Wetlands: an Overview of Issues

Written by charlie   
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 16:38
"Wetlands: an Overview of Issues" is a 30 page, nonpartisan summary of the science, law and policy encompassing all of the issues relating to wetlands and their preservation, most recently published in December 2013. (Update: The 2014 Version was released on Nov 17, 2014 - and is available for $19.95 here through Penny Hill Press)
The paper was sponsored by the Congressional Research Service - the designated think tank for Congress, (http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/) which provides research and legal analysis allowing Congress to make informed decisions.

Longer than an article, and shorter than a book, its a great primer on the history and current status of laws, policies and societal pressures that affect wetlands and efforts to protect them. Well worth a read and bookmarking.
Previous versions, dating from 2010 are available here, and I have only been able to locate the 2013 version here.

Rosehips and Swamp Rose

Written by charlie   
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 18:18

I started writing this post about rose hips, the fruit of the rose plant that contains the seeds, which is most visible after the flower loses its bloom. Many are familiar with rose hips being used for tea and jelly, and being a great source of Vitamin C--- but apparently the fine hairs found in the hips is used to make commercially available itching powder? Who knew? Awesome! I should have saved this post for April Fools Day!

The swamp rose, (Rosa palustris) as its name implies, is a rose that lives in areas that are consistently moist, swamps and along side stream beds are favored locations. It can even tolerate shade.   For anyone who has grown roses, these conditions are in direct conflict with all of the freely given advice about cultivated roses - which are known to dislike "wet feet" despite their requirement for large quantities of water, good drainage and full sun. However, like its ornamental cousins, it is susceptible to fungal issues, including blackspot, the bane of rosarians.

Swamp roses grow up to 7 feet tall and generally bloom once a year, like an heirloom rose, and, in case you were wondering, develop rosehips for the prankster interested in itching powder.  They can be purchased at native plant nurseries or viewed in their natural habitat east of the Mississippi.

Swamp Rose Photo by William S. Justice, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Additional Reading and Sources:

USDA Plant Guide

Unlike Other Roses Swamp Roses like Wet Feet

Rosa palustris


Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 19:14

Wetland Easement Enforcement

Written by charlie   
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 18:11

In a bit of good news, lands enrolled under a federal easement are coming under more scrutiny to ensure that the terms of the easement protecting wetlands  are being honored.

The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated all easement programs, including the Wetland Reserve Program, in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

Landowners sign away their right to farm on the land typically for either 30 years or perpetuity, in return for annual payments. While the terms of an easement always include the right of inspection, the reality is most wetland easements are inspected, on average, once every 5 years.

The majority of easements meet the agreed upon conditions and don’t require a follow up visit. A 1981 study estimated that between .7% and 1.5% of wetland easements terms are violated annually.   If violations occur, they are often a result of a change in land ownership, with the terms of the easement left unsaid or incomplete during a sale. More recent studies have found a similar level of violations, even if they have increased somewhat due to the high cost of commodities in recent years.  Generally, if a violation is found, a restoration order is issued, and compliance is followed up on to ensure the violation is restored to its previous condition.

Despite the low level of violations, enforcement officers, few and far between, now have additional capabilities, including the now ubiquitous smartphone with National Wetland Inventory maps and other apps to determine which sites may require further review, and focus their limited time on these sites.

Enforcement is not always easy.  There are always the outliers including the infamous Alvin Peterson, a retired North Dakota farmer who has fought the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for decades about perpetual easements his father signed in 1966, protecting prairie potholes on his property. In 2009, he was fined $10,000 and given a five-years probation - he had previously been charged three times with destroying government property.

The use of improved satellite and aerial photography has made the identification of wetland boundaries and detection of abnormalities easier.  In the near future imagery will likely become much easier to collect in near real time with drones, allowing a wetland to be monitored seasonally, and from different angles, if needed.  Lidar imaging is just now becoming a possibility on some larger commercial drones, even if the significant privacy issues they raise have yet to be fully addressed.


Sources and Additional Reading:

Wetland Easements and their enforcement in North Dakota

Wildlife officers step up wetland protection

ND Farmer defies government by defying Government


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