What are wetlands?
Wetlands are areas where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining plant and animal communities and the nature of the soil development. Under the Clean Water Act, the term "wetlands" means "those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adopted for life in saturated soil condition. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas."
Wetlands vary widely due to differences in local soils, topography, chemistry, hydrology and many other factors. Wetlands are typically among the most productive areas in terms of animal and plant life, and provide critical links in the food web.
Why are wetlands important?
Wetlands clean water, recharge water supplies, reduce flood risks, and provide valuable habitat for plants, fish and wildlife, in particular, migratory birds. They also provide recreational opportunities, aesthetic benefits, educational and research opportunities, and are valuable to commercial fisheries. Wetlands in the Willamatte Valley are highly endangered.
What can I do to help protect wetlands?
Protecting wetlands requires protecting stormwater quality, since much of the water in wetlands starts as stormwater runoff. Also, wetlands depend on groundwater or surface waters to function properly. Maintain water in these areas, since draining or altering the supply of water to the wetlands can result in their disappearance altogether.
Avoid disturbing wetlands, including the soils, plants, and animals. Cutting trees or vegetation, digging, ditching, or draining destroys habitat for wildlife and greatly reduces the wetland's protective water quality functions. Remember, wetlands are a critical link in our ecosystem, and are protected under law.
Find a wetland near you that you can take an interest in; learn more about them, volunteer and encourage educational efforts at your "adopted wetland." Support wetlands and watershed protection initiatives by public agencies and private organizations, such as watershed councils or community environmental groups. Select upland sites rather than wetlands for development projects and avoid wetland degradation or alteration during your development project.
Useful websites about wetlands:
Drinking Water Protection is a program initiated by the State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Department of Human Services(DHS) to give communities the tools necessary to make informed decisions regarding their drinking water. Through a number of assessments DEQ and DHS have been able to give communities a detailed map of where all of their drinking water comes from and a list of potential contaminant sources (both natural and manmade). The individual communities can use the assessment to voluntarily develop a plan to protect the source area.