all the Wetlands?
When you understand
how riverine wetlands protect us from flooding, and you know that
we've lost so much of this vital habitat, you'd think that no one
would buy a house next to a big river.
But people do
it every day in every state of the country. We can't seem to help
ourselves. We love water, we love vegetation, we love the birds
and the mammals and the fish.
But our love
of this riverside land could be our undoing, as the woman above
is discovering. Such a revelation is ironic when you consider that
wetland destruction historically has been caused by our hatred of
these same habitats.
After all, they
bred mosquitoes, were impossible to build upon or plow, so why not
get rid of them? We have destroyed millions upon millions of acres
of wetlands from Maine to Florida and back again. We continue to
lose wetlands today, but at least not as quickly as in the past.
This chapter provides an introduction to the problem of wetlands
loss and how their disappearance impacts our environment.
HAVE WE LOST?
In a few hundred
years of settlement, the United States has lost more than half of
its original wetlandsfrom an estimate of 220 million acres in the
contiguous states to less than 110 million acres. Some states, such
as California and Kentucky, have lost at least eighty percent of
At one time,
wetlands covered almost one-quarter of Illinois; today less than
three percent of the state retains this rich habitat. Idaho has
lost more than half of its wetlands; Iowa lost even more-95 percent.
The vast wetlands ecosystem of the Everglades may have been irreparably
harmed when it was reduced by more than sixty percent-a loss of
3,600 square miles.
United States loses more than 70,000 acres of wetlands every year,
and this pace probably won't slow. Within the next few decades,
more than half the population of this country will live within fifty
miles of our coasts. Urban development in this region has already
accounted for almost half of the coastal wetlands destruction in
the last decade of the twentieth century. If we keep moving to and
building in this region, how much longer will the remaining wetlands
survive? It's the same conundrum that faces homeowners of the Intermountain
West: Can we keep from loving our favorite places to death?
About What Has Happened to Wetlands...