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War on Our Wetlands

The United States has been protecting wetlands across the nation under the Clean Water Act for years. Now, many important wetlands may be in danger. 

As a student, you know that Rider holds sustainability to a high importance. You may have even previously taken one of the many environmental science courses offered. An introductory course, ENV 100 is one class that many earth science majors take, but other majors may take as well. If you have taken this course, you may remember traveling to the Abbott Marshlands with Dr. Druckenbrod to speak with land stewards. The land stewards you meet talk about the importance of the Marshland and its rich history while also discussing how important it is to protect wetlands all around New Jersey.

  If you have never visited or heard of the Abbott Marshlands, it is a home to many native New Jersey animals and plants. The Marshlands span about 3000 acres, with almost half of this land classified as wetlands. The Marshlands experience tides due to being connected with the Delaware River, which experiences tides as far as Trenton. 

Wild rice grows in the parts of the Marshland that are consistently submerged, whereas other less submerged areas provide refuge for Jewelweed. Over the wild rice, you may spot the Red-Winged Blackbird, a species known for inhabiting marshes and swamps. A beautiful and important part of New Jersey, the Abbott Marshlands are one of many New Jersey wetlands. 

Wetlands are critically important to our environment, as they provide us with natural services no other ecosystem can, such as naturally improving water quality, controlling erosion, protection from floods, and more. Such important ecosystems are dire for the health of our environment, which is why the EPA works hard to protect as many wetlands as possible under the Clean Water Act. 

However, not everyone sees the high importance our wetlands hold. Last May, the Supreme Court limited the EPA’s ability to protect wetlands. The ruling prevents the federal government from regulating wetlands that do not have a constant surface connection with bodies of water that are larger and regulated. The new process of determining if a wetland should be protected is extremely problematic, as it does not consider wetlands that are disconnected from larger bodies of water but still in important floodplains.

The ruling occurred after an Idaho couple that intended to build a house nearby a lake refused to obtain the necessary permits for filling in the area with dirt. This ruling has opened the ability of not only small property owners such as the couple, but also developers who have wanted such regulations to be removed. The removal of the federal government’s ability to regulate some important wetlands means that construction industries no longer have to be concerned about how they are impacting the water when they build.

Environmentalists around America are concerned about the potential destruction the roll-back on regulations can cause. Some have pointed out that the change in policy seems strange, as normally a new rule may be proposed and go under public review before revision occurs and it is set in place. This change from the Supreme Court was final upon its announcement. 

It is important to keep in mind who among our country's leaders value the importance of the environment, as the health of the environment is the determinant factor of all of our health. With primary elections in New Jersey coming on June 4th, consider looking into what the candidates pledge to do. Research what they believe should be done about the climate crisis and their opinions on environmental issues such as the protection of wetlands. Voting for a candidate that will protect and conserve the environment is vital, as this is our only home. 

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