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April 05, 2006

Fuzzy Math Environment  Politics

Is there anything they won't lie about?

Last week the Interior Department made news by claiming that the nation's wetlands had actually increased, the first time that's happened. Except it's a lie. Real wetlands continue to shrink, but the administration now counts artificial ponds — water hazards on golf courses, for example — as wetlands. St. Petersburg Times:

By counting golf course ponds and ornamental lakes as wetlands, the federal government announced Thursday a massive gain in the number of wetlands nationwide, the first such gain ever reported.

But a chorus of critics called the report misleading, saying the nation lost wetlands without those man-made bodies of water.

More than 520,000 acres of wetlands were wiped out from 1998 to 2004, according to the study done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

But the report contends that the losses were offset by creating more than 715,000 acres of new wetlands, mainly artificial ponds that do not provide the same environmental benefit as wetlands.

Federal officials hailed the results as a positive sign.

"Although the overall state of our wetlands is still precarious, this report suggests that nationwide efforts to curb losses and restore wetlands habitats are on the right track," said outgoing Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

And as for the ponds, Norton said: "People like having ponds as an amenity...Even ponds that are not a high quality of wetlands are better than not having wetlands." [...]

Not even the federal agency in charge of protecting wetlands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, considers such ponds to be a replacement for wetlands, and neither do the state agencies in charge of regulating wetland losses. [...]

Wetlands - marshes, swamps, bogs, salt flats and dozens of areas that have wet soil and plants that thrive there - are supposed to be protected under the Clean Water Act because they are vital for water supplies, flood control, pollution filtering and wildlife habitat.

In 1989 President George Bush declared the nation's policy on wetlands would be No Net Loss - whatever is wiped out will be replaced. The policy proved so popular that it has been embraced by both Presidents Clinton and Bush. President Bush two years ago promised to go beyond No Net Loss and add millions of acres more wetlands.

But a study by an arm of the National Academies of Science pointed out five years ago that no one knows how well No Net Loss is working because no agency has complete and reliable data on the nation's wetlands. And most of the efforts to make up for wetland losses end in failure, the scientific study found.

Mitigation - making up for wetlands losses - is the linchpin of the No Net Loss policy. Even research by the corps paints a dim picture on what's being done to offset losses.

In New England, researchers for the corps found that forested wetlands that were being destroyed by development were most often replaced with shallow ponds, devoid of the trees that were lost. Other corps studies found projects that were supposed to make up for wetlands losses lacked any wetlands at all. [Emphasis added]

This is a wetland:

In the real world that most of us inhabit, this is not:

Something I don't understand: why do so many self-styled "conservatives" have such utter disregard for conservation of the environment? And why, for that matter, are they such liars? Some adolescent minds at the Interior Department thought this was a clever gimmick. Did they really think no one would notice? Did they really think these issues don't matter?

Do these people have no regard for the truth? Have they, when all is said and done, no desire to do the right thing? No notion of the common good? No awareness of their posterity? No conscience? Are there no grownups among them?

Posted by Jonathan at April 5, 2006 03:11 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb