What is the percentage of wetlands that have been lost since European settlement of the United States?
A: More than 50 percent.
Before people understood the important role wetlands played in wildlife habitat and water quality, they were drained and cleared for agriculture and other projects that were considered more productive.
Although federal regulations have helped slow the loss of wetlands, they have still continued to dwindle: from 1986 to 1997, the U.S. lost an average of 58,500 acres of wetlands each year. Learn how you can protect wetlands with these tips from the Environmental Protection Agency and various EarthShare member organizations. >>MORE
What are wetlands?
In the simplest terms, a wetland is an area where water meets land. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) further defines wetlands as areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year. Wetlands can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Why are wetlands important?
Like the EPA tells us, wetlands are considered the ‘nurseries of life.’ That’s because wetlands provide a home for thousands of species of animals. In fact, two-thirds of the 10-12 million fowl species in the continental U.S. reproduce in Midwestern wetlands.
Furthermore, wetlands soak up everything from slow floodwaters and excess nutrients and pollution—alleviating us of property damage from floods and tropical storms, as well as health problems associated with coming into contact with natural and man-made contaminants. Of course, you may have also enjoyed wetlands for the fishing holes and bird watching posts they provide.
Unfortunately we’re negating the benefits of wetlands by destroying nearly 60,000 acres per year. EarthShare member, the National Audubon Society, notes the contributing factors to wetlands destruction, including:
And while we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of acres of natural wetlands, today, EarthShare and our member organizations are focused on preserving what we’ve got left.
How You Can Help
The Izaak Walton League also has a renowned Protect Our Wetlands (POW) program that works in conjunction with Save Our Streams (SOS). These programs are designed to educate Americans about the value and function of wetlands, and will help you to become a champion for the cause.
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