At Keep Liberty Beautiful we have waterways on the brain in September and October. Liberty County’s 11th annual Rivers Alive Day is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22, but we already have groups cleaning up locations throughout September and October. With more than 40 percent of Liberty County "liquid" — either wetlands and marshes, creeks, rivers or and ponds — water protection should be crucial for us. Often, the focus for Rivers Alive is actual bodies of water, but we believe these cleanups are just as essential for protecting our marshes and wetlands. As a coastal county we have an abundance of these areas and they are just as valuable — and as vulnerable — as our open waterways.
Public perception of wetlands varies. Do you understand what a wetland is? Many people view wetlands as just breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests or as nuisances that needed to be drained to use the land. I have even heard people call them bogs. In the past, wetlands were believed to be useful only to produce peat and fossil fuels or to be drained for agriculture.
Here is an official definition: A wetland is an area that is flooded or saturated by ground- or surface-water frequently or for prolonged periods — often enough and long enough to support vegetation adapted for life in saturated soils. A marsh is a specific type of wetland. We live next to a large marsh in the east end of the county. It is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. Marshes and other wetlands have many additional benefits. Wetlands also help by:
• Cleaning, or filtering, pollutants from surface water — essentially a way to filter debris before it reaches open water, unless we overwhelm them with debris and trash.
• Storing water, for example, from storms or runoff and preventing flooding of developed lands
• Recharging groundwater.
Healthy wetlands also serve as nurseries for saltwater and freshwater fish and shellfish that have commercial, recreational and ecological value. They are habitat for a variety of fish, wildlife and plants, including rare, threatened, endangered and native species.
Given the environmental importance of wetlands, state policies seek to prevent or minimize the loss of wetlands. Anyone proposing construction of facilities, including governmental agencies, developers building residential or commercial areas and anyone who wants to fill in wetlands, must have an environmental resource permit.
I understand that development is important. However, managing development is crucial for protecting wetlands. As citizens, we also have a hand in protecting these valuable areas.
The saying that we all live downstream is true.What happens in the west end of the county and even far beyond there can have an impact on our wetlands and ultimately our waterways. So we all need to consider what choices we make at our homes and businesses that can create a negative impact. Over-fertilizing lawns, emptying debris in or near storm drains or even directly into wetlands, and the overuse of pesticides, are all choices that we can control to protect our wetlands.
At keep Liberty Beautiful, we also believe that removing as much litter and debris from our roads and public areas before it ends up in a wetland or stream is essential to keeping these areas as healthy as possible.
So we encourage you to join us for a Rivers Alive event in giving a few hours to protect these waterways and wetlands. When we all join together to do that, we can make sure we can all enjoy these wetlands and their many benefits throughout our lives.
Contact us now to register your organization, church group, business or family and invest in the health of our community and its waters. Contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 912-880-4888 or mail:email@example.com or check out our website at www.keeplibertybeautiful.org.