Preservation of the wetlands we have is a matter of National Security. The concerns are not only about environmental security but for the security of our food supply, secure clean water supplies, energy security and economic security. Since the founding of this country half of our wetlands have been destroyed.
The US government through the National Food Security Act, Department of the Interior, National Fish and Wildlife Department, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are working with Homeland Security to improve our National Security through increased efforts to preserve our wetlands. The work has started but there is a long way to go.
The EPA points out in a 1990 study of the Congaree bottomland hardwood swamp that it acts as a natural water treatment plant and that if it disappears it would cost the State of South Carolina 5 million dollars to build a waste water plant plus annual operating expenses. The Congaree is an example of wetlands conservation for economic and clean water security.
Wetlands hold a solid place in the American food supply chain. The EPA estimates harvests totaling 15 billion a year to wetland agri and aqua culture. This would include everything from cranberries to crabs. The recreational economy from wetland activities is a 59.5 billion dollar industry.
A good 80% of our offshore domestic oil comes through the state of Louisiana. This was brought to everyone's attention with the flooding from hurricane Katrina. Much of the flooding was due to the rapid reduction of wetlands that had served to protect the coast of Louisiana. Restoration efforts have drastically increased since Katrina, even getting the oil companies involved as they saw a threat to America's energy security and their own pocketbooks. With all these efforts Louisiana is still loosing wetland space the size of a football field every 38 minutes.
All of the awareness as to how vital wetlands are and the EPA still estimates losses of privately owned wetlands are somewhere between 70,000 and 90,000 acres per year. Many groups working on conservation, creation and restoration projects have realized the need for better coordination and use of funding. The Society of Wetland Scientist's indicate in a position paper from 2000, that there is a lack of measurable performance standards which often leads to a gap between compliance and performance within wetlands projects.
Even with renewed awareness the EPA suggests that changes to the National Clean Water act have left an additional 20% of the wetlands in the US unprotected.
Most of the US has arisen from the slumber and have become aware of how vital the wetlands are to National Security. Hopefully we can stay awake long enough to take significant long term action. If not there will always be a sister of Katrina ready to rouse us.