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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Conservation: Nature's Multipurpose Habitats

Wetlands provide a host of benefits in addition to their waterfowl habitat value
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By Gildo Tori

One of the handiest pieces of equipment ever invented for waterfowl hunters and other outdoor recreationists is the multi-tool. You know, the gadget that houses a variety of retractable tools, including a pair of pliers, knives, a bottle opener, an awl, a file, and even a toothpick, among other implements. From my perspective, wetlands are Mother Nature's multi-tool. Beyond their obvious importance to waterfowl, wetlands perform a variety of functions that no other natural habitat can do quite as well. 

It's amazing how much public attitudes about wetlands have changed since Ducks Unlimited was founded 75 years ago. Back then, many people considered wetlands to be wastelands that harbored disease. In fact, 100 years ago the president of the American Health Association proposed a national campaign to eliminate all wetlands. 

Now we know that wetlands are invaluable from an ecological standpoint. Despite their importance to people and the environment, wetlands remain under attack. As sportsmen and conservationists, we must arm ourselves with the facts about wetlands, and then turn that knowledge into action.

Here are some key points to share with your family, friends, neighbors, and most important, elected representatives in Washington, D.C., and your state capital:

• Wetlands support a great abundance and diversity of waterfowl, other wildlife, and fish. From a biologist's point of view, I've always marveled at the great diversity and productivity of wetlands. While freshwater wetlands only cover 1 percent of the world's surface area, they support more than 40 percent of all plant and animal species. Wetlands are biologically rich because they exist where the land and water meet—occupying the best of both worlds.  
  
All of North America's waterfowl are dependent on wetlands. About one-third of all of North America's birds visit wetlands at some time during the year, and about half of the 188 animals that are listed as endangered or threatened are wetland dependent. In addition, 90 percent of the fish caught by the nation's recreational anglers rely on wetlands at some point during their life cycle, and wetlands are nurseries for the nation's commercial crab, shrimp, and salmon fisheries, which contribute $1.2 trillion each year to the U.S. economy. 

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