Certain responsibilities come with living near wetlands, but with conscious action, you can help save these precious resources that are increasingly threatened from development.
What are wetlands and how do you know if you're living on them?
Wetlands are parts of the landscape that are either permanently or seasonally wet. It may be a wet spot, bog, marsh, swamp, or pond. You'll know it's a wetland if your feet get wet or muddy. A wetland can be as small as a wading pool or bigger than several football fields put together. It can be a few inches to ten feet deep.
Wetlands naturally act like giant sponges for pollutants, as well as excess water. They also slow the flow of surface water, reducing the impact of flooding and especially flash flooding by increasing gradually instead of suddenly.
Why is it important to maintain your septic system when you live near wetlands?
Household waste water carries disease-causing organisms and other potential contaminants that may threaten wetlands. A properly functioning septic system will treat most contaminants found in household waste water, protecting human health and preventing contamination of wetlands and drinking water supplies.
Why is it important to keep your pets out of natural wetland areas?
It's important to keep dogs on a leash or under your control around wetlands, and even keep cats inside. Pets that wander can be devastating predators to reptiles. Even if they do not directly injure the reptiles, they do disrupt natural hunting and basking activities.
How to Share Your Land with Wetland Wildlife
Leave fallen debris such as tree stumps in streams, rivers, ponds, and wetlands. These can act as basking areas for aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes and turtles. Also avoid cutting dead standing trees, which act as important habitat features for snakes, and do not disturb rotting leaves and tree stumps as they can be used as nesting sites for reptiles.
If you live near a wetland, reduce your garbage, pet food, and bird seed that may attract raccoons, skunks, and other predators. These animals may prey on reptiles and their young. Also, properly dispose of your hazardous waste and note that turtles often mistaken garbage and recyclables as food, so also try to celebrate events without balloons.
Be mindful to mow your lawn after 12 noon. Many snakes, lizards, and turtles will bask in the early part of the day, and an open lawn exposed to the sun may be an ideal place for them to do this.
If you own land with marsh, swamp, or lush green areas along water, it helps to leave buffer strips of natural vegetation between your land and any bodies of water, wetland areas, or other natural areas for reptiles. Hedges and other vegetated borders along gardens also provide cover for snakes.
Sensitive Yard Maintenance for Wetland Dwellers
Use organic fertilizers like Urban Organics Earth Juice on yards and gardens. Look for ingredients like Fish Emulsion and Seaweed, which in combination is just about as good as it gets.
Enhancing the soil with earthworms is another way to encourage healthy yards and gardens. Not only do they aerate the soil, but earthworms also provide castings that contain organic matter that promote plant growth.
Also, use natural pesticides like EcoSmart and only plant species native to your region to keep from polluting watersheds downwind with seeds from invasive species. Using native vegetation can reduce time and water spent maintaining your yard, and invites birds and butterflies to visit.