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

bos2Two Sad Ironies In Florida Passing Its ‘Anti-Science’ Law

By Marshall Shepherd – Forbes – July 1, 2017
It is officially called Florida House Bill 989, and it was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott on June 26th, 2017 after passing both chambers of the house. According to the National Center for Science Education’s website:

With the law now in place, any county resident — not just any parent with a child in the country’s public schools, as was the case previously — can now file a complaint about instructional materials in the county’s public schools, and the school will now have to appoint a hearing officer to hear the complaint.

For full story, click here.

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wppGhost nets: the remote town turning death-trap debris into world-class art 

By Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore – The Guardian – July 11, 2017 – Video
On the outskirts of the Aboriginal town of Pormpuraaw – beyond the scented frangipani trees, the rows of bungalows, and the lush tropical greenery – is a mountainous rubbish tip. Locals have their own name for it: Bunnings. As if browsing the Australian hardware store it’s named for, they pick through the tip for rubber, rope, bicycle rims. Detritus is then turned into art, woven with feathers and bones into the
cean sculptures that this remote Indigenous community has become famous for. For full story and to view video, click here.

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bos2Does Scott Pruitt have a solid case for repealing the Clean Water Rule?

The Conservation – July 5, 2017
On June 27, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule rescinding the Obama administration’s “Clean Water Rule.” This regulation is designed to clarify which streams, lakes, wetlands and other water bodies fall under the protection of the Clean Water Act. EPA developed the Clean Water Rule in an attempt to resolve uncertainty created by a fractured 2006 Supreme Court decision, Rapanos v. United States. The Rapanos ruling caused widespread confusion about which waters were covered, creating uncertainty for farmers, developers and conservation groups. Efforts to clarify it through informal guidance or congressional action had failed, and EPA acted under mounting pressure from various quarters, including some members of the court. For full story, click here.

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wppWalking Trees Terrorize Marshes

By Asher Elbein – Hakai Magazine – July 5, 2017
In the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida’s Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a quiet invasion is taking place. Amid the brackish water and rustling grass that dominate this salt marsh ecosystem, thickets of mangroves—known locally as “walking trees” for their spindly wooden “legs”—are putting down roots. Mangrove forests are critical tropical habitat and are disappearing worldwide. But in Florida, mangroves are booming. For full article, click here.

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bos2Three Lessons for Land-Conservation Loans

By Abby Martin – Conservation Finance Network – June 21, 2017
Timing can make or break a conservation deal. Land trusts and other conservation groups often work with motivated sellers who must divest property by a certain date or are otherwise eager to close deals quickly. The organizations must either gather the required financing on the sellers’ short timelines or forego the projects. When organizations are short on cash but deem projects too important to ignore, conservation loans can bridge the financing gaps. For full story, click here.

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wppRestoration Spotlight: Monarchs and communities share common ground

By Will Pareson – Chesapeake Bay Program – June 23, 2017 – Video
At many points on its famously long eastern migration route from central Mexico to Canada, the monarch butterfly faces the perils of habitat loss. As a result, its population has declined by over 90 percent since the 1990s. Efforts to save the striking orange insect range from the unique forests of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacàn to the “Monarch Highway” in the Midwest—and all the way to the urban communities of South Baltimore. For full blog post and to view video, click here.

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wandererby Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst, ASWM

Change is a constant, whether leading to gain or loss…or even a new and different equilibrium.  Unexpected, sudden changes can be the hardest.  These could be anything from changes in program budgets, staffing, leadership, political climate or development patterns to regulatory directives.  Life isn’t perfect and we can’t control things that change our world, no matter how we want things to be.  Instead of fighting change, we must adapt to a new normal or be undone by it.

At ASWM, we are seeing changes that affect wetland management on many fronts, including: 1) retirements and turnover in wetland program staff, 2) potential changes in the regulatory landscape with a more stripped-down regulatory focus from the new administration and the potential repeal/replacement of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, and 3) climate change physically altering the land- and sea-scape, with rising sea levels, drought and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns impacting wetlands.

How do we manage all this change?  How do we set a course?  Allocate time, resources and energy in the face of such uncertainty?   We must prepare to create greater resiliency, rather than hold our ground in a losing battle against the inevitability of change. We have to adapt or be overtaken by our circumstances.  In this blog, I touch on a number of ideas that may help wetland managers think about change in ways that will allow for building personal and organizational resiliency.

