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Conserving America's Waters and Wetlands

Our waters are critically important to hunters and anglers because they provide habitat for a myriad of species, recharge groundwater, and are the life force we are all connected to.

Woman Fishing in River: Geralyn Hoey

Given the ever-increasing demands on our waters, we need more than ever to protect and restore these precious resources and the beneficial functions they offer. Please take action now to protect our waters! 

Wetlands are amazingly productive and diverse habitats that stand between upland and open water. As important as they are to water quality, flood storage, and biodiversity, they are vanishing at such a quick rate in some parts of the country that within our lifetime they may just be a memory. Threats such as tile drainage, inconsistent agricultural practices, and misguided national water policies are putting pressure on already strained wetland ecosystems like playa lakes and the prairie potholes that are America’s “duck factory.” Coastal wetlands are essential fish breeding grounds, but face growing threats from sea-level rise and invasive species.

Rivers and Streams are where water often first surfaces from underground and begins its march to the sea where healthy estuaries support sustainable fisheries. They form a complex hydrologic network that absorbs and then gradually releases nutrients, organic matter, and sustains vital flows downstream. These headwaters support a staggering diversity of fish and wildlife species. Like wetlands, they provide essential services for humans such as preserving water quality and lessening the impacts of flooding but are the feature of fishing legends and the centerpiece of stories passed down through generations. We must work toward more naturally flowing rivers to support healthy estuaries and ultimately sustainable fisheries.

Floodplains are the flood-prone bottomlands that cradle rivers, streams, and wetlands, and serve as nature's best defense against floods, providing invaluable functions for wildlife and communities. Undisturbed floodplains — or those that have been restored to a near natural state—provide such benefits as flood and erosion control, groundwater recharge, enhanced farmlands, fish and wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing opportunities. Development along floodplains puts people and property in harm's way, resulting in more frequent and severe flood damage, risking species and the places we hunt and fish, and compromising water supplies.

Large and iconic waters like the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Bristol Bay, and the Mississippi River Delta are breathtaking and unique natural resources that provide habitat for an abundance of fish and wildlife species. They are also fragile and face serious threats from nutrient pollution, invasive species, toxins, water diversion, wetland destruction, mining, deforestation, and sewage overflows.

How the National Wildlife Federation is Protecting Water

The National Wildlife Federation is working across the country to unite sportsmen and women, outdoor enthusiasts, bird-watchers, gardeners, and others to protect and restore waters and wetlands.

Helping Wetlands and Watersheds

Clean water is essential to the health of America's outdoor recreation opportunities. The National Wildlife Federation works to protect wetlands, streams, and floodplains by working to restore Clean Water Act protections and stop wetland and stream destruction and pollution.

Restoring the Mississippi River Delta

The Mississippi River Delta supports incredible fishing and is the winter home for 70 percent of the waterfowl in the Central and Mississippi flyways. But since levees were built in the early 1930s, the Delta has lost an area of coastal wetlands, forests and barrier islands almost as large as Delaware. Working with Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation has helped bring together 700 businesses and organizations interested in restoring Louisiana's waterfowl and fishing habitat with the Vanishing Paradise campaign.

Healing the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are home to numerous fish such as walleye, whitefish, trout and lake sturgeon, and they also provide habitat for millions of migratory birds that pass through in the spring and fall. These waters face serious threats from invasive species, toxins, water diversion, wetland destruction, sewage overflows and climate change—all problems the National Wildlife Federation works hard to solve.

Protecting the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay watershed covers six states along the eastern U.S. The Bay's saltwater and freshwater ecosystems are home to more than 350 varieties of fish, hundreds of invertebrates like blue crab and oyster, and many species of waterfowl and shorebirds. As a key stopover site along the Atlantic Flyway, one million waterfowl winter in the Chesapeake Bay region each year. National Wildlife Federation works to protect this region through both national efforts, as well as through our Chesapeake Mid-Atlantic Regional Center.

Preserving Bristol Bay

The Bristol Bay area is home to rivers and streams that are as productive today as they were thousands of years ago. Anglers come from all over the world for that "once in a lifetime" experience. In total, an estimated 37,000 fishing trips are taken each year to Bristol Bay freshwater fisheries, contributing $60 million annually to the state. Unfortunately Bristol Bay is threatened by Pebble Mine, potentially the largest open pit mine in the world.

Reforming America's Water Management Practices

The National Wildlife Federation coordinates the Water Protection Network (formerly the Corps Reform Network) to help hundreds of organizations and community leaders understand and influence Corps projects and federal water policy to ensure water projects and policies are economically and environmentally sound.

Read the Report: Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World


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