All posts by Kim Matthews

2022 Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas

The Carolina Wetlands Association joins wetlands enthusiasts all over the country to raise public awareness about the beauty and importance of the nation’s wetlands during May – American Wetlands Month.  The designation of Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas indicates wetlands that are ecologically valuable, protected by conservation plans, and home to an abundance of plant and animal diversity.  All our Wetland Treasures provide many ecosystem services to the benefit of human wellbeing such as water quality, flood control, habitat, recreation, and a host of other services.

Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge

Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge

Location:  Bertie County, NC 
Wetland Type:  Protected forested wetlands consisting of bottomland hardwoods and swamps 
Site Owner: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Unique Feature: Home to over 200 species of birds, including 88 breeding resident species and a diversity of fish species, including the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), all connected to each other through the shallow water tables and refuge flooding frequency.

Theodore Roosevelt State Natural Area

Location:  Carteret County, NC 
Wetland Type:  brackish salt marsh, freshwater pond, tidal flat  
Site Owner: North Carolina State Parks
Unique Feature: This 292-acre preserve is one of the few remaining tracts of old-growth maritime forests along the North Carolina coast. Its hiking trails feature views of Bogue Sound, maritime forest, salt marsh and an ancient dune ridge. 

Wambaw Swamp Wilderness

Location:  Charleston County, SC 
Wetland Type:  river-bottom land of hardwoods & sloughs   
Site Owner: U.S. Forest Service
Unique Feature: Thick with wild orchids, pickerel weed, sedges, carnivorous pitcher plants, and epiphytes. The wilderness is comprised of bottomland hardwood forest and is edged with small pine stands. Also, home to mature cypress and tupelo trees.

West Branch Nature Preserve

Location:  Mecklenburg County, NC 
Wetland Type:  river floodplain (due to beaver activity)   
Site Owner: Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation 
Unique Feature: Possibly the most ecologically important wetland in the county. Rich plant diversity with 114 species identified. Habitat to numerous species of salamanders, frogs, toads and turtles. Home to beavers, birds, as well as the eastern ribbon snake.  

May Message from the Executive Director

Greetings Wetland Supporters!

Well, it is American Wetlands Month and our Wetland Treasures have been announced.  They are beautiful sites providing many benefits to biodiversity and contributing to human well-being.  Some of the tour dates are still being determined so be sure to watch our web page and facebook page for those dates.  You will not want to miss these tours.

As I look over the years, I have dealt with the study of wetlands and how to best protect them. I was reflecting on how I got interested  in wetlands in the first place.  While I cannot put my finger on exactly when or how old I was, I just remember that during my exploration of the woods as a boy, wherever I came upon a bottomland or stepped into the soggy soil, I became fascinated about not only why there was the soil was soggy soil, but why was it even there and what was its significance.  In those days I did know anyone who could answer my  questions, so I continued to wonder.  

As I progressed through life’s journey, I learned about wetlands as an ecosystem through my general science classes.  The emphasis was on food webs and how organisms interact with their environment; all important and interesting information, but what is special about  wetland?  As my life journey progressed, I did learn that wetlands are really important, but still, there was a real lack of emphasis in the textbooks on ecology about wetlands. I was starting to get this impression that wetlands were considered by the “experts” as the “redheaded stepchild” of aquatic ecosystems.  Even when I was doing wetlands monitoring research for North Carolina, it seemed that my research colleagues and I were pretty much in a world of our own, stomping around in wetlands.  Even the USEPA, who paid us to do this research, had wetlands as the last ecosystem to be surveyed when they were doing their national assessment of the nation’s waters ( i.e., steams, rivers, lakes, estuaries all came first).

Along the way, I realized that people had a basic fear of wetlands that has  a lot to do with our language and history.  Wetlands (e.g., marshes, bogs, swamps) were always seen as dark, dangerous places that held unpleasant mysteries.  So, they were drained to reduce this fear, to improve transportation and to be used for agriculture.  And our everyday language does not help.  How many times have you said I am so “swamped” or I got “bogged” down, all negative connotations?  And what is really meant by the expression “drain the swamp”?   What about the “Swamp Thing” comic book and movie creature who lived in that horrible swamp?

