Friday, April 18, 2008

Wanna buy a wetland?

Here in Minnesota we've had a law in place since 1991 called the Wetland Conservation Act. Bottom line is 'no net loss of wetlands'. Pretty simple and effective. Now our crack state legislators (or is it 'on crack') have decided that the oppressed developers shouldn't have to preserve, restore, or replace wetlands that they trash. This would be an onerous burden and slow down construction of the latest Gap, Old Navy, Chilpolte, or Abercrombie infested strip mall, causing a horrible burden on people forced to drive 2 miles instead of one mile to patronize these fine establishments. No, the new enlightened plan is to sell 'wetland credits' which would allow harried developers to fill in and drain wetlands simply by buying these credits.

My first experience with wetland preservation was back in the mid '70's and pretty much a selfish exercise on my part. Northern States Power, now Xcel Energy, decided that the perfect place to build a new nuclear power plant was on the Chippewa River near the township of Tyrone,WI in the midst of a swampy backwater (read: wetland) area. This spot happened to be one of our favorite duck hunting areas so we leaped upon the Stop Tyrone movement, allying ourselves with environmentalists, anti nuke folks, and a smattering of fellow duck hunters. Opposing us were the construction trades unions, NSP, and our pal's the developers. Hearings were contentious and the debate was often stupid and childish. But we won. The Mallards, Teal, Wood ducks and Bluebills that wound up in my freezer probably weren't happy about it but at least now they still have a place to get shot at 4 weeks out of the year and kick back the other 11 months.

Right now there is a unique piece of wetland south of the Twin Cities, called the Seminary Fen,that is directly in the path of this proposed amendment. My guess is that this would be one of the first pieces of wetland to be 'wetland credited' out of existence. You can read about the unique properties of a fen here. In this case it is a bridge extension proposed by the Minnesota DOT, the same folks that brought you the 35W bridge in, rather than over, the Mississippi River last August. Can you say Eminent Domain? I was alerted to this fine piece of legislation by my friend the ZumbroImpressionist, a Sierra Club member, landscape artist, and paper drive Czarina. This link will get you to a more detailed explanation of the issue and a draft note to send to Moe, Larry, Curly, and other legislators who think this is a fine idea. My letter may be a bit more direct and to the point than the nicely worded missive from our pals in the Sierra Club but thats just me. We need to decide whether we want another strip mall and a bridge to get us there more quickly, or wetlands that we and numerous species of plants and animals can use and enjoy. No need to wonder what side The Lake is the Boss comes down on.

1 comment:

Lord Hayden said...

I did some GIS analysis work on wetland mitigation credits in Minnesota and the Greater Chicago area. I was peripherally involved, but they do seem like a scam.

Having one huge recreated wetland randomly located in a watershed really doesn't compare to the pollution mitigation and flood control that small, naturally dispersed wetlands have. And, more importantly, you probably couldn't get any hunting in there.