Celebrate Nebraska Wetlands During American Wetlands Month
Friday, May 19, 2023
May is American Wetlands Month, and Nebraska has bragging rights when it comes to wetlands. None of the surrounding states have comparable amounts of wetlands.
This is in large part because of the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which supports over a million acres of wetlands in the Nebraska Sandhills.
The Environmental Protection Agency calls wetlands "biological supermarkets" because of the diversity of plants and animals they attract. These areas also reduce flooding and help moderate climate change by storing carbon.
Ted LaGrange, wetland program manager for Nebraska Game and Parks, said three factors are necessary to be considered wetlands.
"The presence of plants that are adapted to growing in wet conditions, and soils that take on certain characteristics when they're wet," said LaGrange. "And the third factor is what we call hydrology, or the presence of water, which doesn't have to be there all of the time."
LaGrange said another huge contribution of wetlands is their ability to improve water quality. He explained that when water polluted with city or farm runoff passes through a wetland, the impact of some of the worst chemicals is reduced.
LaGrange said wetlands are one of the best places to remove nitrates that have been a problem in Nebraska waters.
LaGrange added that a variety of Nebraska waterways benefit when water spends time in a wetland.
"Water that's leaving the wetland," said LaGrange, "into either the groundwater - because these wetlands are important for recharging groundwater that we rely on, or that pass into maybe an adjacent river or stream or lake - is of higher quality after it goes through the wetland."
And he pointed out that many private landowners create and/or conserve wetlands.
New offerings this year at Nebraskawetlands.com include resources for children and five feature films produced by Platte Basin Time-Lapse, 'Wetlands of Nebraska: An Outreach and Education Project.'
LaGrange said they're worth a look.
"The quality of their videography and the stories, the characters they interview," said LaGrange, "will take people to places that they don't get to see, and explore some stories about wetlands in Nebraska that are really amazing."
He encouraged anyone interested in creating, restoring or managing a wetland to contact Nebraska Game and Parks for information about funding sources.
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