Photo: Wetlands: Too valuable to neglect

(Artwork by Elise Rocque)

By Michelle Molnar, Environmental Economist and Policy Analyst

Those of us living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia are fortunate to be surrounded by a vast network of estuaries, sandy beaches, seagrass beds, marshes, rivers and creeks. These wetland habitats, where land meets water, are among the planet's most productive environments. They filter pollutants, lock up greenhouse gases that lead to climate change, store floodwaters, refill groundwater and provide habitat to a staggering range of wildlife.

Unfortunately, little by little, we're losing these spaces and the many benefits they provide. In the Fraser Lowlands of Metro Vancouver alone, we've lost more than 85 per cent of our wetlands over the past century due to agricultural drainage, industrial development, new subdivisions and transportation corridors. As people have moved in (often drawn to the region by the environment), it appears nature has moved out. But is this a necessary trade-off?

We don't think so. The remaining wetlands of the Lower Mainland exist within a shrinking natural landscape, where a growing population live and work. While we cannot turn back the clock, we can build on what we've got. We can build communities that incorporate wetlands into their design and planning, either through protection or restoration. In the process, we will be securing a fundamental part of local and global water cycles, saving tax dollars on infrastructure that replaces what nature does for free and allowing our children to experience wildlife in its natural habitat. In short, we have the chance to create new landscapes that will be treasured by future communities.

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We're calling for protection of our wetlands from further loss and degradation in addition to supporting restoration. We've been joined by the World Wildlife Fund, Ducks Unlimited Canada, South Coast Conservation Program and the BC Wildlife Federation in supporting a Wetlands Declaration for the Lower Mainland. We know that for wetlands to survive, we all have to do our part. We're collaborating with individuals, local and regional governments, First Nations, businesses and landowners in our efforts to protect and restore these valuable ecosystems.

Metro Vancouver has an important role to play too. They've committed to conserving all remaining wetlands by 2021. Local municipalities can do a lot through progressive land use policies. Don't let wetlands disappear through neglect: tell your local politicians you want your neighbourhood to include healthy wetlands for future generations.

New Video: Natural capital supports hundreds of species. This Wilderness Committee video focuses on rare wetlands in the Lower Mainland and the Oregon spotted frog. It ends with a call for BC to bring forward an endangered species law.

May 13, 2013

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