is a Wetland?
are all the Wetlands?
for the Future
PEOPLE AND WETLANDS
all over the United States. They are literally "wet lands," at least
for part of each year. Marshes, bogs, swamps, pond and lake margins
are wet most of the year. Other wetlands-such as prairie potholes
and desert seeps-are wet only part of the year. Wetlands can be
fresh water, salt water, or a mix (called brackish). Most of the
wetlands in the Rocky Mountain region are fresh water, and many
of them dry up each year. Whether permanent or seasonal, wetlands
provide valuable habitat for insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds,
and some fish and mammals. Because of their abundant animal life,
wetlands also attract scientists, hunters, birders, artists, and
other people who appreciate natural places.
attitude about wetlands has developed mostly in the last half of
the twentieth century. Prior to that time, many people in the United
States considered wetlands to be dangerous, dark, damp horrible
places full of snakes that can kill you and mosquitoes that will
spread diseases. Think of the name of a big wetland in southern
Virginia: The Great Dismal Swamp. Today this is a National Wildlife
Refuge revered by birders and botanists as a haven for wildlife
and wild flora. But in the 1700s, it was described as "a horrible
desert, the foul damps ascend without ceasing, corrupt the air and
render it unfit for respiration." With attitudes like this, it's
no wonder that Americans-like many people around the world-dredged,
drained, and filled in as many wetlands as we could. We made these
lands into farms, pastures, towns, and cities. Today, when you walk
many of the streets of major cities such as Chicago, Boston, San
Francisco, and Washington, D.C., you are walking upon filled-in
of the Americas did not share this view of wetlands. Archeological
evidence indicates that Mayans built raised fields in wetlands of
Central America; the water would seep up into the raised beds to
moisten the crops. The Anishinabe (the tribe's preferred name, instead
of Chippewa or Ojibway) live in a land of water, in and around Lake
Superior and the other Great Lakes. They gather food of the wetlands,
such as cranberries, and every fall they harvest wild rice, which
can grow only in healthy, clean wetlands. People began occupying
the Columbia River Basin of Idaho and Washington more than 12,000
years ago. Ancestors of the Nez Perce traveled to the Palouse region
where they harvested camas bulbs that grow in seasonal wetlands
of this fertile grassland. The Nez Perce and many other tribes continued
this migration; even today they will travel to the camas meadows
of the Columbia Basin for this staple. The Coeur d'Alene tribe consider
the water potato so important that they celebrate it in a tribal
holiday. Native people harvested other wetlands plants such as alder,
lovage, and horsetail. (See box on previous page.) They also hunted
animals of the wetlands, such as ducks and beaver.
This small tree grows along streams and lakes.l Provides a red dye
for paints, cloth, and hair. Tea from the bark used medicinally.
Source of wood for arrows, tipi stakes, and other tools. Berries
sour but edible; favored by wildlife.
Herb whose root is chewed and otherwise used for sore throats, coughs,
colds, and earaches. The nez Perce traded lovage to the Crow
Burned as a purifying incense and worn as decoration.
Prepare as a tea fror blader problems; use stems like sandpaper
or scour pad
Sweet roots eaten raw or boiled.
Roots boiled or baked, or dried for future use. Considered the most
important staple for many tribes in the Northwest.
learn more about wetlands ... attitudes
are changing towards wetlands.