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

final one againBy Melissa Mullineaux, Intern, ASWM

Did you know that wetlands are not only important to ecosystems but also to American culture? While compiling information for my last blog Frogs, Bogs and Holiday Cheer, I found many amazing facts about wetlands’ influence on more than just holidays. Come to find out, the presence of wetlands also influences much of America’s music, literature, historical civilization and art.


popswamp120816One music outlet for wetland lovers is a genre of music called “Swamp Pop.” Swamp pop  began arising in the 1950s and early ‘60s and is a mixture of Cajun folk and waltz and Cajun R&B. It is also known as “a musical genre indigenous to the Acadiana region of south Louisiana and an adjoining section of southeast Texas… [and] combines New Orleans-style rhythm and blues, country and western, and traditional French Louisiana musical influences.” Swamp Pop influenced many musicians, most notably Elvis Presley! Follow this link to hear some of this wonderful sounding music.

Furthermore, who doesn’t enjoy the sound of a little Credence Clearwater Revival (CCR) every once in a while? When that good ol’ song Born on the Bayou comes on, I find myself tapping my foot, bobbing my head and feeling as if I were right there in the bayou—even if it’s just for those few minutes. Credence Clearwater Revival incorporated many lyrics about swamps, bayous, bullfrogs and catfish in their music. Interestingly, the music of CCR and others like it are of a subgenre of music known as “Swamp Rock.” Swamp rock pulls from swamp pop as well as from a genre of music called roots rock (rock music that incorporates historical sounds of blues, folk and country) and emerged in the later part of the 60s and into the 70s. Follow this link to hear a great swamp rock song called Green River by the Credence Clearwater Revival.

120816ccrIn addition to music, wetlands have made an imprint on American literature too. Two writers in particular are Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau. Mark Twain references life around swamps in his “Life on the Mississippi” writings and even his tails of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The most notable wetland lover of the two writers, I believe, would be Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau has even been deemed a “Patron Saint of Swamps”  by Dr. Rod Giblett of Edith Cowan University in Western Australia due to his extensive love of wetlands and his writings of such. Giblett writes, “if swamps could be said to have a patron saint, it would be the nineteenth-century philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, who maintained that ‘when I will die you will find swamp oak written on my heart.”

Giblett further discusses that Thoreau’s feelings about swamps were not of the popular belief that they are dreary, dismal, and full of disease, but quotes Thoreau who writes “the steam which rises from swamps and pools is as dear and domestic as that of our own kettle.” Giblett goes on to say “for Thoreau swamps and stagnant pools were not the antithesis of, nor a threat to, the homely, but of comparable value. He did not valorise the wetland over the homely but gave them equal value unlike those of his (and my) contemporaries who denigrated and feared the wetland.” In Giblett’s essay he shows admiration for Thoreau’s love of swamps and writes “For Thoreau, the swamp is ‘the strength, the marrow of Nature.’ The strength of nature, for him, lies not in the hard bones of the dry land, but in the soft marrow of the wetlands, what he also called the liquor of nature which feeds the body environmental.”

Another aspect of American culture that has been influenced by wetlands is art. While researching information for this blog, I came across some art work by a 19th century painter by the name of Joseph Rusling Meeker. Meeker is now known as “a Louisiana painter” because of his many pieces of Louisiana’s Bayous and swamps. However, Meeker was not a resident of Louisiana nor did he strictly paint swamps and wetlands. Meeker was a Union Navy Paymaster during the Civil War and spent a lot of time traveling the Mississippi River where he gained inspiration for his bayou and swamp paintings. Meeker went on to paint other types of landscapes throughout the country but, nonetheless, he became known for his work of Louisiana’s wetlands such as Louisiana Dawn and Bayou Teche.

bayou120816I am amazed every day about how much wetlands impact human lives. Not only do they filter and improve water quality, retain flood water, and provide living habitats for many species of animals, but they also have a huge influence on our cultural values as well. Like it or not, wetlands are a part of our ecosystem and a part of our personal lives. And in the words of Henry David Thoreau “Yes, though you may think me perverse, if it were proposed to me to dwell in the neighbourhood of the most beautiful garden that ever human art contrived, or else of a Dismal Swamp, I should certainly decide for the swamp.”

