Protecting the South’s valuable wetlands

Protecting wetlands protects communities

Wetlands are vital to this region we call home, the South, and they protect our communities in multiple ways. 

When it rains, wetlands act like natural sponges that absorb flood waters, lowering flood levels and slowing the rise of waters downstream—a life-saving combination. Their natural protection is especially important to low income communities and communities of color that historically have been pushed to less desired, more vulnerable low-lying inland areas. Wetlands are even more critical as climate change brings more flooding events and more intense storms. 

According to EPA, preserving and restoring wetlands can often provide the level of flood control otherwise provided by expensive dredge operations and levees. A one acre wetland can typically store about one million gallons of water, so when developers and industry destroy wetlands, communities lose valuable flood protection.

As North Carolina continues to rebuild from the past two years of hurricanes and historic flooding, the rollback repeals are especially egregious. We need restored wetlands, streams, and floodplains, not less protections.

Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation

Multiple benefits

Protecting our wetlands protects our communities. Wetlands help buffer our communities from increasingly intense storms, act as natural pollution filters that improve our water quality, and protect wildlife as well as fish and shellfish for our fisheries. 

Nearly all of the commercial catch and over half of the recreational harvest in the Southeast are fish and shellfish that depend on wetlands. 

The South just isn’t the South without seafood and without its beautiful wetlands, from the Chesapeake Bay and South Carolina’s Lowcountry to Georgia’s Okefenokee and salt marshes and Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw. Wetlands are places to explore, boat, fish, and hunt, drawing tourists and hunters from our local communities and from across the country.

In addition to protecting our communities from increased flooding and storms, wetlands help moderate global climate conditions. Wetlands store carbon within their plants and soil instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as heat-trapping carbon dioxide. 

Saving wetlands 

Despite their numerous benefits, wetlands are under threat from multiple sources and we areworking hard to save them with the help of communities across the South.

In federal court, we have challenged a Trump administration rule that is disastrous for wetlands, and we are pushing the Biden administration to halt harms immediately and restore strong clean water protections. The Trump administration removed federal Clean Water Act protections from thousands of acres of wetlands, making these valuable waterways vulnerable to destruction and fill by mining companies, developers and other industries. 

Slashing protections for valuable wetlands at a time when our communities face increased storms and flooding from climate change defies all logic. 

Highway and pipeline projects also can take a toll on wetlands and we are vigilant in ensuring these and other destructive projects minimize harms to wetlands.