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The issue of wetland conservation and policy has long been an issue of controversy among interest groups and industry. When observing the number of endangered or threatened species that inhabit wetlands it is apparent that there is a pressing need to conserve them, especially when the leading cause of species loss is habitat destruction (Nowlan and Jeffries, 1996). There is currently in place a system of policies and laws which culminate to create a relatively effective means of enforcement, however, through the lack of a single Act which pertains to wetlands there continues to be inadequacies within the system. Though the federal government has released the Federal Policy on Wetland Conservation it is not admissible in court and therefore only stands as recommendations by which the government would like the public to abide.
The vastly different types of wetlands located through out B.C. create many difficulties in the creation of a single policy, however, if there was a broad based Act which was committed to the current federal policy of "no net loss of wetlands" it would eliminate the need for overlapping laws at the three levels of government.
What Designates an Area as a Wetland
A wetland can be described in many ways, most of which provide a great deal of vagueness in the distinction between the different classifications as these areas frequently fit into more than one grouping within a very small space. There are basic traits which all wetlands share, in that they are any land which is covered in less than six meters of water at low tide (if tidal) for all or part of the year (Zoltai, 1988), this description includes freshwater wetlands such as shallow ponds, marshes, peat bogs, swamps and fens, as well as saltwater wetlands such as tidal flats, saltwater marshes, eelgrass beds, estuaries and deltas (Nowlan and Jeffries, 1996). With such a broad range of fertile lands included in this description it is no surprise that they maintain such a high level of biodiversity.
This description is however the most basic possible, in that it only allows for a general identification of wetlands, rather than classifying them by type or by the systems to which they are a part of. Nowlan and Jeffries (1996) group wetlands into five categories in accordance with their parent systems: Marine, non-estuary saltwater wetlands; Estuarine, wetlands around the mouth of a river; Lacustrine, wetlands connected to lakes; Riverine, wetlands connected to rivers; Palustrine, marshy wetlands. This method if classification is most effective when viewing wetlands from a policy perspective as it allows for them to be classified as distinctly as possible. Zoltai, in Wetlands of Canada (1988) uses over sixty very specific descriptions for the different types of wetlands in Canada, the problem with this being that the traits of wetlands may change from season to season and within small geographic areas. There is a consensus that the coastal wetlands of the Pacific are of the greatest ecological significance in the field of biodiversity; as they never freeze and are therefore able to provide year round habitat for fish and wildlife (Nowlan and Jeffries, 1996).
Wetlands have an anthropocentric value which has long been looked over in the development of society, in that they have traditionally been though of as barren wastelands which have no value to humans and therefore have been used as dumping grounds (Schiller and Flanagan, 1997). This "pioneer mentality" has lead to the paradigm that wetlands are only impeding urban development and that they are indeed useless because they have no immediate or apparent cash value. The truth however, is quite the contrary.
Clean water, which is essential to all life, when extracted for consumption by cities and towns, can be attributed to wetlands (Schiller and Flanagan, 1997). Through natural breakdown and retention of toxins in effluents, wetlands are able to filter solid wastes as well as industrial wastes containing heavy metals; ensuring that they do not harm human populations or other ecosystems. In low-lying areas that are prone to flooding wetlands play a crucial role in ensuring that civilizations are not destroyed, by acting as a sponge, wetlands are able to absorb large amounts of water and slowly release it into the water table, therefore averting any ill effects that may be caused by heavy rains or spring thawing. This is a cost effective alternative to the commonly used system of dykes and levies, which is expensive and labor intensive. If managed effectively and in an integrated manner wetlands can provide many natural products such as fish, timber and fur that can add revenue and create jobs in a local economy. The preservation of wetlands near densely populated areas creates opportunities for outdoor recreation that citizens may not otherwise be exposed to, creating intrinsic social values which p
Quotes talked about in this paper
Names mentioned in this research paper
Jeffries, Nowlan, Schiller, Zoltai, Flanagan, S. Flanagan.,
Organizations talked about in this essay
Canadian government, Federal Policy, Responsible Authority, Federal Acts, Ministry of Environment, CEAA, Department of Fisheries, National Wildlife Areas, Coast Guard, Ministry of Forests,
Locations included in this report
B.C., the problem, Pacific, West Coast, British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver., Montreal., S.C.,
Keywords mentioned in this report
wetlands, the act, legislation, project, wetland conservation, habitat, policy, no net loss, assessment, interest group, federal government, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Environmental Assessment, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Columbia Wetlands, endangered species, fish, due diligence, Fisheries, Crown land, environmental impact assessment, section 35, park, habitat loss, British Columbia, wildlife, species loss, Provincial legislation, local governments, provincial park, public interest, pollution, tools, waste, public hearing, cost effective, habitat destruction, Section 41, section 26, effective action, Schiller, wildlife habitat, manager, CEAA, point source pollution, Municipal, Clean water, wilderness areas, water table, Crown corporations,