- Wetlands help control flooding. They act as a giant sponge, soaking up excess water during storms, slowing flood waters, and reducing the risk of injury, death, and property damage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, just one acre of wetland can store 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater, making wetlands the most cost-effective stormwater management infrastructure there is.
- Wetlands supply and purify water, including drinking water. They store excess water, some of which soaks in and recharges our groundwater. Wetlands absorb nutrients, filter sediments, and trap pollutants in surface water before it reaches the aquifer.
- Wetlands provide critically important habitat for a vast variety of wildlife, including one-third of threatened and endangered species. In Indiana alone, 79 species of greatest conservation need are found in wetland habitats, including the Crawfish Frog, Spotted Turtle, Sandhill Crane, and Swamp Rabbit. Many species of fish, waterfowl, mammals, and reptiles rely on wetlands for food and for nesting, spawning, or migration.
- Wetland plants stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion. Underground, their roots hold the soil in place. Above ground, the plants absorb wave energy, shielding shorelines from wave action caused by boats and other pleasure craft.
- Wetlands offer valuable opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, and birdwatching. For example, wetlands are part of the life cycle for 90% of recreationally caught fish, and half of North American birds rely on wetlands for nesting. Aside from enhancing human quality of life, outdoor activities contribute to the economy, with participants spending billions of dollars each year on equipment and trips.
Wetlands are worth fighting for.
The DNR has estimated that prior to European settlement, 24% of Indiana (5.6 million acres) was covered in wetlands. As of today, Indiana has lost 85% of its original wetlands, many of which were drained to make way for farms and towns. 10-20% of our remaining wetlands are federally protected under the Clean Waters Act. Others are currently protected by Indiana’s 2003 Isolated Wetlands Law.
On February 1, 2021, the Indiana Senate passed SB 389, a bill that would repeal the Isolated Wetlands Law, eliminating state protection of 80% of wetlands in Indiana. The bill, which will soon become HB 389, now goes to the Indiana House of Representatives.
Indiana’s few remaining wetlands are crucial to our environment and economy and must be protected.
Stay tuned for actions you can take to support clean water, flood control, and wildlife habitat as this bill moves forward.