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

Wetlander's Pick of the PostsUpdate on Adaptation Design Work

Director’s Blog – Wetlands Watch – November 17, 2014
Lots of talk about adapting to sea level rise. Toolkits, webinars, academic papers. Where is the real work taking place, on the ground, in a shoreline community, before Katrina or Sandy hits? It’s taking place here, in Hampton Roads, Virginia….in Chesterfield Heights. Wetlands Watch received a Virginia Sea Grant award to see if we could make adaptation real in a Virginia shoreline community. With the help of a core design group, we picked Chesterfield Heights in Norfolk, an historic district along the Elizabeth River’s eastern branch, with homes dating to 1895. Like many shoreline urban neighborhoods, it was built out over time and on top of filled-in wetlands and creeks, complicating the flooding picture. So how do you adapt this community of 350 homes to sea level rise, putting ecosystem values first, consulting with residents on community values, fitting solutions onto the landscape, parcel by parcel? For full blog post, click here.

 

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View from the blog-o-sphereSteps Toward a Resilient and Sustainable Future

By Alan Hecht – It All Starts with Science – EPA Blog –December 3, 2014
The connection between sustainability and resilience—defined as the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change—is an emerging theme among a host of environmental organizations. I was happy to explore that important connection further with thought leaders from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Council for Science and the Environment, the Ohio State University Center for Resilience, and the United Nations Foundation as part of a panel at The Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington last month. For full blog post, click here.

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SalameanderBy Peg Bostwick, ASWM

Here we are at the end of the year, so before we start the Christmas celebrations I’ll offer my (former high school teacher’s) highly unscientific wetland report card.  Feel free to complain about the grades… it’s traditional!

 

sal1We know (from USFWS status and trends reports and other sources) that we are continuing to lose wetland acreage in some geographic areas, and losing more of some ecological types than others.  However, in some states and regions, losses are declining, or we are actually gaining.  There is still great cause for concern, especially where wetlands will play a key role in climate change adaptation.  As a nation, we’re trying hard, but can do better.

The “condition” or “health” or “importance” of U.S. wetlands is much harder to define – in part because there is no one single measure that captures all of the many ways in which wetlands can be good or important.  (It’s like giving a child a single grade for their entire time in school, no comments allowed.)  Nonetheless, we have advanced significantly in our ability to compare existing wetlands with the relatively undisturbed wetlands that existed at the time of European settlement of the continent, or to each other.  And we know more about evaluating functions and services that are important to us and to the many species that rely on wetland habitat.   It will take time to define trends in condition.  While we have learned a lot more about assessing wetland condition, function, and importance, we are still struggling to find the terms to convey those measures to the public.

 

sal2Ready or not, here it comes.  Although there seemed to be less public denial than in past years, there does not seem to be much of a sense of public urgency, either.  As pointed out in Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, if the nations of the world had taken serious steps to reduce emissions beginning in 1992 following the U.N. climate convention in Rio, we would have had to make cuts of 2% annually until 2005, and we might be in pretty good shape now.  But instead emissions have mushroomed since then, and as a result we now have to push much harder to avoid a tipping point in global temperature.  We need to THINK BIG and THINK FAST.

For those of us more focused on adaptation for the changes that are coming, and to an extent already upon us, we need to think BROADLY, COMPREHENSIVELY, and often WAY OUTSIDE THE BOX about the role of wetlands.

 

sal3Darn, we work hard!  Everywhere I look, I see wetland scientists and managers going above and beyond, out in the mud or bogged down in statistics and spreadsheets, looking for answers.  And, importantly, finding them.  This group has always been motivated, but we see an increase in teamwork and collaborative efforts.

However, wetland managers are frequently surrounded by ever-present, sometimes supportive and sometimes threatening stakeholders.  Wetland staff are asked to be ever more efficient, but efficiency is defined as reduction in funding and/or increased workload to reducing the number of experts working on a task.  As a result, wetland managers that we talk to around the country often exhibit a high level of anxiety, and sometimes burnout.

 

sal4Based on an internet “pop quiz” the public probably has a pretty sound understanding of wetland importance.   I tried a search for “why wetlands aren’t important.”   My search engine assumed I meant “are” important, and gave me tons of results about the importance of wetlands.  So I tried typing “what is bad about wetlands?”  I got a couple of those Q & A responses, showing the best answers – which essentially said “there is nothing bad about wetlands.”  (One said “wetlands sometime stink.”)  I also asked why wetland regulation is bad.  The answer defined as “best” said that wetland programs are bad when they don’t protect wetlands.

