Kansas Wildlife Federation

Preserving and Restoring Kansas Wetlands

The Need
Forty years ago, most people assumed that wetlands were unhealthy and a waste of real estate. Now that we've lost most of our nation's original wetland areas, we've found out the hard way how valuable they are. Wetlands recharge aquifers, filter pollution, help regulate the flow of rivers, and provide an incredibly bountiful source of food for birds and fish.

But reports assembled by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports show that at least half of our state's wetlands are compromised and unable to support the uses we need. Additionally, water quality laws that would protect these wetlands are consistently resisted and placed under attack. Small wetlands - the areas that are the most biologically productive - are being filled in and plowed under throughout the state.

Our state's best wetland areas - Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge - are multi-million dollar contributors to the state's economy, and they're two of the most important stops in the Central Flyway. But if Kansas doesn't start doing a better job of protecting its wetland areas, we may lose these and many, many other treasures of our natural heritage.

The Solution
We not only need to speak up for wetlands, we need lots of other people to. To make this happen, the Kansas Wildlife Federation is starting an innovative campaign designed to tie citizen outreach, advocacy and environmental education into one package. We will not only be walking the halls of Topeka to see that government regulations are both meaningful and enforced, and not only just organizing people to speak out for wetlands, we'll also be introducing people to wetlands with adult environmental education, and partnering with other Kansas organizations to help.

Gifts to our Wetlands Protection campaign will help KWF train and recruit volunteer teachers who can talk to others about wetlands, to pay the staff time needed to present testimony and work on regulations, and our work to show land management officials and farmers how wetlands benefit everyone, and how healthy wetlands mean a healthy economy.

Swimmable and Fishable Kansas Rivers

The Need
Our state's rivers are in big trouble, and because most of our stream miles are not accessible to the public, the damage unfortunately stays hidden from view. Even the cleanest of Kansas streams, during certain times of the year, can have e. coli concentrations that would make them unfit for drinking or contact. Additionally, recent legislative action removed protections from approximately 60% of Kansas rivers and streams.

The contamination is caused by a number of pollutants, most of them "non-point" sources, which means that they don't come from any one particular waste water pipe. Cow feces, nitrogen, pesticides, and waste oil from roads are just a few of the pollutants that are trashing the water.

The practical upshot is this: Kansas rivers are, for the most part, unsafe for fishing or swimming. Both the KDHE and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been slow to respond to this unpleasant reality. Changing this situation and bringing our state up to the standards of the Clean Water Act will not only require watch-dogging government, it will mean that anglers and boaters will have to get involved.

The Solution
The first part of getting our rivers cleaned up is to get people to have a stake in those rivers, and that means fighting to end legislation that inhibits the development of public access points. Additionally, we'll need to harness public interest and focus the limelight on the agencies that are supposed to be protecting our waters, and make sure they're up to the job.

This campaign will be time and labor-intensive, requiring both aggressive citizen organizing, constant presence at public hearings and an immense amount of research and gathering of technical data. Contributions to our Swimmable and Fishable Rivers Campaign will help us hire a full-time water campaigner.

© 2004 Kansas Wildlife Federation, all rights reserved.
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