NANFA-- Once upon a wetland

Jay DeLong (
Tue, 7 Dec 1999 17:56:58 -0800

A nice note I received from NANFA member Dan Logan.

Jay DeLong
Olympia, WA

-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Logan
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 1999 2:25 PM
Subject: NMFS news clip


It was nice chatting with you today.

Following is a note I received from NOAA news service. Perhaps you
will find it interesting.



Once upon a wetland
How students turned a dump site into a nature preserve
Sharon J. Huntington

Do your school grounds have grass, play equipment, basketball hoops,
or soccer fields? Next to Treasure Mountain Middle School in Park
City, Utah, are seven acres of ponds, puddles, and ditches. And it
took students and teachers years to make it that way. Over the past 10
years they have restored an area of natural wetlands in a project that
brought national recognition to the school. It still involves students
from the local elementary, middle, and high schools.

In 1989 an eighth-grade student at Treasure Mountain, Karen Massey,
wanted to start a club for kids to work on environmental projects.
Anni Schneider was a science teacher at the school who wanted to do
something about the area behind the building. It had once been
wetlands, but the water had been drained off. After the school was
built, the area became a dumping ground for construction debris. Most
native animals had fled.

THEN: Looking northeast (above) near Treasure Mountain Middle School
in Park City, Utah, about 1993. PHOTO BY MICHELLE BREINHOLT

Fifteen students joined Schneider to do some water-quality tests
around Park City, along with experts from the Utah Department of
Natural Resources. They netted fish from streams. They tested, tagged,
and put them back. "The kids had a great time wading through streams
and trying to hold onto those fish," Ms. Schneider recalls.

NOW: The same view, three years later. More and more animals,
including many birds, continue to return. PHOTO BY MICHELLE BREINHOLT

As the students' hopes became known, more help arrived. A high school
biology teacher joined in. A water-source expert (a hydrologist)
volunteered. He'd been part of the company that had drained the
wetlands in the first place.

Parents with construction equipment helped clean up and reconstruct
the area. The United States Army Corps of Engineers lent a hand.
Parents and students did field work. Others raised money and helped
spread the word about what was needed. The former dump site began to
take on a new look.

Water was channeled back in. Seven ponds brought the wetlands back to
life. As money became available, volunteers planted thousands of
native plants. Plants could not be removed from other sites, because
that might harm those areas. All the reintroduced plants had to be
purchased from nurseries.

Wetlands have been disappearing around the world as people drain them
to farm or build. People didn't used to think that wetlands were
important. But wetlands are home to thousands of types of birds,
mammals, reptiles, and insects. Wetlands filter and clean the water.
Wetlands can absorb huge amounts of water from snowmelt and storms. A
wetland "sponge" can keep a river from destructive flooding.

The National Wildlife Federation estimates that half of the swamps,
bogs, and wet meadows in the continental United States have been lost.
When the Park City students and teachers began their project, some
companies were starting to assist and encourage wetland-restoration.

In 1991, Treasure Mountain Middle School won a grant from Newsweek
magazine and the Amway Corp. The story of the project ran in the
magazine. Schneider and two students flew to Washington, D.C., to meet
with government leaders and speak to a Senate subcommittee.

Later, the school received a grant from SeaWorld in Florida to help
continue their project. Local banks and other companies also began
offering support.

The students who started the project have graduated from high school.
But new teachers and students - members of the school's Earth Kids
Club - are still making improvements.

Eighth-grader Lauren Moffitt has been a club member for two years.
"The earth is too good to be wasted," she says. She helps clean up,
clear trails, and fix things every fall.

Some man-made touches have been added. An amphitheater serves as an
outdoor classroom. Fences protect birds and small animals from dogs. A
Treasure Mountain art class contributed a large sculpture.

Michelle Breinholt, an adviser for the Earth Kids Club, says the
wetlands is a valuable resource for the school. "Not a student gets
out of this school without being involved in some way," she says.
Science classes study the plants and animals. Art classes have a
beautiful setting for sketching and painting. English classes create
brochures to distribute to the neighbors around the area, encouraging
them not to use chemicals on their lawns that will flow into the

Wetlands are still being destroyed each year, but more and more people
are recognizing their value. In 1977, the federal government passed
the Clean Water Act to protect water resources.

In 1985, special provisions to protect wetlands were included in a
federal farm bill. The wetlands by Treasure Mountain Middle School are
now a federally protected site, like millions of acres of wetlands
around the country. Some environmental groups buy wetlands in order to
preserve them. The Nature Conservancy has bought and protected more
than 6.5 million acres of wetland areas. Some parcels are less than an
acre in size; others cover hundreds of square miles.

But even after a wetland has been destroyed, the students and
teachers at Treasure Mountain Middle School have proven it can be
returned to a beautiful natural setting that can benefit animals,
insects, and humans alike.

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