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

Wetlander's Pick of the PostsOpinion: Denial of Senate

By Peter Dykstra – Environmental Health News – January 23, 2015
The day after President Obama dropped some snark on climate deniers in the State of the Union Address, I made a terrible mistake. I watched the Senate debate something that virtually the entire world has accepted as un-debatable. The Senate voted on whether or not climate change is human-caused. According to the Senate, it is, by a plurality of one. Forty-nine senators formally went on the record as climate deniers. Yikes. Wow. Holy Cow. Or as they say in social media, OMFG. For full opinion, click here.

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View from the blog-o-sphereThe Past Year in Water

By Nancy Stoner – Pisces Foundation– January 15, 2015
While 2014 was a challenging year for water, it was also a time of increasing adoption of integrated water management in the U.S.  As the New Year rolls around, and communities begin to take a look at the water-related challenges likely to be ahead, there are lots of opportunities for positive change. For full story, click here.

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

I recently had the privilege of co-presenting with two ecological landscape architects at the American Society of Landscape Architects annual conference in Denver. While in graduate school for planning and community development, I became immediately enamored with the landscape architecture profession after learning about Ian McHarg in my “Introduction to Planning History and Theory” class first semester. If you don’t know who Ian McHarg is, you should. His seminal book published in 1969, titled Design With Nature, was a ground breaking treatise on how to mesh urban planning with ecology. McHarg urged designers, planners and landscape architects to become familiar with a site’s ecological characteristics such as soil, climate, hydrology, etc. prior to embarking on any land use project and to work around and protect areas of critical environmental and cultural importance. If you use ArcGIS or any other spatial mapping software, you can thank Ian McHarg for coming up with the layered mylar mapping and attributes technique that he pioneered. marla1012915

So what is landscape architecture anyway? When many people first hear the term “landscape architecture” they often think of fancy gardens or urban parks. But landscape architecture covers a wide spectrum of professional practice that requires a multidisciplinary approach, including environmental science, art, ecology, and more. Landscape architects may work in many different fields, including transportation planning and design, historic preservation, stormwater management and green infrastructure, park planning and design, urban planning, and yes, wetland restoration. In fact, the profession of “ecological landscape architect” is becoming quite popular these days.

What exactly is the role of the ecological landscape architect in wetland restoration? Yes, I have to admit, that was a question I struggled with while we developed our presentation and in fact, it was the topic of our presentation. Most landscape architecture marla012915998projects that I could think of were placed in urban settings (e.g., Central Park), but the ecological landscape architects who presented in Denver with me worked in rural landscapes. I wondered what that would look like. I was imagining a rural wetland restored for migratory bird habitat with hedge or grass art sculpted to resemble flying geese or something – but of course that would be ridiculous. So what can a landscape architect contribute in a rural setting that a wetland scientist might not be able to?

For one, an ecological landscape architect can help break down silos. One of the biggest barriers to wetland restoration success has been the existence of professional and agency silos that make collective goal setting and program integration difficult.  The landscape architecture profession is inherently multidisciplinary, which means that landscape architects have a unique ability to connect the dots and highlight those connections to advance efforts in resiliency and sustainability planning. For example, a wetland scientist may not be able to adequately foresee construction complications that might occur once the design hits the ground. Or the state and/or federal agencies involved may have differing priorities for the restoration and/or unrealistic expectations for feasibility and performance. However, an ecological landscape architect can synthesize design goals, budgetary constraints, and construction feasibility. They can work with the wetland scientist to: develop a reasonable construction approach, sequence and details; identify pitfalls that should be planned for; and lead the effort to develop visual tools that “speak” to the agencies reviewing the project, and later the contractors building the project, thereby increasing the likelihood of good project performance.

marla3012915Ecological landscape architects are also qualified to create wetland restoration designs – in coordination with wetland scientists – that increase the community value and appreciation of a project through well designed access, interpretation, and views of the project.  Rural communities often have diverging opinions regarding the best use of local natural resources. Rural areas may be rich in natural capital but poor in economic capital. Building stakeholder engagement and support within the local community can be challenging.

Ecological landscape architects are typically skilled at communicating complex scientific information (e.g., how improved ecological values might benefit the local economy through reduced clean water fees or through improved recreational opportunities). An ecological landscape architect would provide value to the team by providing design input and expertise that would improve human or social benefits and engagement with a restored wetland ecosystem,  say, through the creation of viewscapes, places for respite and education, or other recreational opportunities.  These are the sorts of benefits that marla4012915appeal to locals, municipal officials, even tourists which can translate to increased public support for wetland restoration efforts.

