Today is World Wetlands Day! If you’re reading this, you probably have some insight about why our wetlands are important: they protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, store floodwaters, recharge groundwater, and maintain surface water flow during dry periods. But while wetlands are a critical component of our ecosystem, their protection is coming under attack from President Trump’s EPA, and today I think it is important to remind everyone of their importance to us all and to work to stop these dangerous policy rollbacks.
First, for me personally, wetlands have been a significant part of my professional focus for decades. From my days at the Environmental Protection Agency, through my time at Natural Resources Defense Council, and now at PRKN, enhancing the protection of these vital parts of our watershed has been a quest which I have proudly pursued.
In our Potomac watershed, we have nearly 1 million acres of wetlands. Without them, our sources of water and life would be poorer. They act as sponges to soak up and remove pollution, they capture flood waters, protecting us all, and they provide necessary and unique habitats for fish, birds, amphibians, and other wildlife. In short, they contribute to us in ways we might not see every day, but from which we do – every day – benefit.
In addition to those water quality and water supply functions, wetlands help to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, slowing the adverse impacts of climate change. Wetlands naturally absorb and store carbon. They are the most effective carbon sinks on Earth and they desperately need our protection.
The proposed attack by the Trump EPA would devastate wetlands protection across the country and in our watershed. Our estimate is that 50 percent of the freshwater wetlands in our watershed would no longer be protected by the Clean Water Act. What does that mean? It means that these wetlands would be increasingly lost to pollution, development, and drainage. Once lost, very few wetlands are ever recovered. Their benefits are lost forever.
Take Dyke Marsh for example. Located on the west bank of the Potomac River near Belle Haven Marina on nearly 400 acres, the marsh is home to an incredible array of plants and wildlife. Because of its proximity to the Washington, DC metro area, every weekend it is filled with boaters, hikers, birdwatchers and joggers. I have been birding myself there and have been amazed at all the herons, the ducks, the ospreys, the woodpeckers. It is a birding paradise right next to the George Washington Parkway! Dyke Marsh is protected because it is federal owned, but what about wetlands without federal ownership?
Even while rolling back wetlands protections, EPA itself acknowledges the importance of wetlands saying they “play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed” and that they “protect our safety and welfare.” Why would we reduce protections for an element of our ecosystem that “protects our safety and welfare?” Instead, we should ensure that they continue to be protected so that our children and grandchildren can benefit from them – as we have.
Sign our petition to oppose the EPA’s attempt to roll back wetlands protections!