Wetlands Day – An international event

From Michelle McConnell at Jefferson County- 1971: The same year our Washington Legislature passed the state’s Shoreline Management Act (SMA), a collection of countries from around the world gathered in Ramsar, Iran to sign a treaty called the Convention on Wetlands, in recognition of the importance of and risks posed to wetland ecosystems and to take action to protect wetlands. The USA joined the Convention in 1987 and February 2nd each year is World Wetlands Day to commemorate the Convention.

Today there are over 150 ‘member states’ participating with over 1,800 Wetlands of International Significance identified around the globe. The US has 26 sites – the nearest to us here in Jefferson County, WA is the Alaksan* site between Boundary Bay and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, just north of the border at the mouth of the Fraser River.

The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including swamps and marshes, lakes and rivers, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

Why protect wetlands?
· Wetlands provide fundamental ecological services and are regulators of water regimes and sources of biodiversity at all levels – species, genetic and ecosystem.
· Wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, scientific, cultural, and recreational value for the community.
· Wetlands play a vital role in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
· Progressive encroachment on, and loss of, wetlands cause serious and sometimes irreparable environmental damage to the provision of ecosystem services.
· Wetlands should be restored and rehabilitated, whenever possible.
· Wetlands should be conserved by ensuring their wise use.

Learn more at http://www.ramsar.org

Based on Ramsar’s definition, consider the 500+ miles of local lake, river and marine shorelines here in Jefferson County under SMP jurisdiction with the array of marshes, estuaries and tidal flats. While there are certainly documented opportunities for restoration of damaged areas, we’re fortunate to be quite wealthy in wetlands. And while a formal assessment hasn’t been conducted, it seems our Locally Approved SMP is well aligned with the Convention’s mission of ‘conservation and wise use’. Sounds like the SMA’s target of balancing appropriate development and protection…

See where local wetlands are currently mapped in Maps 8 -10 of the Final Shoreline Inventory & Characterization Map Folio and with the Critical Area maps habitat layer on the County’s interactive mapping site jMAP.

*Alaksen. 24/05/82; British Columbia; 586 ha; 49º06’N 123º10’W. National Wildlife Area; Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The site forms part of the Fraser River delta, includes arable land and grassland containing scattered wetlands varying from fresh to brackish, and mud and sand flats supporting three main vegetation types. An important link in the chain of wetlands used by waterbirds migrating between Arctic breeding grounds and southern wintering grounds. Up to 40,000 geese of the Wrangel Island breeding population and up to one million other shorebirds stage and winter here. Up to 25,000 ducks occur in fall and 10,000 Melanitta perspicillata congregate to feed on the tidal flats in late summer. More than one million people live in the Fraser River valley. Ramsar site no. 243. Most recent RIS information: 2001.

Best regards,

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