How You Can Save the Wetlands MAG

November 29, 2010
By Clay McMullen BRONZE, Chesterland, Ohio
Clay McMullen BRONZE, Chesterland, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Clean air. Clean water. Too many people take these for granted. What most of us don't realize is that without wetlands, we wouldn't have either.

Wetlands are called the sponge of the natural world, and for good reason. They absorb much of the pollution we produce. They filter out pollutants and slowly release clean water and oxygen back into the ecosystem. So, when I learned that Ohio had lost 90 percent of its wetlands in the past 200 years, I was appalled. How could we let such a precious resource slip away? How did we fail to realize this? Sadly, most just stood idly by or, in the name of progress, actively encouraged policies and practices that let Ohio's wetlands fall by the wayside.

In sixth grade I decided to act by starting the Wetlands Education Team (WET). I convinced friends to help, and we got to work. We started out small, trying to spread the message of conservation to friends. I am sure that many of them came to our meetings for the complimentary juice boxes and temporary bug tattoos, but most learned some basic facts about how to preserve wetlands. For example, vernal pools look like puddles and dry up during part of the year. They learned to tell their parents to protect these puddles, or at least to leave them alone. They learned that insects and animals live in them. Slowly but surely, WET grew into a viable educational resource and we felt we were having a positive impact.

We began more serious efforts when we joined the Ohio Division of Natural Resources to help bring back a very important bird species, the osprey. Ospreys are majestic birds of prey that feed on fish and nest in wetlands. When the WET initiative began, osprey were classified as endangered in Ohio. With help from our county park district, we applied for and received several grants to build osprey nesting platforms in two counties. Since their installation, the platforms have been used by several nesting pairs, and the osprey's designation has been downgraded from endangered to threatened.

Another major effort of our group is raising public awareness. Doing what you can personally to help is good, but gaining exposure for your cause can definitely maximize your efforts. To increase exposure for wetlands, we are working to make the spotted salamander Ohio's official state amphibian, since all children learn about these state symbols in school. Our goal is to have them learn about the spotted salamander and its wetland habitat as part of their education. We got our state senator to sponsor a bill and even went to the Statehouse to testify. We had students join us from other schools, as well as expert biologists who testified. I will continue with this effort until the bill is passed.

An important part of all of these efforts is getting young people to talk to their parents and other adults. We can have more impact than we realize. If you believe in something strongly, tell your parents and their friends. At first, they might listen because they are being polite, but you can influence them, especially if you do your research. Learn the facts. Tell your parents and other adults more than once. Remind them that the planet you inherit depends on their care. You can make a difference too!

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This article has 1 comment.

sambot said...
on Dec. 8 2011 at 6:53 pm
i thought what u were doign was great and had an awesome cause now that i read this maybe ill start something like WET

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