Concepts like the importance of wetlands to achieve community stormwater resilience are more easily understood through the use of visual tools and graphics. As “they” say, a picture is worth a thousand words. For example, many stakeholders may not understand what Indices of Biological Integrity or Floristic Quality Indicators are or how that information is relevant to them – and many will have no idea how to interpret a scatterplot. But a well-drawn illustration (see example on left) will better communicate the important points to a diverse audience.

Finally, it usually comes down to the money, right?  Ecological landscape architects know how to “build landscapes”, and can benefit the team via budget planning, construction estimating, contractor coordination, negotiation and management. A experienced, qualified landscape architect knows how to talk money – they understand project constraints, provide realistic and creative cost alternatives, and can  identify the critical construction stages that require detailed oversight, which results in improved project performance at a lower cost.

There is a broad spectrum of skills and expertise among both landscape architects and wetland scientists and not all landscape architects are “ecological landscape architects.” However, although a wetland scientist will almost always understand the complexity of marla11012915wetland ecosystems better, an ecological landscape architect can be an important component to add to a team particularly for complex projects with substantial community involvement. Being able to visually communicate with stakeholders is imperative these days if we want to build public support and use public funds to restore wetlands. In a time of competing priorities, climate change, and limited budgets it becomes more and more important to communicate effectively with stakeholders and to meet multiple needs.

If we are to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond, we will need to be better at managing the rural/urban interface in order to manage our natural resources for the benefit of all. Having a designer involved in a project from start to finish is essential for improved project performance, particularly for large, complex projects.  There is a groundswell in the landscape architecture profession to collaborate with scientists and engineers and work together to solve today’s environmental challenges through land-based solutions. So For Peat’s Sake, if you’re thinking about starting a wetland restoration project, consider collaborating with an ecological landscape architect!

To learn more about ecological landscape architecture:

And many thanks to Lisa Cowan, PLA and Principal at Studioverde, as well as Allegra Bukojemsky, PLA, Wildlands, Inc. for helping me understand the role of the landscape architect in wetland restoration!

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View from the blog-o-sphereTo dyke, or not to dyke: A debate coming to a town near you

By Michelle Jewell – Southern Fried Science – January 23, 2015
Finally, President Obama’s state of the union called out Congress’s problem with climate change. Their denial is merely a symptom of overall scientific ignorance, a simply medieval issue that has temporarily stalled many great nations’ progress throughout history. Yet, President Obama’s points about climate change and it’s relevance to the nation gives one hope that there is a small smoldering ember of collaborative-driven leadership buried under piles of Benghazi reports, and it couldn’t come a moment too soon. The USA has stalled its scientific and technological growth at a key time in global history and is already generations behind the modern world in technological advancements to protect its people against a rising threat – the ocean. For full story, click here.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsDespite Threats, Celebrating Restoration Successes for Seabirds in California

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration Blog – January 22, 2015 – Video
Seabirds: You may see them perched along a fishing pier poised to scavenge or swooping for fish by the thousands out in the open ocean. This diverse group of marine birds serves as a valuable indicator [PDF] of the health of the ocean and what they have been telling us lately is that they face many threats. For full blog post and to view video, click here.

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SalameanderBy Peg Bostwick, ASWM

During the Christmas holidays I took a break – I thought – from climate change and wetland issues during a family visit to the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. The Broad (rhymes with peg01221501road) is aggressively modern in design in contrast to the surrounding traditional university campus. It recently made local news when rented as a set for an upcoming Batman movie.

As we ambled into the first gallery, we entered an exhibit entitled “East Lansing 2030: Collegeville Re-Envisioned”. The exhibit was a collection of multi-media displays from planning and design firms who were invited to define a potential future for the town of East Lansing at the interface with the MSU campus. And somehow inevitably, the first presentation that I stopped to view – prepared by a research and design company called Stoss from Boston, MA – was a very thoughtful and highly sophisticated proposal integrating the Red Cedar River which flows through the campus, the associated hyporheic zone (defined in the display as being region beneath and adjacent to rivers where surface and groundwater mix), management of stormwater runoff, and development of “carbon nests” to concentrate and sequester carbon while managing stormwater runoff and producing new public spaces.

It took a few minutes to absorb the various components of the display – the first one encountered showed honestly beautiful slowing moving graphic models of the hyporheic zone, displayed on large flat screen. It could have been the abstract painting that I expected upon entering the Broad – unless you followed the text and discussion of the less visible components of the aquatic system flowing through campus and the adjacent city. The images below don’t quite do justice to the moving versions, but perhaps you can get the idea.


