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It Pays to Save Wetlands

Release Date: 5/18/2005
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

PHILADELPHIA – Throughout May the nation will celebrate the 15th annual American Wetlands Month.

Wetlands – marshes, swamps, and bogs once considered useless, foreboding wastelands – are a vital link between land and water. Wetlands are frequently found along the edges of streams, rivers, lakes, ponds and coastlines.

This year's theme, It Pays to Save Wetlands, focuses on the economic benefits that wetlands provide. In addition to replenishing and cleaning water supplies and reducing flood risks, wetlands are important spawning grounds for the fishing industry, essential habitat for many wildlife species and provide places for recreational activities like birding, canoeing and hunting.

“EPA is proud of the progress Americans have made in protecting and preserving our nation’s valuable wetlands. I hope you will be able to participate in a community wetland event to celebrate the value of one of Earth's most important ecosystems,” said Donald S. Welsh, EPA mid-Atlantic regional administrator.

Approximately 70 percent of the nation’s commercial fish and shellfish, and 80 percent of coastal fish rely upon wetlands at some point in their life cycle.

Many communities across the country have been plagued by floods. By maintaining 15 percent of a watershed in wetlands, communities can reduce flooding peaks by as much as 60 percent. Because of their low-lying position on the landscape, wetlands store and slowly release rain, snowmelt or floodwaters. When major storms hit, wetlands can lower flood heights and protect homes, businesses and crops from major flood damage.

Half of all North American bird species nest or feed in wetlands. In the early 1990's wetland-related activities including hunting, fishing, bird-watching and photography, added approximately $59 billion to the national economy.

Wetland plants also help remove carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere and absorbs it into the wetland.

EPA's wetlands goals are to increase the quantity and quality of wetlands nationwide. To meet this goal will take partnerships among the local, state, and federal agencies, recreational interests, private landowners and local community organizations. See EPA’s website for more details about American Wetlands Month events at For more information on wetlands, go to