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wppHuman Use of Restored and Naturalized Delta Landscapes

By Brett Milligan and Alejo Kraus-Polk – California WaterBLog – November 20, 2016
Current legislation and plans for the California Delta call for restoring tens of thousands of acres of aquatic and terrestrial habitat, which will require large changes in land uses and cultural patterns.  In addition to planned ‘restoration’, unplanned ‘naturalization’ also occurs in the Delta, from the flooding of islands or the abandonment of previously managed land.  These newly feral or semi-wild landscapes will remain subject to human use and give rise to new scientific, economic, and recreational uses.. For full blog post, click here.

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bos2Building the Next Generation of Climate Justice Leaders

By Joanna Stancil – Environmental Justice in Action – September 28, 2016 – Video
If the future belongs to our youth, then we must include our youth in addressing our future’s key issues, such as climate change and climate justice. In 2015, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG), in collaboration with the White House, announced the Educate, Motivate, and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to educate by providing a two-way learning experience, motivate by igniting interest in climate justice, and innovate by embracing opportunities for creative thought and action. For full blog post and to view video, click here.

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bos2All Hands Needed to Control Nutrient Pollution

By Tom Damm – EPA’s Healthy Waters in the Mid-Atlantic – November 10, 2016
When a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie contaminated the Toledo area water supply two years ago, my first thoughts turned to my niece Jen and her family. They were among the hundreds of thousands warned not to drink their water, cook with it, give
it to their pets or ingest it any way after tests found the toxin, microcystin, above the standard for consumption. Jen found out about the water ban when she turned on the TV at around 8 a.m.  By then, there were scenes of panicky residents buying out cases of water from store shelves. For full blog post, click here.

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wppBringing the U.S. Government Together to Improve Human Rights & Protect the Environment

Environmental Justice in Action – November 10, 2016
The United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, not well known to the American public, is a unique intersection of international human rights mechanisms with national and local laws and policies. This process, under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council, asks each UN member state to report on its domestic human rights record once every five years, which provides an opportunity and a formal setting for fellow UN member states to make recommendations on how to improve human rights conditions in that state. For full blog post, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst, ASWM

I recently had the privilege to witness some wetland magic.  I was invited to participate in the inter-regional meeting of the New England Biological Assessment of Wetlands Workgroup (NEBAWWG) and Mid Atlantic Wetland Working Group (MAWWG) in New Jersey.  Wetland professionals, especially those working on state issues, convened for a rigorous program of learning and exploring together.  This blog emerged from wanting to share the continued importance of this kind of training.  pinelands1While ASWM and others identify new ways to meet training needs through webinars and online training modules, we want to remain clear that there is a tremendous and irreplaceable value to face-to-face interactions and shared experiential learning.

Each year, we find this to be true at the Association of State Wetland Managers State-Tribal-Federal Coordination Meeting in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Most state and tribal wetland staff, consultants and partners are generally not in regular contact with others who have the same knowledge, background and responsibilities to manage and protect wetlands.  When they DO get together, something magical seems to happen: Ideas.  Energy.  Collaboration.

This could not have been more true at the joint NEBAWWG-MAWWG event in New Jersey.  The agenda was jam packed with opportunities to share expertise.  Organizers included new approaches to getting information out, such as flash talks and networking sessions. While it is important to share ideas, being able to assess and adapt them for one’s own work is essential for the true transfer of knowledge from one professional to another and network2from one state to another.  The three-day meeting provided opportunities for people to find each other and talk about what they wanted to do with the information they learned. It was important to bring people together and also provide time in the agenda to let them loose to learn from each other and follow-up with direct discussions on information most important to them.

