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    Service, partners celebrate American Wetlands Month

    Storytelling, web events and first-ever national wetlands podcast will highlight a natural resource vital to communities, economies and wildlife from coast to coast

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    Public submissions to The Times-Independent can range from press releases to obituaries to feature stories and news. All submissions are subject to editorial review and approval.
    	They can be found in all 50 states and go by many names – wetlands, marshes, bogs, estuaries, swamps, mangroves, lagoons and even mudflats and mires. Regardless of the type, where they are found or what they are called, healthy wetlands are of vital importance to local communities, recreation and wildlife.
    	Critical functions and ecosystem services of wetlands include recharging groundwater, filtering excess nutrients, toxins and sediment from water that ends up in rivers, oceans and faucets, mitigating against floods and supporting hunting, fishing and outdoor opportunities. Millions of waterfowl and migratory birds also call them home, and more than half of all species listed under the Endangered Species Act are also reliant upon them.
    	Since 2017, the service’s National Wetlands Inventory Program has partnered with diverse partners on 55 projects that have mapped more than 200 million acres of wetlands across the U.S and updated critical information about them. During this period the service awarded $168 million in North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants that were matched by $429 million in partner funding, delivering more than a half a billion dollars in wetlands conservation, according to a press release from the service. Its Coastal Program also helped administer the National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grants Program, which awarded almost $75 million in support for 86 projects protecting, restoring and enhancing almost 60,000 acres of wetlands across the U.S.
    	“We are proud of our work conserving a resource that benefits all Americans,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “For more than half a century the service has been a leader in forging diverse partnerships and creating value-added science on behalf of wetland conservation, and we look forward to continuing this important work.”
    	Conservation groups also underscored the importance of wetlands, conservation partnerships and opportunities like American Wetlands Month for engaging the public on their importance.
    	“Ducks Unlimited relies on our strong partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue tremendous wetlands conservation across the United States,” said Ducks Unlimited Chief Conservation Officer Karen Waldrop. “In addition to providing vital habitat and nesting for waterfowl, wetlands filter our water, support outdoor recreation and reduce flooding risks. We look forward to helping highlight these stories with the service throughout American Wetlands Month.”
    	American Wetlands Month will feature a first-ever national wetlands podcast featuring conservation voices from Alaska, Montana, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., where more than one million maps were recently downloaded at record pace by stakeholders thirsty for detailed wetlands data. There will also be a webinar on May 29 by the Association of State Wetlands Managers on the importance of wetlands to functioning floodplains in America.
    	Throughout the month of May the service and conservation partners will tell stories of the importance and history of wetlands, and the people, collaborations and cutting-edge tools involved in conserving them to meet growing 21st century challenges.
    	These stories will include the service’s Wetlands Mapper as one of most important wetland resources in the country, accessed daily by thousands of businesses, local governments, states, federal agencies and organizations. Why are they visiting this page and what are they doing with this information?
    	It will also include the service’s Status and Trends Reports, detailed reports on America’s wetlands issued about every ten years, which have been one of the most important wetland conservation tools in the history of this country, informing and inspiring state and federal programs and policies, such as the highly successful Swampbusters Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Bill. The press release said that the use of high-tech, cutting-edge tools and technologies for understanding and addressing 21st century conservation challenges and opportunities will be used, including drones to verify mapping data, artificial intelligence for improved mapping efficiency and accuracy, and state-of-the-art technology measuring changes to wetlands from sea level rise and subsidence.
    	`Endangered coastal wetlands and imperiled species - Service biologists and National Wildlife Refuge staff are collaborating with partners to conserve coastal wetland ecosystem and the imperiled saltmarsh sparrow.
    	For more than 100 years, the service has forged diverse partnerships to understand, conserve and restore wetlands that have protected water resources, waterfowl and endangered species, and recreational opportunities benefitting all Americans, officials said. 	
    	Every day the service partners with diverse federal agencies on wetland issues, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Bureau of Land Management to support data collection, consultations and conservation.
    	Programs within the service that work on wetlands include National Wildlife Refuges. Many of the first national wildlife refuges were set up to conserve wetlands and imperiled wildlife. Also noted is the Migratory Bird Program. Migratory Bird Joint Ventures is a collaborative of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations, tribes, and individuals conserving habitat for the benefit of migratory birds and wildlife (many of which are wetlands reliant), and people.
    	Also noted are ecological services. More than half of all species listed under the ESA call wetlands home, with two-thirds of them reliant on wetlands in some way.
    	International Affairs is a priority of the service. The Ramsar Wetlands Convention is the only global treaty supporting international cooperation on wetlands conservation. The service reviews and approves funding nominations within the U.S. and coordinates on international nominations.

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