I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  Our language and cultural history have created this negative image of wetlands and it is something that we still must overcome, even within professional realms.  So, let’s be cognizant of this during American Wetlands Month and help us break these stereotypes and educate people about the importance of wetlands.

So go explore a Wetland Treasure!

Rick

Wetland Solutions = People Solutions

Greeting Wetlands Supporters:

We started our second funded project on January 26  with a virtual kickoff meeting of our Stony Run watershed project located in Harnett County, NC.  We have three excellent partners, Wetlands Solutions LLC, Skeo Solutions Inc, and Harnett County Soil and Water Conservation District, to help with this project which is being funded by the NC Land and Water Fund.  The purpose of this project is to develop a restoration plan for a 2-mile section of the Stony Run watershed after we conduct ecological and hydrological assessments.  Flooding has been a problem in this section of the watershed due to development, a fragile dam, and more frequent and intense rains.  The restoration plan will address the flooding concerns.  We are also going to involve the community to get their input regarding the plan as it is developed.  Other potential benefits include improved stream flow, enhanced habitat, improved water quality, and higher economic value for the community.  We are working on the development of a wetlands park and trail system that we hope will connect diverse communities.

This is the first of potentially several projects in NC and SC that will emphasize working with communities to help mitigate flooding by utilizing their wetland resources.  This led me to use the term “wetland solutions are people solutions” in a meeting recently and it rang loud with me.  I really felt this was such a true statement that I have used it several times.

So, what do I mean by “wetland solutions are people solutions”?  Clearly wetlands provide many ecosystem services that benefit people and wildlife.  Many of our wetlands are impaired and therefore are not providing these services to their full potential.  Many communities are experiencing more flooding due to the increased frequency of storms and intense rainfall.  Given that wetlands are often impaired and, in some cases, severely impacted, flood risks are increased.  The solutions to these impaired wetlands are restoration, enhancement, and in some cases, creation.  To look towards the future, wetland and floodplain preservation is critical.  

When we repair these wetlands with restoration/enhancement, we uplift wetlands’ functionality to provide the flood protection, flood mitigation, and often many other ecosystem services.  When we restore/enhance wetlands for the specific purpose of aiding a community, such as mitigating flooding, then the wetland solution is a human solution.  Therefore, when we implement wetland solutions they are often for human solutions, for the betterment of quality of life by uplifting ecosystem services.

So, remember this, “wetland solutions are human solutions” and share this knowledge with your friends and family.

Go out, explore a wetland, and think about how these ecosystems benefit communities.

Rick Savage

February 2 is World Wetlands Day

Join the Carolina Wetlands Association and other wetland lovers across the globe in celebrating World Wetlands Day. This year’s theme is Wetlands: Action for People and Nature. At our recent meeting, we asked our Board of Directors to describe how wetlands benefit us living in North and South Carolina. The following image is the result of their responses.

Wetlands: Actions for Natura and People

As you can see, there are many benefits that wetlands provide people and nature. Did you know that North Carolina and South Carolina are ranked in the top 5 states in the USA with the greatest amount of wetlands. These wetlands are important to our way of life throughout the Carolinas.  

Please share awareness of this important day by liking and/or sharing our social media posts, sharing our emails with friends and colleagues, or supporting us through your time or resources.


Wetlands can help reduce impacts from flooding

Wetlands help prevent floods by giving floodwater a place to go and releasing it slowly.

 

Worldwide, they also moderate global climatic conditions by storing large amounts of carbon and water.

 

water supply

Wetlands help water return to underground aquifers and reservoirs, which are often tapped for human use.

Resources on Wetlands and Flooding

What is World Wetlands Day?

World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on 2 February to raise awareness about wetlands. This day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on Wetlands, which was adopted as an international treaty in 1971. 

Why World Wetlands Day?

Nearly 90% of the world’s wetlands have been degraded since the 1700s, and we are losing wetlands three times faster than forests. Yet, wetlands are critically important ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation, freshwater availability, world economies and more.

It is urgent that we raise national and global awareness about wetlands in order to reverse their rapid loss and encourage actions to conserve and restore them.