Change is Hard

First of all, change is hard.  There is a fundamentally personal element to dealing with change and everyone deals with change differently.  The most common reaction is to try to restore everything back to the way it was.  Unfortunately, sometimes things cannot be reset to the previous state.  This often leads to a fight or flight reaction, as the person feels threatened.

Dealing with change often elicits a response that is similar to grieving.  Allowing people time to think about and share their concerns about change is critical.  People want to know — What does this mean for my job?  How does this impact programs that I developed?  When will these changes take place?  What is my role going to be in the future?  What control do I have in this situation?  There will be unexpected side effects and unintended consequences from change.  Common advice from change management experts is to not pretend everything is going to be better, because no one is going to buy that line.

Planning for Change

Organizations and policies have life cycles— knowing this helps anticipate some portion of the change; specific types of changes will likely occur at various points.  Efforts to create a workplace culture of leadership and staff prepared to adapt to changes is a first step.  This means working with staff to help them understand the types of changes that may occur and developing processes and contingency plans to deal with change. It involves talking about change and creating a workplace culture that understands that the organization, its mission and work will not always stay the way it is currently.  Staff need to know that change is inevitable.  Some changes will be big, some small.  Adaptive management approaches that anticipate that change of some kind will occur focus on providing leadership and staff with a set of skills and processes instead of developing one set plan.

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Practice Dealing with Change

One way to increase flexibility is to practice change on a regular basis.  One change management consulting firm has a practice of regularly changing seating plans, simply to ensure that staff don’t get used to only one set of circumstances.  This is effective in setting a mindset of flexibility.  Organizational meetings can set aside time to regularly think about both how their work is currently changing and different ways it may change in the future.  Creating contingency and scenario-based plans develops a core sense of the ability not so much to solve specific problems, rather to establish a well-honed set of skills so staff are ready to tackle change problems as they emerge.

Dealing with the Big Ones – Unforeseen Changes that Affect “Everything”

stressWhile some changes can be predicted or easily addressed through organizational preparedness, there are others that are so unexpected and substantial that they leave people reeling.  These are the tsunami, tornado, wildfire or hurricane of problems.  They appear catastrophic.  They elicit a sense of shock.  They are “an event.” In most cases everything else has to stop to deal with them.  In these cases, there is usually no time set aside to process or deal with these events, so stress is ratcheted up simply by having to do everything already committed to AND address this new “crisis” at the same time.  While the same change under other circumstances might not have constituted a crisis, the nature of how it occurs often leads people to believing that it is one.

Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” illustrates that people will think of little else unless they have a basic sense of personal safety, something to eat and drink, and shelter.   When a project’s funding is cut or eliminated, regulations are changed that suddenly leave resources unprotected, or leadership changes radically — all of these can leave program managers in fight or flight mode.  My son recently showed me a game that has something called a “jump scare” in it — where a computerized character is walking along and something suddenly jumps out at the player.  These games have been shown to elevate the heart rate, change the pupil of the eyes and lead to rapid breathing patterns… and that’s just a game. When something unexpected and unpleasant happens, the natural response is fear or anxiety.  This comes from evolutionary responses that encourage survival.

IMG_6966What one needs to remember is that this reaction is natural.  While there is little one can do to keep such negative feelings from occurring, there is much one can do to manage them when they occur.   One of the best pieces of advice I read is from a blog on change management about controlling the urge to give in to that initial jump scare response from unexpected change.  Eric Morgan writes:

Our first reaction to a transition’s trigger is often to mobilize. For example, we quickly move to replace a job when faced with a job loss. My research revealed that these early big moves introduce risk in transition. We often make these early decisions more in response to the feelings accompanying the trigger — like fear or shame — instead of making the decision because of alignment with our own values or the meaning we seek.” 

The blog went on to explain that while most of these unexpected changes were challenging, those that led to the riskiest decisions were those that were made by people who responded immediately to the crisis.  When someone loses their job, they often panic and go get the first job they can find even if it is not a good fit.  They have to sell their house, so they move into the first one they can (or cannot) afford.

