We can’t afford to lose wetlands

blondheim olivia In: We can't afford to lose wetlands | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida
Olivia Blondheim

The current administration running this country continues to chip away little by little to remove all the protections that we have for our environment.  Tallahassee is a miniature copy of Washington, but perhaps exhibiting a greater lack of clear thinking because Florida’s economy is so dependent on our water resources, as explained in the article below.

Industry and corporations who profit by using up our resources and leaving waste behind think only of the themselves and of the present.  If they think of the future at all, it is with the idea that succeeding generations will have to adapt and deal with whatever problems or scarcities they face.  Even if we are the cause of future problems or lack of water to drink.

See the original op-ed at this link in the Tampa Bay Times.

We can’t afford to lose wetlands

The 1972 Clean Water Act was established to restore America’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and coastal areas by regulating the pollutants entering them. It set water quality standards for all surface waters, funded the construction of sewage treatment plants that we all depend on today and gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to set industrial wastewater standards. Over the past few decades, the Clean Water Act has improved the health of local bodies of water and enhanced the quality of life for all U.S. citizens. Recently, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James signed the Navigable Waters Protection rule. This rule removes federal protection from many wetlands and streams, particularly those that may only flow for part of the year because of seasonal or other changes in rainfall. Under this new rule, phosphate mining, agriculture and other industries no longer need to get a federal permit to dispose of their waste in these unprotected waters in a safe way and consider protection to people, landscape or our coastal areas downstream.

Wetlands are habitats and breeding grounds for various organisms, including both fresh and saltwater fish species, shellfish, birds, turtles, mammals and smaller plankton that fuel the food web. Wetlands store water to reduce flooding and filter out any impurities. Many of Florida’s wetlands are naturally temporal depending on the season and the amount of rainfall. This makes this new rule particularly concerning for Florida’s wildlife, which rely on the resources these wetlands provide.

For Floridians, eradicating federal permitting for waste disposal may promote short-term economic growth, but the long-term impacts could end up ultimately hurting the economy and in many cases, our health. In 2016-2017, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection conducted a study that showed that, overall, outdoor recreation in Florida supports 1.2 million jobs and contributes $145 billion to the state economy. With $70 billion coming from visitor spending alone, Florida has a major incentive to maintain a healthy outdoor recreation industry, which includes activities such as fishing, camping, hunting and bird-watching. Healthy wetlands support Florida’s commercial fisheries, which generate $3.2 billion in income and support 76,700 jobs. By making it a state priority to protect wetlands throughout Florida, it will ultimately help promote a healthy economy for Floridians….

 

Olivia Blondheim is an integrative biology doctoral student at the University of South Florida. She also serves on the Youth Leadership Council and board of directors for the environmental non-profit organization EarthEcho International.

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