Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Wading in the Wetlands Morass

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Wading in the Wetlands Morass

Article excerpt

NOW that the Bush administration has thoroughly embarrassed itself over wetlands preservation - letting Dan Quayle and his White House schemers try to undercut worthwhile environmental efforts and then being forced to back off when government scientists complained that politics and not good science was behind the move - it's time to highlight what's being done around the country to save this diminishing resource.

Two projects in particular are worth noting, one recently completed, one about to begin.

Several years ago, Spectra-Physics, a company that manufactures optical laser scanners (the gadgets that read bar codes), decided to expand its business in Eugene, Ore. In the process of applying for permits, it found that the existing facility had been built on a wetland, apparently in violation of federal regulations. Faced with a $90 million fine, the company decided not to pursue a costly and time-consuming lawsuit and instead worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Nature Conservancy, and city officials to create a 42-acre wetland.

On land that 19th-century settlers had drained for farming, a Seattle environmental-consulting firm (Hart Crowser) recreated a complete wetland using native vegetation. This included transplanting 6,000 saplings that were a problem for a nearby prairie preserve but just what the new wetland needed. That was six months ago, and now Canada geese have made it their home, along with other birds and mammals on what is the largest wetlands restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.

Everybody wins here. The manufacturer gets its new facility and some good PR instead of an environmental black eye. Spectra-Physics's parent company in Sweden will donate the land to the city of Eugene in five years. And the city has gotten a $50,000 grant from the EPA to build a greenbelt with bike paths through the new wetland. And the critters get their habitat back.

Shift the scene south a few hundred miles to a wetlands-restoration proposal that covers 2,000 acres, the largest west of the Mississippi.

Near where the Sacramento River flows into San Francisco Bay, ranchers in the 1880s drained historic marshland for cattle grazing. …

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