Monday, June 1, 2009

The True Value of Wetlands

I just don't give a damn about the Friends of Upper Fort Garry anymore. If you want to catch up on what's going on there, see Policy Frog or the Rise and Sprawl.

I also decided not to write an in-depth piece about wetlands. If you're interested in more, drop me a line and I'd be happy to oblige.

In short: Wetlands are invaluable. Manitoba, before settlement, was covered in Tall Grass Prairie and had uncountable acres of Wetlands and watersheds. We've killed off all but the last remnants of native prairie, one can still experience it if you drop by the Living Prairie Museum on Ness.

Wetlands, the other crucial part of Manitoba's Ecology, have suffered similar consequences to the aforementioned prairie. Unfortunately for us, this has hurt us in more ways than one.

To focus on one issue for the purposes of this post, wetlands, which I'm sure most are aware of, are a natural filtration system. They filter and clean sediments and nutrients from the water. Since settlement, they have been drained for farmland, decreasing the amount of natural filtration and increasing the stress on existing tributaries. In short, this means more sediment and more nutrient overloading streams and rivers.

With the intensive agricultural zone we live in, the effects of nutrient loading is more pronounced. Runoff from farmland and such often does not go through a wetland before entering a stream or river, on it's way to Lake Manitoba or, Lake Winnipeg. And thus, we come to what I consider to be the truth behind climate change: man has literally changed the face of the earth. In the Amazon, they might cut down trees. Here in Manitoba, we drain our wetlands. Our "swamps" or we "fill in that low spot over there," or we'll "build a driveway over that ditch."

Wetlands or "swamps" or whatever other derogatory term people use to describe them, unfortunately have a bad rap, for some reason they are unpleasant and seen as an eyesore, a nuisance, something to get rid of.

Say what you will about nutrient loading in Lake Winnipeg, hog farms, the Red River, or whatever else the NDP government attempts to convince us is the reason for the declining health of the Lake. Restoring old wetlands would be leaps and bounds towards improving the health of the Lake, the watersheds in general and, Manitoban ecosystems.

In the city of Winnipeg, I've had a long-standing belief that any new retention pond built for a suburb should REQUIRE that it be constructed as a wetland. If you think this is a bad idea, look no further than the Royalwoods development off of St Anne's road. Take a drive someday. The lush wetland retention ponds created by Ducks Unlimited offshoot Native Plant Solutions has completely transformed the area into an oasis for wildlife, complimenting the existing watershed and wildlife of the Seine River.

Simply put, wetlands are a part of our history and our heritage here in Manitoba. They should be embraced as a crucial part to the health of our environment, our lakes, and even our suburbs.

And talk about a hotspot for wildlife. Especially birds.

To see a wetland in action, one can take the drive out to Oak Hammock Marsh. If you go now, you will see some serious Swallow action as they are nesting and feasting on newly hatched insects. On the water, you'll see just about everything, but I find Coots particularly interesting, as they seemingly run along the surface of the water to escape danger, you the photographer.

You can enjoy the sights and the sounds of an ecosystem that has been restored and representative of what once was. If you've never been to Oak Hammock, the number of birds flying overhead and all around you will seem truly unbelievable.

Wetlands aid in water filtration and the overall health of our water. In the future I hope more are restored, I hope politicians at the provincial level stop wasting their time on hog farms and start spending time figuring out how to restore what has been lost. They are a vibrant oasis of life, and when in great health, mosquitoes are almost non existent, without the use of larvicides or malathion.

With a little education, they could easily become an aesthetically pleasing and desired part of our landscape.


Anonymous said...

You do know Ducks was created so hunters in the States had an ample supply of fowl to shoot.

Graham said...