FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Febuary 2, 2001
Dario Bard 202/219-7499,
Christine Eustis 404/679-7287
On Friday, February 2, Americans have special cause to celebrate World Wetlands Day. Over the past decade, our nation's rate of wetlands loss has declined by 80 percent. The decline is documented in a Fish and Wildlife Service report titled Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States, 1986 to 1997. The good news is tempered, however, by the data analysis, which shows that the nation is still losing 58,500 acres per year. Forested wetlands and emergent wetlands have seen the greatest losses, while the acreage of open water ponds, which are not as biologically rich, are on the rise.
Often called "nature's sponges," wetlands offer important values and functions. They protect water quality by filtering out pollutants, provide natural flood control by absorbing excess water, buffer coastal areas from erosion, offer aesthetic and recreational opportunities, and provide habitat for many of the world's bird species and more than 40 percent of the threatened and endangered species in the United States.
The theme of this year's World Wetlands Day is "A world to discover." Many of the world's most vital wetlands in the U.S. are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of lands dedicated to fish and wildlife conservation. These lands offer Americans a wide array of recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, boating, bird watching, hiking, and many other activities in the great outdoors. On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Fish and Wildlife Service invites all Americans to come out and enjoy a slice of America's wild heritage. Visiting a national wildlife refuge is an excellent way to celebrate our accomplishments as a nation. Five of our 120 refuges in the Southeast are recognized as wetlands of international importance:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http:/southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286