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Report: Nature Could Be Key to Protection from Natural Disasters

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Monday, June 8, 2020   

SEATTLE -- A new report outlines how the best protections from natural disasters could come from nature itself.

The report, "The Protective Value of Nature" from The National Wildlife Federation and Allied World Assurance Company Holdings, evaluates natural systems such as wetlands and forests, and their ability to reduce damage from disasters like floods, wildfires and hurricanes.

"Natural infrastructure can actually provide significant protection to communities from natural hazards and it's often just as -- if not more -- effective than traditional structural infrastructure in reducing risk," says Jessie Ritter, director of water resources and coastal policy for The National Wildlife Federation

Ritter says natural infrastructure is more cost effective than built infrastructure, which often requires ongoing maintenance. She also notes that nature systems can improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitats.

Ritter cites an effort in Washington that helped the Puyallup River flow more naturally in order to reduce flood risk.

"There's one example in Washington state where we saw a project that reconnected side channels to a river and moved 1.5 miles of levees further away from that river dramatically reduced the flood risk to the nearby city of Orting, Washington," she relates.

The report also details alternatives to suppression for managing wildfires. That includes fuel reduction work, prescribed burns and helping communities live with fire.

Ritter says more needs to be done to protect natural defenses. She also hopes this approach is mainstreamed and believes more projects on the ground will bolster the case for them.

"The more data we can generate and collect, the better we're going to become at strategically designing these projects to maximize both the risk reduction benefits and all of the other benefits they can provide to communities," she states.

Disclosure: The National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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