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

The Wetland Wanderer: Facing the Challenges of Managing Complexity and Risk

by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst

I had my car worked on this week.  Most of us find this a stressful experience:  the pop-up of unexpected expenses. The concern that if they get into the engine and start fixing something, something else could break.  Then, if they find something wrong that doesn’t need to be fixed immediately, having to make the decision (read: gamble) about whether to wait and spread out the hood1cost over time or invest beyond planned costs to avoid a potentially more expensive fix down the road.  Risk.  It’s a stressful thing.

This idea of risk and reward is nothing new in the world of wetlands.  When we think about wetlands there are all sorts of conundrums that wetland professionals face.  What if this wetland restoration fails?  What if there are unexpected costs or complications?  How do I make development of a wetland mitigation bank in my state a viable financial opportunity?  What if sea level rise impacts the mitigation site?  How do I help the developer community understand and work efficiently and effectively through a permitting process while also adequately protecting wetlands?  How do I do my work in a political or budget environment that does not value wetlands the way I do?

stream1I think about these issues every day in my job.  I find myself in awe of the complexity and the risk involved.  However, I am equally impressed by how much ingenuity there has been across the country in addressing these issues.  Having conducted a comparative analysis of all fifty U.S. state wetland programs over the last two years, I am impressed by the diversity of approaches and solutions that states have come up with to address these and other concerns.  As state wetland program managers have faced challenge after challenge, they have also worked to adapt and develop new tools, processes and assurances to get over those same bumps. If there is a problem, someone else has probably been thinking of it.  In good old American fashion, necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Here at ASWM we are constantly working to ferret out those gems and highlight them through peer-to-peer sharing opportunities.  Whether it is learning about financial assurances, tools to improve wetland monitoring and assessment, ways to plan taking climate trends into decision-making, tips of the trade on reviewing pipeline permits, or moving beaver from one location to another in order to attenuate water flow, it’s out there.  So when you think you are alone with a problem, you may very well not be.  And if you are new to the wetland program management world, please know that there are people out there that can help when you hit a roadblock.  Collectively we can help you figure out how to manage your risk and connect with the right people to ask.

crab1So, like my car that came back with an unexpected condition, it’s not always good news.  What to do?  A brainstorming session with the garage found a somewhat reasonable solution to the issue, even though it was not what they first proposed.  It was not without its cost, but it didn’t break the bank.  Most importantly, it addressed the problem.  At the Association of State Wetland Managers we’re privileged to have the opportunity to work with other wetland professionals to explain innovative ways to help wetland programs and partners work through the challenges and risks associated with the management and restoration of wetlands to find solutions.

Keep the questions and sharing coming, we love to hear from you.  Although I am not normally a betting woman, I bet if you have a question about a wetland issue, someone else does too.  What we learn together will help us all.

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