Friday, March 31, 2006

BushCo's Wetlands Gains Mostly "Wet Deserts"

As reported in the New York Times, the Interior Department released a report that the total acreage of wetlands in the US has actually increased. There's a catch though; the increase in wetlands is due to artificial wetlands such as stormwater collections ponds and mine runoff ponds:
Another successful wetlands-restoration project in southwestern Indiana is undoing the work farmers did decades ago to drain their land.
These projects helped hold down the net loss of marshland in Thursday's report. But the net gain noted in the report was fueled by an increase in pond acreage, which includes things like ornamental ponds in new developments and mine reclamation ponds.
For instance, the mining of sand and clay for the construction of two major highways in South Carolina, Routes 22 and 31, left the Myrtle Beach area dotted with large, deep ponds that qualify as wetlands in the Interior Department's survey but do not provide the wildlife habitat or perform the filtering functions of tidal marshes or cypress swamps.
Environmentalists are somewhat less enthusiastic about the results Interior Deparment's report:
Julie Sibbing, the leading wetlands expert at the National Wildlife Federation, called the mining-site ponds "wet deserts."
"The most stunning thing about this report," she said, "is that we're losing diverse natural wetlands in this country and the administration tells us it's O.K. because we've increased the number of ponds."
The Interior Department's report (available here) features pretty pictures of natural wetlands, but some of the wetlands, such as this slime pond from the US Geological Survey Website, are not so picturesque.

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