World Wetlands Day is the ideal time to increase people’s understanding of these critically important ecosystems.

Theme World Wetlands Day 2022

Wetlands Action for People and Nature is the theme in 2022 highlighting the importance of actions to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands for humans and planetary health.

Go to www.worldwetlandsday.org for more information. 

Annual Giving Campaign

November 15. The Carolina Wetlands Association’s annual Giving Campaign starts today!  This is the one time of year we ask for your donations to support our mission of promoting the understanding, protection, restoration, and enjoyment of North and South Carolina’s wetlands.

To show our gratitude for your support, you will receive a 2022 wall calendar featuring photos from our most recent Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas and includes a list of recreational opportunities at each site.  While supplies last, anyone who donates $25 or more will receive the calendar. 

We rely on your generosity to support our all-volunteer organization to provide resources to support our mission. We have been successful over the past few years in creating a Wetlands Treasures Program, giving presentations and workshops about wetlands, and sponsoring events to promote the benefit of natural and restored wetlands across North and South Carolina.

Your donations are critical to provide the operational funding we need to implement the Strategy Plan and administer our two grant-funded projects: Volunteer Wetland Monitoring Program and Stoney Creek Watershed Assessment Project.

Our annual Giving Campaign is occurring now through December 15. We are asking you to reaffirm your commitment and support for wetlands through a donation to the Carolina Wetlands Association.

Donate today to support wetlands

  1. Online via PayPal Giving Fund
    All donations are tax deductible and can be made online through PayPal Giving Fund. Please make sure the include your name and mailing address so you can receive your calendar. Note: we will not use or sell you address for other purposes.
  2. Send a Check through the Mail
    Make your checks payable to: Carolina Wetlands Association

Mail donation to:
Carolina Wetlands Association
Attn: Giving Campaign
PO Box 33592
Raleigh, NC 27636

Become a Sponsor

We are offering a sponsorship for businesses and organizations who want to show their support our mission. Sponsors will be recognized on our website, newsletter, and at events. The minimum donation is $500. More information is available on our Sponsorship page.

CarWA a 501(c)3 organization. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. EIN # 47-4312834

Message from the Executive Director

Hello Wetland Supporters,

On October 18, 2021, the Board of Directors of the Carolina Wetlands Association held a special meeting to discuss hiring an Executive Director for the Association.  Ultimately, the Board  unanimously approved to hire an Executive Director, effective November 15.  That position was given the me, Rick Savage, the former President of the Board.

I am truly honored to be the first Executive Director of the Carolina Wetlands Association and look forward to advancing its mission and making the Association more sustainable and stronger. I will always rely on the guidance of the Board and the Executive Committee and will keep all in step with the progress we make.

This is a critical next step for the Association as it gives us more credibility, a stronger standing with other organizations and potential funders.  It also allows me to work with our many volunteers.  I will hold regular staff meetings and make sure everyone is working on what they are interested in and that we have the overall mission and goals of the Association in mind as we progress.  

Currently, we have two grants and I feel that these grants are just the first of many that will open doors to more opportunities to volunteer and work for Carolina Wetlands Association.  I will be focusing on the successful implementation on these projects and working to build relationships that will lead to other funding opportunities. 

This is an exciting time for the Association, and I hope you all look forward to these times as I do.  We need to grow the organization and groom our new leaders so that the Association will be in good hands for years to come.

If you are not currently volunteering or want to do more, please let me or Rachel Massa (our Volunteer Coordinator) know and we will work with you.

SO much thanks to you all- go explore a wetland and consider nominating a wetland to be one of our next Wetland Treasures for 2022.

Rick Savage
Executive Director
rick.savage@carolinawetlands.org

October: WOTUS Update

Dear Wetland Supporters,

For those of us who love wetlands, there is no term that has more significance legally than “waters of the United States.” If a wetland is a water of the United States, it is protected by the Clean Water Act; if not, then it is left unprotected by federal law. The last several years have been challenging for wetland supporters because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers stripped away the protections provided by the Clean Water Act from most of the wetlands in the Carolinas. In June 2020, the agencies finalized those efforts by redefining wetlands out of waters of the United States—leaving states to decide whether or not to protect wetlands and the multitude of benefits they provide.

