For the last many months I have been working on researching state wetland program elements and trends across the United States. Through this work we have been collecting all sorts of data about what types of regulatory, monitoring and assessment, wetland water quality standards, and volunteer restoration programs and efforts states have in place. Additionally, we have been exploring
what types of wetland work states have been doing formally
or informally across agencies/programs (e.g. connecting wetland work with stormwater management, watershed planning, TMDL coordination, etc.) and learning about any climate change work they are engaged in relating to wetlands. This last part is the most intriguing at the moment because of what we are finding.
In some states wetland staff are thoroughly engaged in climate change planning – sitting at the planning table with other agencies and having wetlands identified as part of resiliency planning, other states are definitely not working on these issues and, of course, there are many, many others in different places between. So far our findings mirror those of Georgetown University’s report which tracks climate adaptation planning at the state and municipal level.
Many state climate adaptation plans that have been completed focus primarily on reducing the impact of greenhouse gasses (GHGs). One reason for this may be that other kinds of climate change planning (related to on the ground restoration, buffers, water resource planning etc.) is largely a local issue that needs to be addressed at the municipal level — that’s where projects and implementation largely take place. Another reason may be that this work is called something else. It may fall under “resiliency planning” or “extreme event and hazard planning.” Many efforts to address specific threats that may or may not be attributed to climate change are being accomplished through standard planning activities, such as floodplain management, stormwater planning, or municipal code development.
What I have found especially interesting about this conversation is learning that most states are doing something to address changes in response to citizen concerns and there are concerned citizens. For example, in late October the South Miami City Commission voted 3 to 2 for Florida’s 23 southern counties to secede and form a new state named South Florida because of frustration over environmental issues, global warming and a lack of concern by state leaders. There are states throughout the country that are doing really important and innovative work in response to alterations in weather, high erosion rates, the presence of invasive species, etc. To date, interviews have found work on resiliency and extreme weather preparation happening through partnerships with state university researchers, civil works planning, floodplain and/or stormwater management, coordination with transportation, code enforcement and ordinance development at the local level, and others. And wetlands are often in the mix through discussion of either wetlands as an impacted water resource or as part of the solution. A growing emphasis nationwide on green infrastructure and integrated water resource management all point to the likelihood that wetlands will not only continue to be a part of this dialogue, but will play an increasing role as part of state, regional and local solutions.
It is important that we continue to find ways to support states in their efforts to provide greater resiliency for their citizens. Solid planning, environmental protection efforts and wetland work that provide benefits in terms of enhanced public safety, prevention of property loss, and limiting business disruptions are occurring and need to continue to grow.