I have been thinking about this process and its importance since returning from the meeting.  As I have mulled over why these types of experiences are so valuable, a number of key themes emerged.  Today, I thought I would share them with you:

  1. explore3Learning requires more than just listening and absorbing: The value-added from dialogue
    In today’s world we frequently find ourselves consuming snipits of information – short, condensed instruction or ideas, often without the benefit of context or time for introspection.  When taking time out to be present and interactive with others, ideas can grow from a soundbite to a well-formulated and analyzed opportunity.
  2. More than the Learning Objectives
    During the session I came away with formed ideas about how to bring together two groups of people to address a problem and several ideas on how to strengthen a project we have upcoming on permitting pipeline projects to protect wetlands.  This points to another value of this type of learning experience – I acquired ideas that I needed for my work.   While ASWM and the training world in general understand that a characteristic of high quality training is having learning objectives, opportunities like this for face-to-face interaction and sharing sessions enhances the pinelands11presentations’ learning objectives.  Each person at that conference came away from the session with something useful, specific to their needs.  This is the value of being able to pursue specific elements of a program and follow-up on it directly with trainers and other participants.
  3. The joy of joint exploration and shared experienceExperiences like this provide value in terms of bringing people together to share and explore issues jointly.  Successful meetings and workshops develop sort of a “cohort” – people who now have a shared experience that they can reference again in the future and that builds social capital among participants who connect with one another.  We will surely remember our time together in the glorious sunshine on the Jersey Pine Barrens.  We will remember specific presenters who had people laughing, and the experience of dining on delicious food along an estuary. Shared experiences breed opportunities to find support and develop collaboration in the future.
  4. The human need to test against other people’s experiences
    It is training5human nature to want to see what other people think, how they react, what they think is possible and how feasible new ideas are.  By bringing people together they get that reality check, maybe half of the people here have done something like this before and it wasn’t a disaster…or that if we all try this together, we can compare notes.  This is often absent from an online training experience.
  5. The speed of being able to resource new ideas
    One of the things that I noticed most was how fast participants who were interested in a topic were able to resource that learning right there.  With immediate access to the presenters and others who were exploring the same issues and their application, participants were able to gather information, craft plans and form partnerships all at one time.
  6. Ideas can take on new characteristics as a result of joint experiences
    Finally, at a session such as this, the presenters often learn as much as the participants.  The dialogue and flow of ideas between all involved lead to immediate expansion of ideas.  Those that support or question the information that is presented rapidly emerge.  Considerations, possible barriers and opportunities can be discussed in real time.    In this situation it is possible to experience fluid, organic learning.  A topic, idea, or approach can take on new characteristics.

benefit6In conclusion, the benefits of this kind of training are manifold.  Efforts should be made to ensure such opportunities continue to be available to wetland professionals.  As we look to the future of wetland training across the nation, we need to remember the importance and value of continuing to provide face-to-face, in-person training opportunities.  We need to continue to incorporate time at these types of training sessions to allow for networking and learning.  We also need to explore ways to incorporate as much of this type of experience into online and other training opportunities as we can.  As we move forward, we need to think about ways to create a sense of online “community” in the training sphere.  Some possibilities could potentially include having technical chat rooms/forums, facilitating networking calls for participants, and perhaps even online spaces for informal connections between wetland professionals.

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wppDemocracy and Water in a New Presidential Era

By Nicole Silk – River Network – November 9, 2016
This year’s Presidential election results were unexpected and outrageous in so many ways. The election disclosed how truly divided our country is – by age, gender, education, income, and race – and how isolated we have become from one another. We experienced a surprising abundance of hate speech, a tolerance for bad behavior, and a deep distrust of political insiders. For full blog post, click here.

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bos2Transforming Agriculture From Threat To Solution For Environmental Challenges

By Sara Scherr – EcoAgriculture Partners – October 20, 2016
The past year has seen a remarkable evolution of the discourse on agricultural development around the world. From the sharp focus on increasing production and yields that dominated after the 2008 food price crisis, the narrative expanded after Rio+20 to ‘sustainable intensification’—how these yields could be achieved without undue environmental cost. Now discussions are moving—in a still fragmented way–towards a vision of sustainable agriculture systems and landscapes that provide both secure food supplies and the ecosystem services and climate resilience needed for sustainable development in agriculture and more broadly. For full blog post, click here.

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final one againBy Melissa Mullineaux, Intern, ASWM

While working with the Association of State Wetland Managers this year through the autumn holiday season, I have come to think about wetlands and their role in America’s holiday culture. What I have found is that the magnificent, mysterious, exciting and sometimes eerie wetland plays a very large role in holidays—from Halloween, to Thanksgiving and even into Christmas.

