Groups Release New Plan to Protect Wetlands Across the South

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 3rd, 12:01am EST

Groups across the US South launch multi-state plan to conserve,restore, and improve wetland forests

Wetland Forest Initiative unveils a 5-year roadmap that aims to make wetland forest conservation an urgent national, regional, and local priority  

Asheville, NC – Today, the Wetland Forest Initiative, a unique coalition of conservation groups, advocacy organizations, landowner groups, forestry and wildlife agencies, released a new plan for conserving and protecting wetland forests in the Southern US.  The 5-year plan lays out clear priorities for the coalition:

  1. Movement Building — build a strong grassroots movement around the value of wetland forests in the Southern US
  2. Improved Management Standards — provide clear direction for specialized management approaches in wetland forests
  3. Increased Funding Access — use wetland forests as a flagship issue to increase conservation funding for land trusts, landowners, and local governments

“With the devastating impacts of climate change like hurricanes and flooding, increasingly slamming the Southern US, this plan and important coalition represents one of our best efforts to support climate resiliency and protect one of our regions most valuable resources, wetland forests,” said Adam Colette, Program Director at Dogwood Alliance.

Wetland forests, like all wetlands, are the “filters” of our natural system, removing pollution, absorbing excess nutrients, securing fresh drinking water for surrounding and downstream communities, and providing critical protection from dangerous flooding in vulnerable landscapes. Critically, wetland forests rank among the most important forests in the nation for carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

“Wetland forests are one of the most important habitat types in the Southern U.S. providing refuge for numerous endangered species and abundant wildlife of all kinds.  The protection of these special places are critical for the conservation and recovery of plants and animals. From black bears and bass to woodstorks and waterfowl our wetland forests are a treasure,” said Ben Prater, Southeast Program Director for Defenders of Wildlife.

The majority of the nation’s remaining wetland forests are located in the Southern United States, spanning 35 million acres across fourteen states of bottomland hardwood forests, Carolina bays, pocosins, vernal pools, and cypress-gum swamps. One third of currently listed endangered species are dependent on wetlands, yet we have already lost a majority of the wetland forests that existed historically in the South.  Ninety percent of these wetland forests are located on private lands, an excellent opportunity for collaboration with landowners.

“With a majority of our southern wetland forests under private ownership, it is critical that solutions to their conservation recognize and incorporate sustainable harvesting for forest products and also begin to value standing ecosystem services like flood control, biodiversity and carbon.  Sustainable management can be the key to both economic and environmental benefits from these ecosystems,” said Tim Foley, Policy Director at the Southern Group of State Foresters.

The Wetland Forest Initiative is a coalition of nonprofit organizations, state and federal agencies, tribes, professional associations, and academics. The initiative is dedicated to conserving, restoring, and improving Southern wetland forests. Their vision for wetland forests is simple: abundant wetland forests for healthy human and natural communities.

To read the new 5-year plan synopsis, visit: https://wetlandforests.org/plan

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The Wetland Forest Initiative’s mission is to conserve, restore, and improve Southern wetland forests to strengthen our communities through science-based actions, diverse partnerships, and citizen and landowner engagement. To see the list of steering committee members and learn more, visit: https://wetlandforests.org/about-us/

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