Our society conditions us to focus on binary singular outcomes, like success or failure. We effortlessly create these “on” or “off” mental models every day. While in some instances, this clear distinction can be a motivator, it stifles transition. Transition requires us to envision a new future and then validate that future through a series of experiments. The experiments are opportunities to learn. This learning requires us to focus on the right questions, not their answers nor their intended outcome.”

The blog points out that most of the decisions made were highly reactive and did not take into account other things that were important to the individual.  They also didn’t problem solve by looking to see what OTHER changes could be made in order to facilitate a better outcome in response to the change.  Because individuals tend to be resistant to change, the primary response is to stay away from more change.  However, this may be the best path to recover from the initial impact.

Learning to Self-Assess before Responding to Unexpected Change

To illustrate the power of self-assessment before responding to crisis, I draw on an example from my own life.  I am a registered Maine whitewater rafting guide.  While I don’t get on the river much these days, I guided rafts down Maine class 4 and 5 rivers for more than a decade.  One of the most critical observations I made during that time was how important mental state was to how people responded to falling into whitewater or landing underneath a flipped raft.  During safety talks we would share a great piece of advice that applies to not only landing in rapids, but for dealing with personal and professional changes into which we are thrown unexpectedly.  How you experience your “swim” in whitewater is 90% mental and 10% physical.  Customers in many ways chose to 1) either resist the river and panic or 2) to float through the whitewater willingly, experiencing a wild (and often exhilarating) ride.  To encourage the former, we always asked customers to take a second to collect their thoughts before reacting.  To do this, we would ask them when they hit the water to think to themselves “I’m okay.  I’m okay. I’m okay.”  Those who later recalled being in the water unexpectedly (and managed to keep their wits and assess their situation before responding) inevitably had a much more positive experience.  This is also true of military personnel who practice escaping from underwater vehicles.  Those who took a moment to self-calm before responding had a much higher success rate in getting out of the vehicle.

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Organizational preparedness for change should include training staff on how to take that moment to assess the situation, learn how to triage and utilize the pre-practiced change management tools available.  When possible, managers should also build buy-in from those involved and affected (directly or indirectly); involve the right people in the design and implementation of changes to ensure the right changes are made; assess and address how the changes will affect people; tell everyone who’s affected about the changes; and get people ready to adapt by ensuring they have the right information, training and help.

Final Thoughts

In the end, what is needed is to: 1) be prepared for the upset, 2) understand the natural responses, 3) limit impulse moves in reaction to those feelings, and 4) have on hand a range of change management tools that can be activated effectively when change happens.  Finally, keep telling yourself, “I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay.”  It is amazing the power these words have when facing the unknown.

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bos2Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers Need Floodplain Protection 

By Peter Raabe – American Rivers – June 21, 2017
North Carolina’s Neuse and Cape Fear rivers are threatened by untreated animal waste that is stored in the floodplains of the rivers and can be washed into the river during flood events like what occurred after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. For full story, click here.

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wppAuditing the Blue Blood Bank 

By Steve De Neef and Meigan Henry – Hakai Magazine – June 20, 2017 – Video
Humans aren’t the only species that donate their blood for the greater good. The blue blood of horseshoe crabs is used by the biomedical industry to test for toxins in things such as implants, vaccines, and medical implements. When you give blood, you donate about 10 percent of your blood volume, but horseshoe crabs are drained (without the voluntary donation part) of about 30 percent of theirs. The crab bleeding industry says that bloodletting is not lethal, and that the crabs survive just fine once released, but there’s no doubt that populations are dropping on the Atlantic coast. For full article and to view video, click here.

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cwlogoBy Jeanne Christie, Executive Director, ASWM

There is perhaps no more iconic symbol of the wetlands and waterways of the nation than the Great Blue Heron.  This beautiful bird is found year round throughout much of the lower 48 states.  Loved by some and reviled by others for its dedication to building dams, beaver are also found throughout the lower 48 states as well as Canada and Alaska. It’s therefore not surprising that they coexist and, in fact, that a pond created by beaver can create the perfect habitat of standing dead trees (also called snags) for a heronry.  There is such a place about five miles from the Association of State Wetland Manager’s offices and a visit there in the spring when the herons are on their nests is a special treat. It’s a reminder not only that our work to protect, conserve and manage wetlands is important, but also that nature, including beaver, has a lot to teach us about how to build and sustain wetlands.   Below are some pictures of one of my favorite wetlands. Enjoy!

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