There’s only one water – and it includes wetlands

Those of us who advocate for lakes can fall prey to a kind of myopia, forgetting that times that all water is connected – lakes, rivers, wetlands, groundwater. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and so found it helpful to get a message lately from Christopher Noll, who worked for the Wisconsin DNR from 2011 to 2021 on wetland plant inventories, wetland restorations,   and wetland mapping. His message responded to an interview of about my “Ripple Effects” book that appeared on November 17 in the Wisconsin State Journal:

“I enjoyed reading your article in the WSJ today and wanted to thank you for speaking up for natural resources. I’d also like to ask you to consider keeping wetlands at the forefront of your discussions about lake water quality. While I haven’t had a chance to read your publications, I didn’t see mention of wetlands on your website or interview. But it’s critically important to consider that just about every drop of clean water that flows into a lake (assuming a lake has an inflow, of course) is filtered through the biology of a wetland.

“Where wetlands are damaged and destroyed, polluted water often finds a direct surface water conduit (usually a ditch or unbuffered stream) from an upland source directly into our surface waters. Wetland destruction and the effects it has on surface water quality is a huge issue in many parts of Wisconsin. Wetland restoration, if done in a way that mimics the wetlands that nature produced since the last ice age (that is, not further damaging wetlands via excavation or impoundment to produce artificial surface water), can be a key to healing the landscape by promoting clean water percolation into lakes, streams, and rivers. I think it’s safe to say that the way we protect and steward our wetlands is also a key to lake protection. I look forward to a day when the state lakes, rivers, and wetlands have a joint statewide convention that recognizes the interconnectedness of all these systems.”

I would say Noll’s vision for the state conference is something we can aspire to. The annual event is already called the Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers Convention. How hard would it be to add wetlands to the name? The picture that accompanies this post, courtesy of the Wisconsin DNR, shows a completed wetland restoration.