Wetlands in the Carolinas were particularly vulnerable under the 2020 definition. Pocosins, seeps, non-riverine swamps, hardwood flats, pine savannas, pine flats, floodplain pools, and headwater forest wetlands were vulnerable for the first time in decades because the definition required a surface water connection to a stream or river for a wetland to be considered a water of the United States. In North and South Carolina, millions of acres of wetlands likely lost federal protection under the 2020 regulation.  

 Fortunately, the 2020 definition has been revoked. In two lawsuits filed by Native American tribes in the Southwest, federal judges determined that the 2020 definition of waters of the United States was causing significant harm to wetlands and streams across the country and that the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider the consequences of the regulation on the streams and rivers at the heart of the Clean Water Act. In Arizona, the court found that the 2020 definition had “fundamental, substantive flaws that cannot be cured” without significant changes. Next door, in New Mexico, the court found that the rule resulted in “a very real possibility of serious environmental harm.” Both courts sent the definition back to the agencies for reconsideration and vacated the regulation, leaving in place the set of regulations that preceded the 2020 definition.

The court decisions throwing out the 2020 regulation are not the final chapter. The current EPA has announced a plan to improve on the existing protections by clarifying the reach of the Clean Water Act by proposing and finalizing a new definition before the end of President Biden’s first term.  For more information, visit SELC’s page

When that process starts, it will be vital for wetland supporters to let the EPA know that wetlands matter. Carolina Wetlands Association will keep you updated on how you can make your voice heard.  

Geoff Gisler, Board of Directors

Written by: 

Geoff Gisler, Carolina Wetlands Association Board Member and lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center

September Message from the Board

Dear Wetland Supporters,

In July, the National Mitigation and Ecosystem Banking Conference was held in Raleigh, NC.  This conference brings together numerous companies and individuals interested in ecosystem services and allows a platform to share ideas and explore opportunities.  The various attendees ranged from Departments of Transportation, federal and state regulatory and resource agencies, attorneys, contractors, consultants, practitioners, and capital providers. 

A lot of interest has been generated in the last few years with ongoing concerns around climate change, nature-based solutions, and resiliency.  A lot of money is being spent to pursue larger and more complex projects as carbon sequestration needs and water quality/quantity issues continue to rise.  We only need to look at the recent algal blooms on the Chowan and Pamlico River (NC), flooding and water quality issues in northern Pitt County (NC) and flooding issues in Bucksport area of Horry County (SC) as examples of the issues communities across the Carolinas are battling. 

Most of these issues developed over time as we continue to increase the amount of impervious surface, clear and drained wetlands, and build in floodplains. Solutions will require a holistic and multiple project approach that will take time and money to plan and implement.  Restored and natural wetlands are a vital part of holistic, watershed-based solutions by helping to improve water quality and attenuate flood waters. 

As demonstrated at the national mitigation conference, the science of wetlands continues to evolve.  We are continually improving how wetland restoration projects are implemented to ensure the development of functioning ecosystems and to better track the restoration progress. 

In the last thirty years of driving toward the Carolina coast, I have witnessed shifts in wetland systems due to beaver activity and saltwater intrusion.  These changes to wetland hydrology whether water quantity or water chemistry have changed these ecosystems.  Learning to implement holistic projects will help enhance the environment and protect communities with nature-based solutions.  As this evolution happens, a whole industry continues to grow around mitigation and ecosystem services and the push for alternative ways to lessen the impact of climate change and build resilient system to withstand the future.

Go explore a wetland!

Norton Webster, Treasurer

Carolina Wetlands Association

Meet our Volunteer Coordinator

Carolina Wetlands Association is proud to introduce our newest staff member of the organization. Patty Cervenka is joining the team to serve as the Volunteer Coordinator for our new Wetland Monitoring Program. Here, she will aid in recruiting and working with volunteers for the program. Once dates are set up to visit the wetlands, Patty will help teach volunteers to collect and analyze data for further use. 

