Archive for Sunday, May 2, 2004

How much wetlands really have been lost?

May 2, 2004


Although President Bush has come under attack as having shown little interest in the environment until an election approaches, it was interesting to hear that he has announced a goal of restoring, improving or protecting 3 million acres of wetlands over the next five years.

I just wish someone would get the figures straight.

According to a CNN news release last week, the White House said the United States was losing approximately 290,000 acres of wetlands annually during a period from 1975 to 1984, but that the annual loss has almost stopped today.

The same CNN news story said a January report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put today's annual loss of wetlands about 58,500 acres, not exactly what you would call a halt.

Later, I read a report from Ducks Unlimited that says the annual loss of wetlands in the United States is approximately 100,000 acres, with that figure credited to surveys made by, you guessed it, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

How large is the annual loss of wetlands? It probably is somewhere closer to the 100,000 acres, but, even if it is only half that amount, we are losing vital marshes, prairie potholes and other habitat at a rate that should be alarming.

Bush is requesting more than $1.3 billion, $22.6 million more than last year, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2005 budget. That's a step in the right direction, but still less than the Service's 2001 budget of $1.75 billion that Bush inherited from President Clinton.

Today, it is estimated there are 105.5 million wetlands acres, and approximately two-thirds of that is in the prairie pothole region of the northern United States, vital as nesting grounds to numerous bird species as well as animals.

Just how important are wetlands?

Beside providing habitat, wetlands are natural filters that remove pollutants from our water supply.

Ducks Unlimited, with money donated by hunters and other conservationists, has restored approximately 11 million acres of wetlands since its inception in the late 1930s.

Imagine how much could be done if more federal money went to strong partnership groups, such as DU.

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