Today, Feb. 2, is World Wetlands Day and we’re celebrating how our work helps protect, conserve, and restore Washington’s wetlands.
Wetlands are land areas saturated or flooded with water, either permanently or seasonally. They provide many environmental benefits such as filtering pollutants and recharging drinking water aquifers, slowing down stormwater runoff during floods, stabilizing shorelines, and providing habitat for wildlife and fish including salmon.
Wetlands and climate
Wetlands are natural guardians against pollution and climate change. They capture and store more carbon than any other ecosystem on earth. Peat bogs, for example, store roughly 30% of land-based carbon, twice the amount of all the world’s forests. Wetlands safeguard 60% of humanity living along the world’s coastlines against storm surges, hurricanes, and tsunamis. An acre of wetland can also store up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater. Unfortunately, wetlands are at high risk from climate change which can severely impact many economically marginalized people.
Wetlands and water
Wetlands hold and provide most of our freshwater. They naturally filter pollutants, providing water we can safely drink. Unfortunately, we currently use more water than nature can replenish. Our water use has increased sixfold in 100 years and rises 1% annually. Unfortunately, less than 1% of freshwater is usable and almost all global freshwater sources are compromised. This exposes the world’s population to high levels of pollution in their water supply.
Wetlands and food
Wetlands have boosted the development of civilizations for thousands of years. They have provided people access to fish and other food as well as freshwater for crops and livestock. Unfortunately, unsustainable agricultural practices around the world are damaging and destroying wetlands.
Wetlands and livelihoods
Wetlands provide for more than 1 billion livelihoods across the world. There are more than 660 million people that depend on fishing and aquaculture for a living. There are almost 1 billion households in Asia, Africa and the Americas that rely on rice growing and processing for their main livelihoods. Wetlands also offer economic opportunities for indigenous populations including harvesting and processing:
- Medicinal plants
- Reeds and grasses
Ongoing wetland loss is driving a vicious cycle of declining biodiversity and deepening poverty.
Wetlands and culture
Wetlands are a cherished part of cultural and spiritual life. The wetland landscape reflects the close relationship between humans and wetlands over millennia. Water is known as the sustainer of life and inspired humankind’s creative and spiritual minds from the earliest times.
How we’re helping Washington’s wetlands
Over the last 30 years, we've been successful in receiving over $82 million in federal wetland conservation grants, allowing us to help conserve more than 16,000 acres of coastal wetlands. In 2024, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded us $5 million in new National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grants to fund five coastal wetland projects.
Elwha River Floodplain Acquisition and Restoration ($1 million)
This project is in partnership with Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the North Olympic Land Trust to acquire and restore critical coastal wetlands in the Elwha River watershed of Clallam County. The grant will fund the acquisition and permanent protection of 17 acres of land containing .3 miles of Elwha River mainstem, floodplain and associated buffers. We will also be restoring 37 acres of coastal wetlands and buffers along the mainstem, side channel, overflow channel and floodplain on and adjacent to the acquired land.
Trafton Floodplain Restoration ($1 million)
In partnership with the Stillaguamish Tribe, this grant will implement phase 1 of a restoration project to restore key ecological processes to riverine floodplain and freshwater wetland habitat along nearly two miles of the North Fork Stillaguamish River. This project will increase critically located wetland habitat for a diverse range of fish, birds, and other wildlife. Phase 1 will restore 7.5 acres of historic wetlands, control invasive species, plant 98 acres of native trees and shrubs to improve riparian forest condition and, improve floodplain habitat complexity through the excavation of side channels and installation of large woody debris across the entire site.
Carpenter Creek Estuary Acquisition ($1 million)
We’re working in collaboration with Great Peninsula Conservancy to acquire 50 acres of prime estuary habitat and riparian forest in the Carpenter Creek Estuary in Kitsap County. This project will acquire and permanently protect critical coastal wetland habitat.
Johnson Creek Estuary Acquisition ($1 million)
We’re working with the Great Peninsula Conservancy to acquire and permanently protect 13.1 acres of coastal wetland habitat and 530 feet of eastern Hood Canal shoreline in Kitsap County. The protection of this property will provide vital habitat for many species of fish, coastal dependent birds, migratory birds, and species listed as threatened or endangered on both a state and federal level.
Skookum Ranch Restoration ($1 million)
In collaboration with the Squaxin Island Tribe, this project will restore approximately 73 acres of coastal wetland habitat in Mason County, Washington. We will be restoring half a mile of mainstem Skookum Creek by placing the channel back into its historic alignment, restore streamside channels, remove a fish-blocking culvert that acts as a grade control structure to restore 48 acres of wetlands, and install over 70 large wood structures to provide aquatic habitat. The goal of this project is to restore the aquatic habitat lost when the property was converted to farming in the early 1900s.
How we can help restore wetlands
- Investing in the sustainable use of wetlands means investing in the future of humanity.
- Wetlands can provide cities and their residents with multiple economic, social, and cultural benefits that support human wellbeing.
- Wetland restoration in essential to overcoming the climate-biodiversity crisis and to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals for the benefit of all people.
How you can help restore wetlands
- Learn more about wetlands.
- Make water-friendly decisions, don’t dump waste or trash in wetlands.
- Volunteer with local environmental groups to remove invasive species and plant native species.
You can find even more ways to help at worldwetlandsday.org.
Stay tuned for future blog posts on recently completed wetlands restoration projects.