Although it apparently isn’t published much in internet sources, we are still very much aware of opposition to wetland protection – a viewpoint that  will prevail if it is the only one heard in policy circles.   We’re often called by individual members of the public who are shocked to find out wetlands aren’t fully protected. They thought they were. If that’s the case, it is important for them to communicate their concerns with their elected officials.

 

There you have it.  Nothing that your parents need to sign, but hopefully for you to take your own big picture look at where we stand.   Feedback is welcomed as always.   We’ll see if things look better (or worse) next year….

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsLocal Initiatives May be the Key to Our Future

By Bob Marshall – Field & Stream – November 21, 2014
The mid-term elections may well have served as a primer on how America’s sportsmen can best preserve protections for public lands and waters—the engines that have long enabled us to have the best and most accessible outdoors sports in the western world. If you only read the political analysis of those election results, there seems plenty of reason to be afraid. Some of the loudest voices now in control of Congress have opposed many of the national programs that sportsmen’s conservation groups support. This includes reestablishing wetlands protections stripped from the Clean Water Act; the Roadless Rule and wilderness designations; energy development policies that give fish, wildlife, and outdoors sports equal footing with oil and gas company profits; Clean Air regulations to reduce carbon pollution; reform of mining regulations that allow bad ideas like mountain top removal in the Appalachians and the Pebble Mine in Alaska; and the sale of public lands to states and/or private companies—a move that could wipe out public-land hunting and fishing as we’ve known it for a century. And that’s just a partial list. For full blog post, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereA Plastic Problem in the Chesapeake

By Jeff Corbin – EPA Connect – November 24, 2014
Maybe you’ve heard of “micro plastics.” They’re created when plastic products eventually break down into tiny particles that drift in our ocean waters and can be eaten by fish and other wildlife. They’re a big problem globally, as is trash from plastic products in general. As much as 80 percent of trash in the ocean comes from sources on land, and up to 60 percent of this trash is plastic. For full blog post, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereYour Input Helps Protect Clean Water

By Gina McCarthy – EPA Connect Blog – November 14, 2014
Clean water is essential to our health, our economy, and our way of life. And the Clean Water Act of 1972 is both an environmental success story and one of America’s greatest economic triumphs. Back in the 1970s, 2 out of 3 of our nation’s waterways were polluted. Today, 2 out of 3 are healthy. Cleaning up pollution boosts our economy—by creating jobs, lowering health care costs, and clearing the way for commerce. That’s why we have to make sure the Clean Water Act works the way it’s supposed to. But right now, 60 percent of our nation’s streams and wetlands lack clear protection and 1 in 3 Americans get their drinking water from sources at risk. So earlier this year, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a rule to safeguard the clean water we all depend on. For full blog post, click here.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsCrooks and Dumbasses

By Chad Shmukler – Hatch Magazine – November 19, 2014 – Video
“If you’ve got a politician that’s running for office who thinks he’s smarter than 98% of the world’s climate scientists, they’re crooks. Or, they’re dumbasses.” That’s Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard in the upcoming film CO₂LD Waters, for which the trailer was released yesterday. CO₂LD Waters documents the importance of climate change to anglers, the threat it poses to our fishing and hunting opportunities and what we, as anglers, can do about it. For full article and to view video, click here.

 

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by Brenda Zollitsch

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
brendawetlands11or 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.

brendawetlands111Many 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 brendawetlands22found 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.

brendawetlands33So this is my thought for the day – It may not matter so much how you get there or what you call it, as long as you create a place where the work gets done.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsAnimal Welfare: Seeing the Forest for the Denizens

By Brian Czech – Huffington Post Blog – November 17, 2014
The most prevalent source of animal suffering is habitat destruction. Habitat includes food, water, cover and space. When any of these elements are destroyed or depleted, wild animals suffer and often die more miserable deaths than if killed by hunters or predators. For full blog post, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereA Tool for Tribal Communities

By Diane Simunek – EPA Blog: It All Starts with Science – November 14, 2014
The following story was shared at a recent workshop:

On a warm summer morning an elder, his dog, and his grandson go down to the river. The dog jumps in for a swim; a few days later the dog falls gravely ill. After reexamining the river the elder identifies that the illness was caused by harmful algal blooms in the water. On closer inspection, it was easy for him to figure out what had caused the dog’s illness. Preventing the algae from blooming again, however, poses a more challenging question.

This scenario was one of many examples used at the “Train the Trainer” workshop held by the United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET) last October to teach tribal communities how to use the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (T-FERST), a web-based, geospatial decision support tool.

For full blog post, click here.

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