It's common practice today to place a "time capsule" in the foundation of buildings, bridges, monuments, and other structures. These caches contain messages and memorabilia from which future generations can learn more about us and our values. While those who will ultimately open our time capsules and study their contents have yet to be born, they will undoubtedly live with the impacts, both positive and negative, of the decisions we make. It has been said that a society is defined by what it deems important enough to save and safe-guard. Ducks Unlimited volunteers and members are passionate about conserving wetlands and grasslands. Our conservation work not only benefits populations of waterfowl and many other wildlife species that depend on wetlands and grasslands for habitat but also benefits people in many other ways.
Many times in my career I have been asked to discuss the functional values of wetlands and grasslands. Much research has been done, and continues to be done, regarding all the contributions these wonderful natural treasures provide. We know that wetlands act as nature's sponges, storing and slowly releasing runoff, which helps protect downstream communities, homes and businesses from flooding. Wetlands also act as natural filters, trapping pollutants and sediment in runoff. Studies have revealed that annual rates of erosion and sedimentation increase from less than one-half ton per acre in undisturbed landscapes to more than 10 tons per acre in disturbed areas.
Along our coastlines, wetlands form a natural bulwark against the impacts of hurricanes, reducing the height of storm surges by as much as one foot for every 2.7 miles of emergent marsh buffering the coast.
I have often said that it's the wetlands that protect the levees, and the levees that protect the people. This is borne out during every major storm. And, of course, wetlands serve as nature's "water bank," replenishing aquifers and providing a constant supply of drinking water for all of humanity. According to a recent report, nature provides more than $500 billion in services to people each year through these and many other important ecological functions.
For watefowl and many other species, wetlands are the foundation of life. Often seasonally flooded, wetlands are rich in organic matter that supports the food chain in which all living things are connected.
When detritus in the form of dead vegetation is inundated by flooding, melting snow or spring rainfall, wetlands literally explode with life. Microbes begin to break down the plant matter, invertebrates feed on the microbes, and ducks, fish and other wildlife feed on the invertebrates. These wetlands are also an essential water source for upland wildlife, as all living things need water. And let's not forget that we, as Homo sapiens
, have come to realize how much we depend on wetlands and other natural habitats fo replenishment of the soul.
The Farm Bill and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
are up for renewal in Congress this year. We are also fighting to increase our investment in wetlands conservation by raising the price of the federal duck stampl. Conservation is indeed at a crossroads. NAWCA, the Farm Bill, and the duck stamp are key parts of our commitment to conserving wetlands and grasslands for present and future generations. These are our values. This is our time capsule to future generations. We will not fail.