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How US states are protecting wetlands

Words by Smiley Team

Wetlands are deeply important ecosystems, often essential to water quality, reducing flooding and providing critical habitat for plants, fish, and wildlife. 

“Depending on the type of wetland, the season, and other factors, wetlands can retain significant percentages of pollutants such as nitrates, ammonium, phosphorus, and sediment loads,” says the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“Natural wetlands have also been effective in removing harmful contaminants such as pesticides, landfill leachate, dissolved chlorinated compounds, metals, and excessive storm water runoff. They are so effective at improving water quality they have been referred to as the ‘kidneys’ of a watershed.”

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May is American Wetlands Month and, as it comes to a close, here are some of the organizations and people working to protect them.


The Maine Department of Environmental Protection Biological Monitoring Program launched a wetlands protection initiative in 1998. Today, that program monitors the water quality in Maine’s wetlands by analyzing algae and other macroorganisms to plan wetland support. They gather that information on a 5-year cycling basis. 


Maumelle, Arkansas, has been the site of a lot of work in the wetlands. Following a decline in forested lands from 1999 to 2006 in the White Bayou floodplain, the local government began putting a focus on protecting nature there. They ended up developing the White Oak Bayou Wetland Management Plan. Now, the city of Maumelle has received multiple grants from the EPA for its work in the wetlands. 


In northern Arizona, the Hualapai tribe does a lot of work protecting their local wetlands. Along with the EPA, the Hualapai developed a Wetland Program Plan that monitors water and wetland health on their reservation. Their efforts maximized the potential of the spring to provide drinking water for the tribe as well as created a baseline management tool to continue to work towards reducing degradation of the Red Spring site.


In Washington, the Lummi Nation, another native tribe, has worked to develop the first tribally-owned and operated commercial mitigation bank in the United States. In 2009, they started the project and designated 22% of the reservation land to the Lummi Nation Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank. To date, over 200 acres of wetlands in their reservation have been enhanced.

Inspired to act?

LEARN: If you want to read deeper into US wetland projects, you can find out what's happening across the country.

GET INVOLVED: If you want to do your bit, get involved with the Wetlands Initiative – find out what volunteering opportunities they have.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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