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

For Peat’s Sake: Mud & Wetlands: An Opportunity to Learn and Play

For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM Mainers love mud. In this part of the world, this time of year is known affectionately as “mud season.” And we love to get up to our ears in it. Why? Because it’s fun! This past weekend in my town of Gorham, Maine, the 5th Annual Into the Mud Challenge was held as a fundraiser for the University of Southern Maine’s Sports Management Scholarship Fund. It’s not an event for the high maintenance crowd – it is 2.5 miles of an uber muddy obstacle course and folks really get into it. With costumes. It is quite an event. And we’re not the only mud-crazed part of the world. A fellow in Scotland started Swamp Soccer UK, Ltd. which now has its own World Cup. And the Wayne County, Michigan Parks & Rec. Department hosts a Mud Day every year for kids 12 years old and younger. So mud teaches us to have fun. When I think of mud, I also always think of wetlands. As I wrote about in my very first blog at ASWM, I learned a lot while interning with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and almost ended my internship (and this lifetime) tragically while mucking about in highly disturbed riverine wetlands in Colorado. The mud very clearly informed me that day that it had brought me into this world and it could also very easily take me out. And when I worked as a Research Assistant at the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, we held a Casco Bay “Mud chrisheinig050715Summit” to discuss the status of the science available to understand the relationship between pH and shellfish in the Casco Bay region. In a nutshell – without healthy mud, we have no healthy shellfish and without healthy shellfish, we have no shellfish industry. And it can absorb you into its depths if you don’t respect it. So mud continues to teach me many things. This May marks the 24th Anniversary of American Wetlands Month. What kind of events do you have planned to celebrate and to educate the public about the wonders and benefits of wetlands? Maybe we should all hold a wetland mud event. The Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha, Wisconsin recently held a “Mayhem in the Mud!” event in April for kids age 2-10. How about if we all hold a wetland mud event for American Wetlands Month? In 2011, the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center held its first annual Mudbug Festival & 5k Run/Walk. That’s a great idea for American Wetlands Month, and races can be a great way to raise funds for your organization as well as awareness for the important work that you do. usfwsmud050715Of course, depending on the wetland and the activity planned, it is important to stay on boardwalks if possible to protect fragile vegetation – and I am certainly not endorsing the use of ATVs or 4-wheel drive vehicles in muddy fragile wetland ecosystems (which is unfortunately another spring time ritual in Maine). However, many folks think of wetlands as stinky mudpits. Let’s show them that, while that might be true, stinky mudpits can be lots of fun and not only that, they provide incredibly important benefits for wildlife, flood mitigation, water filtration, fisheries and much, much more. So for Peat’s Sake, get outside and go play in the mud! Happy American Wetlands Month!

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