New wetlands aren’t real

Federal authorities say wetland acreage is increasing, but don’t believe it.

Wetlands make up a huge part of Minnesota’s ecosystem. Between wetlands and prairies, Minnesota is home to some very unique ecological communities. Our many lakes, ponds and giant watersheds make wetlands an important source of the state’s biodiversity.

Unfortunately, much of the wetlands in Minnesota is disappearing because of developers. The federal government’s answer to disappearing wetlands is to make more – a great idea, if it actually worked. But so far its only accomplishment is to redefine “wetland” to include things such as sewage ponds and artificial ponds created for cattle or fish, as well as to catch human-generated runoff near highways.

True wetlands are not like these artificial areas. In fact, true wetlands often are not under water; they are defined more by the diverse flora and fauna they contain than the presence of standing water. True wetlands are extremely difficult to replace; they are a complex balance of soil types, aquatic plants and migrating wildlife.

A federal report claiming the amount of wetland in the United States actually is increasing points out that this would not be the case were these artificial freshwater ponds not included in the new acreage counts. In this case, clearly quantity trumps quality for the federal government: Who cares how good the wetland is as long as it’s wet?

This sad redefinition to meet some sort of quota is a clear indication something is wrong with the way the government approaches conservation. It will be up to individual states to protect their unique environments, and Minnesota must lead the way in the struggle to save its biodiversity. If it doesn’t, sewage ponds and drainage ditches will be all that is left of the once-rich wetland ecosystems for which this state is known.