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With great interest I read the
letter from David Travis of New Jersey regarding productive
species adapted to wetlands. David should be aware that work
in wetlands is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
under the Clean Water Act. He may need a Department of the
Army permit to clear, fill, or cultivate wetlands for crop
production. If he is a farmer receiving USDA subsidies, under
the Food Security Act he could lose those subsidies if he
brings wetlands into agricultural production. He can learn
more about the Clean Water Act at www.nap.usace.army.mil/cenap-op/regulatory/
regulatory.htm. He can contact his local USDA office for
information about their regulations.
Having said that, wetlands serve many vital ecological functions
that need to be considered for agriculture to be truly sustainable.
They can fit into a farm plan and provide economic, aesthetic,
and cultural benefits. The species adapted to wetlands that
you described could be part of a permaculture plan to produce
food, wood and fiber in a way that doesn't need Corps or USDA
authorization. You could get grants or payment for conserving
and enhancing the wetlands. Hunting, birding, or other recreation
opportunities can be enjoyed by you, your family and friends,
or managed and leased for hunting or fishing. Wetlands can
sustainably produce timber if managed and harvested properly
Even if you don't benefit financially from a direct use of
the wetlands, they are a vital link in the nutrient and water
cycle of the area. Wetlands buffer streams and rivers from
sediment and pollutants produced by activities on nearby uplands.
Wetlands act as a sponge or detention basin that regulate
stormwater discharge into streams and reduce flooding and
stream flow fluctuation. Wetlands provide habitat for a variety
of flora and fauna. Some species such as amphibians depend
on wetlands for a critical part of their life cycle.
Please don't underestimate the value of wetlands and please
don't break the environmental laws. The laws and the agencies
that administer them are not perfect. They will never solve
the problem and often make a mess of them but they become
necessary when people don't consider the big picture and make
wise choices in all that they do. I like The New Farm because
it helps us see that bigger picture and make wise decisions.
Maybe it will help our society avoid more government regulation!
I hope so!