What is American Wetlands Month?
American Wetlands Month was created in 1991 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its federal, state, tribal, local, non-profit, and private sector partners to “celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation’s ecological, economic, and social health and to educate Americans about the value of wetlands as a natural resource”. Historically, annual events such as national and regional conferences have been organized to include a broad range of people including wetland scientists, educators, and public interest.
Why Are Wetlands Important?
Celebrating American Wetlands Month reminds us to celebrate that wetlands provide many invaluable functions on which our communities and ecosystems rely. They serve as the “kidneys” of the landscape through their ability to remove excess nutrients, toxic substances and sediment from water that flows through them, helping to improve downstream water quality and the overall health of the waters in our communities.
Wetlands can retain significant percentages of pollutants such as nitrates, ammonium,
phosphorus and sediment loads. Natural wetlands have also been effective in removing harmful contaminants such as pesticides, landfill leachate, dissolved chlorinated compounds, metals and excessive stormwater runoff. They also protect against flooding, provide recreational opportunities and serve as important habitat for many wildlife species.
Ways to Celebrate American Wetlands Month
1) Participate in American Wetlands Month Events
There are wetland events scheduled across the country to celebrate American Wetlands Month. Check with your state wetland program or local conservation organizations to learn what’s happening in your community. A few examples:
- If you want to get a head start on American Wetlands Month, head to Pennsylvania on April 29th and celebrate Wildwood Park’s treasured wetlands and the American Wetlands Month of May with a day of free fun and educational wetland activities. Enjoy entertainment, follow along with storytelling, and get to know the animals of Wildwood with live animal programs. Attendees can adopt a turtle to support turtle research, make a craft and participate in children’s activities, explore creative exhibitor displays and unique vendors. Activities and programs are designed for families, children and adults.
- Volunteer your time for the Wetland Workday at Kingman Marsh with the Anacostia Watershed Society in Washington, DC. AWS is working to restore the wetlands to the shore of the Anacostia River. This Wetland Workday may involve planting wetland plants, repairing fencing, or removing debris. Often times work is done by standing in the river while wearing waders, so this is a truly unique experience!
- On May 18th, attend the National Wetland Awards Ceremony at the Botanical Gardens in Washington DC. Learn about the national award winners on the ELI National Wetland Awards website. ASWM’s past chair, Collis Adams, of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is being awarded the NWA 2017 Award for State, Tribal, and Local Program Development.
- From May 19-21st, check out the Ladd Marsh Bird Festival in in the Grande Ronde Valley of Northeast Oregon, near the town of La Grande. Participate in field trips and visit birding stations, listen to original songs about the marsh and its avian inhabitants, and receive a passport with directions to various birding sites.
- On Sunday, May 21st, join ASWM’s Executive Director Jeanne Christie, a Maine Master Naturalist on an Appalachian Mountain Club
Maine Chapter hike to a beaver pond/heron rookery in Libby Hills Forest
Recreation Area. Libby Hills is located in Gray behind the Gray/New Gloucester Middle School on Libby Hill road. The beaver pond is well-established with multiple dams. In recent years a heron rookery has moved in on the dead trees (snags) in the beaver pond and it is anticipated they will be on their nests in May. Hikers will have an opportunity to observe the herons and search for other wildlife and wildlife signs along the edge of the pond. The hike will be on the Libby Hill trail system with some bushwhacking to explore along the edge of the beaver pond. The terrain is rolling and the total length of the hike is estimated at around three miles.
This is a great time to better understand what a wetland is, where wetlands can be found and the importance of wetlands in your community. Try reading about wetland areas, drawing maps of wetlands you have visited or even identifying native plant species found in wetlands. Here are some specific ways you can learn about wetlands:
- If you are new to wetlands and just want to dip your toe in, take a look at the National Environmental Education Foundation website, which lets users know a little about wetlands in each U.S. state.
- If you want to better understand the different ways wetland programs are run across the nation, check out ASWM’s national report on State Wetland Programs. Chock full of maps and other graphics, the report can give you a flavor for the trends occurring across the nation and some of the challenges that still need to be addressed.
- If you already know a lot about wetlands, take a course or commit to learning something new about wetlands. ASWM lists a range of training opportunities and our website is chock full of information and reports that offer a range of information to expand your knowledge base.
- Participate in a wetland webinar – ASWM is offering several webinars in the month of May. Please join us for one of them!
Wetlands exist in all 50 states, so there is a good chance a scenic wetland exists nearby for you to visit and explore during American Wetlands Month and throughout the year! To find a wetland near you, consult your local parks department, state natural resource agency or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Be sure to check if your state has field guides for purchase on your mobile phone such as the brand new Colorado Wetlands Mobile App or Nebraska Wetlands Mobile App. Both are available for free at Google Play and in the iTunes Store.
4) Volunteer at a Wetland Site or Center
Many wetland sites are actively looking for volunteers. Such opportunities for service often include helping out with special events, greeters, guides, office, trail maintenance and site operations. Check out wetland volunteer monitoring opportunities, become a wetland center or institute volunteer (e.g. Wetlands Institute), or join small and large group activities (e.g. through an organization like the Anacostia Watershed Society).
5) Share Your Knowledge about Wetlands
Knowledge about the status and trends of the world’s remaining wetlands is very patchy and limited. To improve this knowledge, and to better inform wetland policy and decision-making, an international partnership of wetland organizations invite you to participate in a short, simple worldwide questionnaire survey to gather better knowledge from you about the state of wetlands. Are you familiar with a wetland? You don’t have to be a wetlands professional or know much about wetlands to help share useful information about the wetlands you know. The survey is open to anyone who wants to share about the state of a wetland(s) they know, whether large or small.
The survey is a collaborative initiative between the Society of Wetland Scientists (Ramsar Section), the World Wetland Network and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, with the help of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat. You can complete the questionnaire on-line in multiple languages. The deadline to complete the survey is September 30, 2017. The survey takes less than 10 minutes of your time to complete. If you don’t know how to answer one of the questions, just skip it. To access the survey: http://www.worldwetnet.org/about-us/world-wetlands-survey-2017
ASWM has all sorts of fun planned for American Wetlands Month. Make sure you join ASWM’s Facebook Page to participate! We will be sharing information, tips, interactive engagement activities and a few surprises! Look for our mysterious wetland friend to guide you!
7) Take Action to Protect and/or Restore Wetlands
Support and promote wetlands by telling community members about wetlands’ vital roles, “adopting” a wetland, joining a local watershed group, or restoration project. ASWM has recently released a document providing guidance on how to improve performance in wetland restoration activities. Before undertaking these or working with others to do so, we encourage you to check out the recommendations in this paper.
8) Support Wetland Organizations
Your support means the world to us, whether using our resources, participating in a workgroup or a workshop, following our posts, or reading our latest news updates. We love to hear from you. If you would like to help us continue to do our wetland work, we welcome your financial support, in terms of either becoming an ASWM member or making a donation to the Association of State Wetland Managers. Your donation makes it possible for ASWM to conduct work on emerging areas of interest that may not be covered by grants and contracts. If you would like to become a member and gain access to all the benefits it brings with it, please check out our membership page.
Whatever you do to Celebrate American Wetlands Month – Make it Count for Wetlands
In the end, what matters is that you are doing something that helps wetlands. Becoming more knowledgeable about wetlands, sharing that knowledge, getting out and supporting a wetland site, sharing stories or supporting a specific wetland organization — it all is part of celebrating these remarkable resources this American Wetlands Month and all year round.
 Studies indicate that wetlands perform these services, the extent to which depends on the type of wetland, the season and other factors, wetlands (Source: EPA).