Displays of the hyporheic zone and its function presented by Stoss as a component of the Collegeville 2030 exhibit at the Broad Art Museum.


Next were a series of displays explaining how and why carbon is stored in bog systems, and maps showing how bogs could be restored – or even constructed in artificial urban settings such as parking lots – to achieve this purpose. There was more – information about carbon itself, about climate change, about urban runoff and how it currently flows hidden beneath the major street running between the campus and East Lansing. I suspect that absorbing the entire display fully may have demanded an hour or more, which I didn’t spend since there was so much else to see.

None of this was what I had expected (the juxtaposition of very modern and very ancient Chinese art upstairs was less of a surprise). But I was very glad to see the Collegeville exhibit – because it represented such a sophisticated approach to climate adaptation. Because it was fascinating – clearly intended to intrigue, inform, and potentially motivate museum visitors. Because it was beautiful and artistic – a positive vision of the future rather than some necessary but unattractive response to carbon sequestration and water management. Even though my quick viewing raised numerous technical questions in my mind (a bog on a parking lot?) that is what new ideas are supposed to do.

So, I didn’t get my break from thinking about climate change, but I emerged from the Broad on one of the first days of the New Year thinking much more positively about the work being done all over the nation by those who are looking ahead with enthusiasm and vision.

Happy New Year.

To learn about the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum of Modern Art, click here.

For specific information regarding the Stoss component of the Collegeville exhibit, click here.

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Wetlander's Pick of the PostsLeading the Way for Carbon Finance Investments in Coastal Wetlands

Contact: Steve Emmett-Mattox – Restore America’s Estuaries – December 17, 2014
Today, the first global Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration Methodology is one step closer to full approval, having cleared the first of two independent assessments required by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). This methodology details the procedure that project developers must follow to generate carbon offsets and will allow carbon rich coastal wetlands to earn carbon credits. For full press release, click here.


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View from the blog-o-sphereYes: Ohio farmers’ harvests depend on healthy waters

By Joe Logan – The Blade –Opinion – January 4, 2015
Farmers, more than most other people, are concerned about the quality of our soil and water. We pride ourselves on our stewardship. So it’s a wonder that we didn’t pick up earlier on the downstream effects of some of our practices. Events in Ohio show us that we need to confront them, now and directly. Last August, a half-million people in the Toledo area lost drinking water for several days because toxins created by an excess of phosphorus in Lake Erie made it unsafe to drink. Earlier, Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio’s largest inland lake, had become unsafe for swimmers because of algae blooms that produced toxins vastly exceeding the United Nations’ safety threshold. Agricultural runoff was a major contributor to the harmful algae in each case, although not the only one. Farmers have to help solve that problem. For full opinion, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch

Each New Year, we make resolutions to do something that will change our lives for the better. But we all know that having a plan for change is only the first step. Following through to actually make that change is an entirely different thing, and sustaining that brenda115159change over time? Well bravo to those who do. When we think about protecting and conserving wetlands and streams, there are no shortage of plans and good intentions. However, when it comes to making meaningful and sustainable changes in behaviors, we all know in our hearts (and from the stacks of research studies) that it takes more than a brochure and a website to change someone’s behavior. In this blog, I share one specific behavior change method that has been developed to move people from recognition of an environmental issue to actually changing their behavior.

brenda1151510Canadian environmental psychologist, Doug McKensie-Mohr developed a behavior-change method he calls community-based social marketing (CBSM). The Community-based Social Marketing process works to identify the behavior we want to change, perceived barriers to changing it, ways to overcome those barriers (by developing a better understanding of both positive and negative incentives that drive the behavior), and specific tools that are best-suited to stimulate those changed behaviors. I want you to be aware of this method because it has been shown repeatedly to have meaningful outcomes if implemented properly. CBSM gets into the why of human behavior. What do people care about? What motivates them? If they care about this issue, why do they behave in ways that contribute to the problem?

