World Wetlands Day 2018 embraces ‘sustainable urban future’

Today, we learned – or at least were reminded of – what the future might hold for us on a couple of fronts in the out-of-doors.

That future, it appears, will include six more weeks of winter weather. But also on Friday, Feb. 2, we celebrated “Wetlands for a sustainable urban future,” too.

For more than 130 years, Groundhog Day has been celebrated on Feb. 2. Punxsutawney Phil was the center of attention again Friday – along with his shadow – and the groundhog reportedly saw said shadow, which according to legend, means another six weeks of winter.

Lesser-known World Wetlands Day also is Feb. 2 – commemorating the signing of the Convention on Wetlands. That was in 1971, so the event is just a pup compared to the groundhog celebration. And it’s tough to compete with a cute little ball of fur. But now, maybe more than ever, wetlands need our attention.

The future of these special places – and well beyond – might depend on it.

This year’s Wetlands Day theme is “Urban wetlands – making cities livable,” focusing on how wetlands adjacent to urban areas are essential to reducing flooding, replenishing drinking water and improving the area’s overall water quality. And, of course, wetlands are synonymous with hunting (waterfowl) and fishing, too.

Examples of wetlands include prairie potholes, marshes, swamps, bogs, and estuaries. Wetlands can contain freshwater, saltwater, or brackish water (a mix of freshwater and saltwater). They may be tidal (ebbing and flowing) or non-tidal and, of course, can be found in urban, suburban, or rural areas across the world.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over half of America’s wetlands have been lost since 1780. The USFWS went on to say that while these habitats were once underappreciated and misunderstood, we now know that conserving, restoring, and enhancing wetlands is important for people and wildlife. For instance, wetlands provide high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities such as fishing, hunting, birding, and boating, the USFWS said.

In the central and western United States, the Prairie Pothole Region spans portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Montana. It’s known as America’s “Duck Factory” and serves as a nursery for millions of waterfowl. The region’s grassland and wetland habitats also support migratory birds and other native wildlife, in addition filtering groundwater, controlling flooding and runoff, and capturing carbon from the atmosphere, the USFWS said, adding that wetland habitats further support social, cultural, aesthetic, ecological, and economic benefits for people and local communities.

In addition to over 500 national wildlife refuges across the United States, there are 38 wetland management districts, composed of waterfowl production areas. These lesser-known public lands and waters in the Prairie Pothole Region support wildlife and conserve wetland habitats.

For current and future generations.

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