Environment must be protected by law

By Clyde Davis: Columnist

Last week, in this column, I wrote about my recent trip back to Western Pennsylvania, and specifically mentioned the day I spent at Lake Erie. This lake is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, and is subject to sudden and dangerous storms. I have actually had the dubious privilege of being out in a small sailboat when such a storm came up — on more than one occasion. What that says about my ability to learn from mistakes, I’d rather not know.

The lake also carries winter weather across from its northern (Canadian) shore and slams this weather, known as lake effect snow, into the respective shorelines of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and western New York.

All this serves as an introduction to a call for awareness, awareness of the importance of wetlands. Summer is intricately connected, in the minds of most people, with Memorial Day weekend, and the local recreational lakes, such as Ute and Bottomless lakes, are likely to be getting a lot of use over the weekend.

Though we sometimes think of our area as lacking in wetlands, there are quite a few around, the several recreational ones and the more frequent areas that, perhaps not usable for fun and games, still serve the purpose of breeding grounds for fish, waterfowl, and of course as a water source for all wildlife. An example of the latter would be Running Water Draw area (Ned Houk Park).

Whether it is Erie, Michigan, Superior, or one of our smaller wetland areas, we should remember that wetland areas, meaning bodies of water and the moist area surrounding them, are ecologically fragile and vulnerable. Overuse, overcrowding, and mismanagement can irreparably damage the environmental system.

This is not the sole problem of the EPA, the Forest Service, the Fish and Game Commission, or any other body of professionals. It is incumbent on all of us, especially those of us who use and enjoy wetlands, to be educated and motivated in care of them, and the creatures that call the wetlands home.

An example of a fine wetland, and one which has been well cared for, is Bonito Lake, near Ruidoso. Perhaps the very fact that one must make an effort to get there seems to ensure that it will be used, not abused, and continue to be healthy.

The ocean coasts, and the Great Lakes, are rife with examples of areas where overbuilding and overcrowding have ruined entire sections of shoreline. The paradox is that the very beauty that sends people looking for waterfront homes ends up being swallowed in the population rush.

I do not think that legislation protecting our wetlands — everything from the Pecos River to Lake Ontario — is necessarily too little too late. I am optimistic enough to believe that we can, by enforcing and updating laws, protect our wetlands for the sake of future generations, both human and animal. Let’s be awake, be aware, and take responsibility.