I am sure we have all seen and heard our fair share of wetlands in relation to Halloween. For instance, Halloween is known for its use of nature and animals to depict a scary scene. Often times owls, bats, pumpkins, snakes, spiders, and dark branchy trees—with haunting and glowing animal eyes peering out of them—are the images that society has come to adopt as the face of All Hallows’ Eve. Let’s face it, it’s all swampland material! Halloween is the time of year when swamp monsters come out. You know, like the creatures from the black lagoon and the swamp things.

swamp1111016But now that Halloween has passed, and Thanksgiving is approaching, I found that wetlands play a role in this holiday, too. One such instance, in particular, involves the cranberry bog. Today, cranberry sauces, relishes, and jams have officially become staples of a traditional Thanksgiving meal and are never forgotten next to turkey111016turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans on the Thanksgiving table. Cranberries are also sometimes used in homemade stuffing! Cranberries are harvested in the fall, so it is no wonder that they have become such an integral part of our Thanksgiving meals and are even used right through into our Christmas spreads.

In fact, in her blog entitled “From the Bog to the Thanksgiving Table,”  Leah Stetson informs her readers that “the cranberry is a native American wetland plant that is grown in open bogs and marshes from Newfoundland to western Ontario and as far south as Virginia and Arkansas. Massachusetts is the leading producer (with about half of the total U.S. crop), followed by Wisconsin and New Jersey. The berries are harvested in October just in time for Thanksgiving.”

Stetson also discusses that cranberries were once harvested naturally by Native Americans along the sides of rivers and in natural bogs but today most cranberries come from commercial cranberry bogs that are “typically placed in areas where there is a perched water table with cranberry111016cedar swamps and peat bogs.” This is done because these areas produce tannins and organic acids for the soil that is vital for cranberry production. The U.S. uses a lot of cranberries for juice all the yearlong, but during the holiday season, many of them get harvested to accompany the holiday meals. It is important to note, however, that this process has negative impacts  on wetlands because the cranberries call for a large amount of water and the soil requires a “particular pH balance.” Due to the large demand for this berry they are mass produced so we may want to think about choosing a sustainable cranberry producer to buy our preserves from this holiday season.

Other items that you may find on your Thanksgiving and Christmas meal tables are pumpkin pie, butternut squash, string beans, mashed potatoes, and wine. Interestingly, while doing research for this blog, I came across actual instances where the fruits and vegetables used for these dishes have in fact been grown in wetland environments. For instance, Wood, Dixon and McCartney (2013) consider shallow wetlands particularly conducive in supporting food production. They discuss two examples of dambos in Africa that support crops including a variety of “pumpkin, squash, maize…tomatoes, onions, cabbage and beans,” as well as “sugar cane, rape, mustard, green beans, tomatoes, Irish potatoes and bananas.”  These instances are rare, sure, but it amazes me how much wetlands are capable of!

winery1110106Now, what is better to drink at the holiday table than wine? One family in the Sonoma Mountain wine region has constructed wetlands on their winery land that captures and filters the winery’s wastewater. The water is then able to be reused to irrigate the vineyards. The new wetlands have increased the winery’s biodiversity, helped reduce erosion and provide habitats for wildlife. I’d like to give thanks for this winery this Thanksgiving. What an innovative move for a Sonoma Mountain winery to make!

So, when you’re at the Thanksgiving and holiday table, eating your tasty holiday feasts, remember some of these interesting facts about wetlands and how they relate to some of the food on your table. This may even make interesting party conversation. As for me, I’ll be contemplating how nice it would be to count the cattails on that constructed wetland while sipping wine. Happy Holidays!

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bos2The Road to Empowerment: In the Field with Faith-based Environmentalists

By Michael W. Fincham – Chesapeake Quarterly – October 2016
JODI ROSE FOUND HER CALLING AT A RED LIGHT. She was on the road that morning driving to work, when she decided work wasn’t driving her soul. Her job at the time was running environmental site assessments of inner-city properties in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was managing soil and groundwater remediation projects and handling due-diligence property research, and her clients were usually lawyers and bankers and real estate developers who wanted to buy or flip or develop properties in depressed neighborhoods. Were there any problems with these sites? Were there buried tanks, groundwater contamination, soil contamination, confused title records? Were there any economic liabilities attached to the site, any costs and cleanup problems left over from earlier owners or industries? It was her job to find out. For full story, click here.

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