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As 2009 wound to a close last week, the annual deluge of the ‘year in review stories’ was shared on TV broadcasts, newspapers, radio, magazines and news outlets. Last week I shared the top five news stories that made headlines during 2009. http://aswm.org/wordpress/2010/01/
the-compleat-wetlander/ They are listed below:
Congressional Activity on Clarifying Clean Water Act Jurisdiction
EPA Elevation of Section 404 Coal Mining Permits
Michigan Nearly Returns 404 Program to Corps and EPA
Supreme Court Kensington Mine Case
Delaware 401 Certification Denial Ignored by Corps Civil Works
This week I have listed five stories that are equally important to shaping current and future wetland policy, but were less publicized in the day-to-day media reports either because there are part of larger stories or are, well, unexciting–unless someone is really, really interested in wetlands, which I am. Probably if you are reading this, you are as well. So here are five events that happened in 2009 without a great deal of media hype, but were important and will continue to gain importance in shaping wetlands and related policies in 2010.
Climate Change and Wetlands Gains Attention
In January ASWM posted a Wetlands and Climate Change strategy on its website at http://www.aswm.org/calendar/
2008_112008.htm. I’m not sure that there is link between our report and events that followed, but in 2009 we noticed a dramatic increase in the stories about wetlands and climate change. IN fact ASWM is now posting a news article or study related to wetlands and climate change every week on our main http://aswm.org and wetlands and climate change http://aswm.org/
wetland-science/climate-change/wetlands-and-climate-change webpages. One major challenge advancing discussions on wetlands and climate change is that it has been hard to convince policy makers that they have to evaluate the possibilities for different wetland types separately, i.e., mangroves aren’t peat bogs and they have different potentials for storing carbon or mitigating sea level rise. However, there is progress. Sample stories include
Peat and Repeat: Can Major Carbon Sinks Be Restored by Rewetting the World’s Drained Bogs?
By David Biello – Scientific American – December 2009
Bogs, swamps and mires help keep 500 billion metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere, so preserving peatlands is emerging as a new priority. For full article, go to: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=peat-and-repeat-rewetting-carbon-sinks&SID=mail&sc=emailfriend
Companies eye wetlands to offset carbon emissions By Matthew Tresaugue – Houston Chronicle – October 9, 2009 – For the past few years, people have planted trees in the effort to stop global warming. But now some scientists think they’ve found another solution: restoring wetlands. For full story, go to: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/10/13/restored-wetlands-considered-for-carbon-offsets/
Loss of Peat Bogs Around the World Affects Climate Change – By EarthTalk – May 9, 2009
Peatlands are wetland ecosystems that accumulate plant material to form layers of peat soil up to 60 feet thick. They can store, on average, 10 times more carbon dioxide (CO2), the leading greenhouse gas, than other ecosystems. For full story, go to:
Federal Wetlands Mapping Standard Approved
This is one of those events that falls into the ‘unexciting’ category for most folks; but the adoption of a formal wetland mapping standard by the federal government sets the stage for creating a national GIS wetland map that can be updated and revised in cooperation with many, many separate projects. Accurate wetland maps facilitate many kinds of planning, restoration, natural hazard reduction and permitting decisions. ASWM has been a member of the Wetland Mapping Subgroup over the last four years and is currently working with other committee members on training and other activities associated with the implementation plan for the new mapping standard. FWS News Release – August 18, 2009 – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today the adoption of a Wetlands Mapping Standard that provides minimum requirements and guidelines for wetlands mapping efforts. For more information on the wetland mapping subcommittee, visit: http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/wetlandslayer/wetlandssubcommittee.html For a direct link to the federal wetland mapping standard, go to: http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/_documents/gNSDI/FGDCWetlandsMappingStandard.pdf Wetland Mapping: http://aswm.org/wetland-science/wetland-mapping ASWM Wetland Mapping Standard Website: http://www.aswm.org/fwp/wetlands_mapping_standard/index.htm
Renewed Commitment to the Wetland Reserve Program
In October of 2009 ASWM was invited to participate in a meeting sponsored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The topic was the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). In the invitational message to partners the Natural Resources Conservation Service stated–
“Through the 2008 Farm Bill, WRP has an enormous opportunity to significantly expand enrollment and contribute benefits. That said, the program also has a steep climb ahead of it: In order to enroll the maximum allowed by the 2008 Farm Bill, NRCS will need to enroll approximately 900,000 acres over the next three years (by September 30, 2012). On the current path, the program will not reach that goal as WRP’s average enrollment has been around 150,000 acres over the past few years.
In order to accomplish the goal, NRCS will need to annually increase by 200 to 300 percent the program’s current easement enrollments. NRCS’s conservation partners will be critical in this effort and we need your help. We would like to use this meeting as a call to action and solicit your thoughts and ideas on improving the delivery of this program.”
Previous to the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill some changes in the WRP appraisal process dramatically reduced the popularity of the program in states such as Wisconsin, Arkansas and Louisiana http://www.wisconsinwetlands.org/WRPnewsletterarticle.pdf. However this problem was resolved in the 2008 Farm Bill and NRCS is working actively to rebuild partnerships with states, conservation nonprofit organizations and other interest groups to increase the number of acres enrolled annually.
For more information visit NRCS’ Wetlands Reserve Program Website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/PROGRAMS/wrp/
Enhancing State and Tribal Wetlands Programs (ESTP) Initiative
Over the past couple years the Association of State Wetland Managers and a number of states and tribes were asked to provide ideas about how the Wetland Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can build state and tribal wetland programs. The strategy is now completed and EPA will begin implementation in 2010. The goal of the Enhancing State and Tribal Programs (ESTP) Initiative is to enhance EPA’s delivery of technical and financial support for state and tribal wetlands programs, with a goal to accelerate program development. Key components of the ESTP include
- increased dialogue between EPA and states/tribes on wetland program development
- providing a clear articulation of program building goals and activities – the Core Elements Framework
- aligning the Wetland Program Development Grants with program
development activities in the Core Elements Framework
- providing targeted technical assistance for states and tribes
While EPA has provided assistance to states and tribes for many years, this a much more focused strategic approach to building state and tribal programs. More information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/initiative/estp.html
Changes in ARRA and SRF funds to allow for more green infrastructure, etc.
The Stimulus bill was in the national news for much of 2009. Less well publicized were the parts of the stimulus bill that affected wetlands. These included the NRCS floodplain easement program, the new green infrastructure funding priorities under EPA’s State Revolving Fund programs, and wetland restoration dollars available through the Department of Interior and NOAA. Information on these and other funding that was available was shared on ASWM’s stimulus webpage at: http://www.aswm.org/fwp/stimulus/index.htm
There were many other important stories in 2009—court decisions, reports issued on a variety of challenges to wetland conservation and protection, ongoing problems in regions such as coastal Louisiana, and more. Have you got one to add? Please let us know.