To understand Community-based Social Marketing it is essential to also understand what social marketers refer to as “the tipping point” (Gladwell, 2002). Simply put – if enough people do something, it will catch on (behaviors will “tip” from the current ones to the new behavior). Research has found the tipping point for behavior change in most communities to be around 15%. For example, if 15% of your neighbors start demonstrably doing something new (especially people like you or that you respect in your community), you will notice and be more inclined to change your behavior to match theirs. Consequently, the aim of many social marketing campaigns is to identify the 15% of the community that is most likely to lead that change and focus behavior change efforts on getting them to adopt the desired behavior.

brenda115157brenda115154So let’s take a look at social marketing in action: First, a planning team consisting of consultants, researchers or your own staff if they are trained identifies the behavior that they seek to change and which group(s) of targeted individuals they need to change those behaviors. For each of these target groups, the planners identify a representative group of individuals who agree to participate in a focus group. They employ specific Community-based Social Marketing research protocols to conduct focus groups. Using carefully crafted focus group questions, the planners ask the participants to share the reasons they do or don’t do certain behaviors and why (what pressures, etc.). Focus group participants are then asked what would get them to change the way they do things. At the end of the session, they are presented with a number of different ideas for mechanisms that could encourage them to change and provide feedback on each. Armed with this new information, planners can take what they have learned and develop one or more well-tested social marketing tools to launch a social marketing campaign, such as prompts, social norms, pledges and other incentives to encourage change.

Let’s take a quick look at two successful social marketing efforts right here in the State of Maine:

brenda115156Maine’s LakeSmart Program and a Regional Campaign to Reduce Lawncare Chemicals. By undertaking a social marketing planning process, the State of Maine was able to select desired behaviors, identify barriers to their adoption and create tools that incentivized improved behaviors. As a result of this process the State of Maine developed the LakeSmart Program. Today, lakefront property owners across the state voluntarily participate in an evaluation process that identifies whether or not their shorefront practices are environmentally friendly for lakes (some of these practices relate to mowing, maintaining buffers, erosion control, lawncare chemical use, etc.). If they pass the evaluation, they are certified as “LakeSmart” and receive a sign for their lawn that shows they are a certified LakeSmart property. The program has found that once enough property owners start sporting the attractive LakeSmart signs on their lawns, awareness is raised and the use of poor practices declines overall.

A second example of social marketing to reduce water pollution can be found in the Greater Bangor Urbanized Area of Maine. Regulated municipalities in the region are working to reduce the amount of lawncare chemicals that are used and are entering local waterbodies through stormwater runoff. Research with focus groups identified that many residential homeowners were already not using lawn chemicals and that the primary reason most were applying chemicals was a consequence of “keeping up with the Joneses,”(i.e. my neighbors apply them, so I feel I should too or at least my spouse does). Now in its fifth year, the Bangor Area Stormwater Group’s (BASWG) campaign focuses on messaging that argues “your neighbors don’t apply brenda11515455lawnchemicals, neither should you.” The campaign has had marked success. Removing the peer pressure motivation in an economically depressed area that cares about water quality has been highly effective. Messaging is tied with images of healthy lawns with children and pets playing on them. Two years ago, a formal study showed that the region had surpassed the tipping point, with an increase to 17% of Do-It-Yourself Lawncare (DIYL) homeowners having made the decision not to apply lawn chemicals or at the least to reduce their use.

As we all think about our New Year’s resolutions, perhaps one could be that we commit to is working to use proven techniques that initiate and sustain behavior change in ways that protect and improve wetland functions and values. Community-based Social Marketing is especially well-suited for the complexities of managing wetlands because there truly are no one-size-fits-all approaches to wetland work. Social marketing pinpoints specific behaviors, target audiences, local barriers and solutions and location/issue-specific changes. Whether your approach includes social marketing or some other method, what matters is thoughtful consideration of what you plan to do to encourage and sustain positive behavior change over time.

We welcome your ideas and examples of behavior change successes and tools, as well as those efforts that employed these techniques that fell short. We will be continuing to share communications, outreach, education and behavior change information throughout the year and on our website


Gladwell, Malcom. (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Mckensie-Mohr, Doug. (2011). Fostering Sustainable Behavior: Community-based Social Marketing

Additional web-based information from Doug McKensie Mohr on Community-based Social Marketing (including case studies, articles, etc.)

Posted in Community-based Social Marketing, streams, wetlands | Leave a comment

Wetlander's Pick of the PostsThe Politics of Drinking Water

By Anya Groner – The Atlantic – December 30, 2014
On January 9, 2014, American Water warned 300,000 customers in and around Charleston, West Virginia, that local tap water was no longer safe. Ten thousand gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), a chemical used to clean coal, had leaked from a rusty holding tank into the Elk River, upstream of the water treatment facility. State officials warned that exposure to the licorice-scented solvent could cause “burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.” Given the paucity of information on MCHM’s effect on the human body, no one could predict the long-term consequences of exposure. For full story, click here.

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