Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Are wetlands worth it?

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Rochester: Are wetlands worth it?
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Is it a good use of taxpayer dollars to fund wetland restoration projects around New York? Terry Ettinger offers an in-depth look.

“Wetland restoration projects are typically in places where wetlands were drained or tiled or otherwise modified. Usually removed because of agricultural practices in the 1980s or before,” said Tom Langen, a b iology professor at Clarkson University.

“The state and the government are putting money into restoring these wetlands and you wonder whether or not it’s worthwhile so we need to know whether or not tax money has been spent properly,” said Michael Twiss, another biology professor. “With this project we’ll be able to determine whether with respect to water quality the money has been spent properly.”

A team of scientists from Clarkson University will assess 50 wetland restoration projects.

“We’re going to look at water quality. How clean is the water? What the wetlands are doing to clean the water. We’re going to look at the hydrology. Hydrology is how the water flows, how it fluctuates, where it goes and so that’s a really important feature of the wetlands,” Langen said.

They’ll look at how well wetlands help with flooding, provide habitat for wildlife and promote biodiversity. Plus, they’re also look at the social aspect.

Why do landowners choose to participate in these programs? What do they think after having participated? What do they think they got out of it? Why do they value the wetlands, or not value it?” Langen said.

“The literature is mixed on wetlands and some of that depends on whether wetlands are in urban or rural areas,” said Martin Heintzekman, an economics and financial studies professor at Clarkson University. “In rural areas they are often less valued than in urban areas where they are seen as an open space, which is relatively scarce in urban areas.”

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