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GLIN==> [fws-news] Ecological Importance of Geographically Isolated WetlandsDescribed in New Report

----- Forwarded by Rich Greenwood/R3/FWS/DOI on 06/12/02 09:31 PM -----

June 11, 2002
Mitchell Snow 202-219-9807


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report today on the ecology
and extent of geographically isolated wetlands of the United States.  The
report is the first in a planned series of ecological reports, with maps,
about important types of wetlands.

"People increasingly realize how important geographically isolated wetlands
in their areas are to wildlife conservation and a healthy environment,"
said Steve Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  "The
Prairie Pothole region, known as America's duck factory, represents only
one of many different landscapes nationwide that provide invaluable
wildlife habitat in their isolated wetlands.  The report we are issuing
today provides a solid introduction to the basic ecology and geography of
these irreplaceable resources."

"In desert areas, isolated wetlands provide vital fresh water oases for
wildlife and function as stepping stones for migrating birds.  Their
isolation has promoted the evolution of unique plant and animal life that
is specially adapted to these habitats," Williams explained.  "Isolated
wetlands are also vital for human well being.  Many of them contribute
important subsurface water flows to other wetlands and streams.  In areas
like the Prairie Pothole region, these wetlands also store rainwater, which
reduces flooding and recharges groundwater supplies, in addition to
providing habitat for wildlife."

Isolated wetlands, which the report defines are "wetlands with no apparent
surface water connection to perennial rivers and streams, estuaries, or the
ocean," have no surface water outlet.  Because they are completely
surrounded by uplands, they are vulnerable to changes in surrounding land
use practices.

The report describes 19 types of isolated wetlands, such as the Nebraska
Sandhills wetlands, Delmarva potholes, and Carolina Bay wetlands, and
provides ecological profiles of their fish and wildlife conservation
values.  A series of computer-generated maps in the report depict the
potential extent of geographically isolated wetlands in each of 72 selected
study areas, designed to provide a cross-section of national conditions.
The report indicates that geographically isolated wetlands appeared to be
most extensive and abundant in subhumid to arid regions of the country
where precipitation averages less than 24 inches a year, and in Florida's
karst topography.  More than half of the identified wetland acreage in
eight of the 72 study areas - located in Nevada, Washington, Texas,
Indiana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska - was designated as isolated.

The report does not address the regulation of isolated wetlands and the
maps do not depict isolated wetlands for jurisdictional purposes.

The report and maps are available on the Internet at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people.  The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of
small wetlands and other special management areas.  It also operates 70
national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and
hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                  - FWS -

      For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
                 visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

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