Patty grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and attended San Jose State University. She is a long-time community volunteer, serving on the Town of Cary’s Environmental Advisory Board, creating a NC Green Business Directory, and is trained as a Climate Reality Leader. Having a passion for educating about waste reduction, she is also the founder of Greenish Neighbor, a community- focused environmental organization.  

Now working with Carolina Wetlands Association, Patty is excited to embark on a program that will bring together people with diverse backgrounds to participate in hands-on scientific discovery. She hopes that the program will enhance people’s appreciation for the water quality, flood protection, and biodiversity wetlands provide. 

Patty is mostly looking forward to working with the team at Carolina Wetlands Association, RTI International, and NC State University. She states that they have put together a solid plan for collecting and analyzing data and well as creating a tremendous education opportunity for citizens.  

We’re excited about Patty joining the organization and can’t wait to explore what’s in store outside in the field with her! 

Intern Update: MarineQuest Experience

Written by Emma Nani, Carolina Wetlands Association Intern

The University of North Carolina Wilmington hosts several summer camps for various ages through their program MarineQuest. This summer, I had the opportunity to apply and attend their two-week Ocean Career Exploration and Nautical Science (OCEANS) camp. Throughout my time at OCEANS, I felt as if I got a head start into my desired degree in marine science. The other campers and I were able to experience real field work scientists would be performing routinely while meeting professors, touring their labs, and exploring marine ecosystems.

Group of students sitting on steps outside a brick building.
OCEANS 2021 students.

The core focus of OCEANS is for students to experience all aspects of marine science: biology, technology, biotechnology, geology, and chemistry– in preparation for going into a marine science career. Every activity we did related to one of these fields of marine science. Some activities we did were more scientific, like testing local and foreign sponges for antibiotic properties or measuring the accuracy of fish DNA by using gel electrophoresis. We also were able to perform several animal dissections and examine phytoplankton caught in the Intercoastal Waterway. Other activities were focused on letting us explore the local community, like experiencing oceanography by boogie boarding on Wrightsville Beach and kayaking to an island searching for mineralized shark teeth. We even took a research vessel out into the open ocean to measure characteristics of the water and performing a trawl. Regardless of the activity, I gained knowledge and interest in all areas.

 

Located near Fort Fisher, Coquina Rock is the only natural rocky outcrop in North Carolina. Here we saw sea anemones and a sea urchin hidden among the rocks.

In the mornings, we traveled via bus to an outdoor site where we either ran experiments, simulations, or viewed wildlife. We traveled to a marsh, the Cape Fear River, the open ocean, and several other places. During the afternoon’s we traveled to UNCW’s Center for Marine Science (CMS) which contains state-of-the-art equipment used by scientists, students, and startup businesses. We met professors and toured the harmful algae laboratory and watched them execute routine lab procedures. Research laboratories, a running seawater system, greenhouse, and a pier with research vehicles are just some of the highlighted features at the CMS.

While at OCEANS, I also got the chance to renourish the environment and give back to the community. As part of a volunteer program with UNCW graduate students, the other campers and I helped bag oyster shells to send to St. James Plantation. Later in the week, we traveled to Southport where we used rebar to secure the oyster bags into the bank of the sound. Additionally, we helped with planting marsh grass along the shoreline. Both efforts help prevent sediment erosion from boat traffic and wind waves. The oysters will also filter water and the marsh grass will serve as a nursery habitat for birds, crabs, and small fish. The project allowed us to connect with some of the residents of St. James and witness how the service would impact the land in their community.

Students along the shoreline.
Along the Cape Fear River, we learned how to seine and observed the organisms we found. We caught crabs, shrimp, fish and even a juvenile pufferfish.

Our instructors told us several times that they didn’t get the opportunity to do such activities until they were in their junior or senior year of college. After hearing this, the campers and I realized our great fortune to have this opportunity while still in high school.  Now that I’m back in Raleigh and getting ready to start my senior year of high school, I’m realizing just how much OCEANS was a great way to spend part of my summer learning about all the careers within marine science while meeting great people I’m sure to stay connected with in the future.

About the Author

Emma Nani

Emma is senior at Leesville Road High School (Raleigh, NC) and is part of the school newspaper and orchestra. Her college goal is to study Marine Biology or Environmental Science.