Wetlands – A Losing Battle

Saving wetlands is a losing battle! First, one must ask if the environmental fervor to save wetlands is based on real science. Second, if that question can be answered in the affirmative, the next question is, “can we save wetlands?” Third, if both of those questions can be answered in the affirmative, then one must ask, “how can we go about saving wetlands in a way that is cost effective, or is there another tactic in the bigger picture that makes scientific and economic sense in our ecosystem?”

Let’s face it, there has been little proof that all the laws, rules, and regulations designating and governing wetlands around our nation has been effective. The Seattle Times, certainly a liberal newspaper that zealously promotes wetlands and environmental protection, shed some serious light on what a dismal failure the federal and state and county governments have been in protecting our designated wetlands.

“Time and again, efforts to re-create nature by replacing wetlands fail, if the effort is made at all. The science is relatively new and evolving, and wetlands replacements are often allowed to be afterthoughts for developers. . . . Even the state’s highest environmental officials concede the system is broken. . . . ‘We are kidding ourselves; the emperor has no clothes,’ said Thomas Hruby, a senior ecologist at the Ecology Department. ‘We are deluding ourselves, hoping there is a silver bullet out there that will allow us to have our growth and not have the impacts. It’s a state of denial.'”

The cost of protecting wetlands is in the billions nationwide, and the scientific community still cannot agree on the state of our progress, or lack thereof. This cost cannot be calculated, but it hits all of us in two ways.

First, when privately owned land is designated as wetlands (even when no one can see signs of water, or the hole was dug with a shovel and the hole later has standing water in it), the owners, who are often widows or senior citizens, cannot sell their land for the fair market value it would have in the real estate market for its highest and best use. This cost alone has stolen millions and millions of dollars out of the pockets of hard working middle class Americans.

Second, the actual cost of protecting wetlands through the extensive and complicated engineering that is required is beyond comprehension for most of us. There are 10’s of thousands of massive wetlands protection projects around the country costing millions of dollars with negligible results.

The Port of Seattle has already spent $62,000,000 to replace wetlands filled in for a third runway at Sea-Tac. The Army Corps of Engineers scientist said, “the jury is still out” on the success of some of the mitigation. Not to get picky here, but have all you taxpayers signed up for this expense voluntarily?

The truth is, protecting wetlands with extreme fervor may actually be a black hole for taxpayers. We pay, government spends. What many people find so disturbing is that there is little proof that all our tax dollars are doing anything to save the environment.

On the beautiful Northern Olympic Peninsula, and in Sunny Sequim, Washington and it’s sister city, Port Angeles, thousands of acres have been designated as wetlands at a tremendous cost to private landowners, and with wheel barrels of tax dollars. Are we really saving the environment? If we held court, and had a civil jury where the burden of proof was the lowest standard, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” I am afraid the case for wetlands protection would be dismissed.