  Although I am not normally a betting woman, I bet if you have a question about a wetland issue, someone else does too.  What we learn together will help us all.

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bos2EPA Celebrates Inaugural Environmental Justice Academy Graduation

By Denise Tennessee – EPA Blog – Environmental Justice in Action – June 1, 2016
On Saturday, May 6, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the graduation of the inaugural class of the Region 4 Environmental Justice Leadership Academy: a program initiated by our Office of Environmental Justice and Sustainability (OEJS). During the ceremony at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, we honored 21 graduates from five Southeastern states.  Two OEJS staff, Ms. Sheryl Good and Ms. Daphne Wilson, recognized that many communities throughout the region – which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida – are burdened by inequitable environmental concerns. While we do provide support through funding opportunities and technical assistance programs to our communities, we saw that the agency could do more to assist in building the capacity of community leaders so that they may better address their environmental challenges. Thus, the idea for the Environmental Justice Academy was born. For full blog post, click here.

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