To the Editor:
Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems on earth. In addition to providing unique habitats for a wide variety of plants and animals, wetlands function as the "kidneys of the landscape," since they are particularly good water filters.
Bill Busbuy of the Kansas Biological Survey estimates that 95 percent of our precious wetlands in Kansas have been destroyed. Before 1960, the principal cause of wetland loss was the conversion of marshes to cropland. However, a 1985 Kansas Fish and Game Commission study warns that the construction of highways near or through wetlands is now the major threat to Kansas wetlands. Drainage patters are altered, and wetlands are drained to accommodate road construction.
Baker Wetlands, south of 31st Street, between Louisiana and Haskell streets, is a 573-acre natural area managed by Baker University and contains one of only two examples of wetland prairie in Douglas County. Some years, numerous waterfowl and shorebirds stop during migration. Mammals such as deer and raccoon also frequent the area. In addition, the area is designatd as critical habitat for the northern crawfish frog.
The proposed south Lawrence trafficway would not only destroy 12 acres of the Baker Wetlands, but secondary impacts such as pollutant run-off and drainage alterations could affect the functioning of the wetlands as an ecosystem. Most importantly the final environmental impact statement does not contain a hydological study of drainage patterns and how the proposed road would affect water levels. This oversight will have to be corrected before the project can continue.