The state’s wetlands, important for the protection of all life, have been severely degraded over the years. Can they recover? New partnerships may slow their decline—if Mother Nature doesn’t do them in first
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Reclaiming developed freshwater wetlands and restoring natural floodplains is vital, Jones says, especially in view of potential sea level rise from global warming.
“The smart thing to do is to try and protect and expand as much of our upland wetlands as possible,” Jones says.
He believes cooperating with developers can help overcome anti-regulatory feelings and, perhaps, preclude the need for regulation. “Helping private landowners develop programs that promote conservation goals can help us achieve greater results than by strict enforcement of regulations,” Jones says. “Such a mutually beneficial regulatory framework yields more results because it prevents turning an asset into a liability.”
Jones says onerous regulation tends to place additional costs on landowners, and that the threat of stricter regulation may promote habitat destruction by inciting landowners to, say, clear cut an area of forest in advance of regulations that would prevent such cutting. Clear cutting and destruction of plant life in general affects the natural condition of the upland marsh and changes the dynamics of the water supply.
Jacobs says much can be done to restore wetlands that have been degraded through ditching and channeling.
“Channeling disconnects the stream from the wetland,” she says. “Bypassing the wetland’s natural filtration capability means nutrients and pollutants in the stream that result from runoff from developed areas reaches open water with those pollutants still present.”
Reconnecting stream and wetland improves flood protection, Jacobs says. “Flooding is mostly man-made.”