Our Land, Our Literature
Our Land, Our Literature Home Literature
Search our Site
Environment Regions Contacts and Links About Us  
Environmental Issues
Preservation and Conservation

WetlandsWetland Destruction


A wetland is an area of land that is either saturated or flooded a majority of the time and supports vegetation that can withstand an extremely moist environment. (See "Wetlands" for more information.)

Wetland destruction has become a major environmental issue in the United States, as nearly half of the wetlands in the lower forty-eight states have been destroyed. More than 85% of Indiana’s wetlands have been eliminated since the 1800s, and many forested wetlands have been lumbered for their high-value hardwood. More than five million acres of wetlands used to exist in the state, but just over 800,000 acres remain today. These wetlands were extensively "tiled" during the 1800s—that is, the land was drained for agriculture by laying rows of large, ceramic drainage pipes several feet under the ground (today, plastic is used). By 1882, more than 30,000 miles of drainage tiles had been installed in Indiana.

A drainage tile used to remove water from fields.
A drainage tile used to
remove water from farm fields.

To restore wetlands that have been altered in this manner, the main drainage line is removed where it feeds into the ditch, then both ends are filled with concrete. The lateral tiles can be left in place. This allows the water to naturally flood the land.

With the loss of wetlands has come the loss of valuable habitat for Indiana’s native species. More than one-third of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act are dependent on wetlands for some part of their life. It has been estimated that in the United States, roughly 150 species of birds (such as the great blue heron, bald eagle, and belted kingfisher) and more than 200 species of fish depend on wetlands for their survival. Mammals, like the muskrat and white-tailed deer, and a variety of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates all rely on wetlands. Wetlands exceed all other land types in wildlife productivity, and the disruption or destruction of a wetland direct disrupts or destroys the animals that live there.

The loss of wetlands also leads to flooding and decreased quality of water in lakes, rivers, and tributaries. Wetlands serve as both nature's sponge and filter, absorbing excess water and cleaning the chemicals, sediments, and excess nutrients that enter the surface water. When wetlands are destroyed, these functions are no longer performed.

Wetlands play a significant role in Indiana’s environment. Yet, to date, Indiana does not have any laws to protect them. As noted in a Muncie, Indiana, newspaper, "IDEM's [Indiana Department of Environmental Management's] attempts to get rules adopted to protect wetlands have met opposition from Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Manufacturers Association, Indiana Builders Association, utility companies, steel companies, local government, waste management firms and others" (Slabaugh). Until onlookers realize that wetlands are not a waste of land or a mosquito trap, this valuable ecosystem remains at risk in Indiana.


Dahl, Thomas E., and Gregory J. Allord. "History of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States." National Water Summary on Wetland Resources. 9 Feb. 1999. U.S. Geological Survey. 30 Nov. 2002. <http://water.usgs.gov/nwsum

Sanders, Scott Russell. "The Care and Feeding of Wetlands." Audubon Magazine May-June 2001. 15 Oct. 2002 <http://magazine.audubon.org/

Slabaugh, Seth. "Wetlands Valuable, But Unprotected." The Star Press 21 Nov. 2002. 30 Nov. 2002. <http://thestarpress.com/tsp/news/local/02/nov/

State of Indiana. Dept. of Natural Resources. Fish and Wildlife Conservation. "The Status of Wetlands in Indiana." Indiana Wetland's Conservation Plan Apr. 1996. 15 Oct. 2002 <http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/publications/

United States. Dept. of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Indiana Wetlands Reserve Program. By Gerald Roach. 8 Dec. 2000. 15 Oct. 2002 <http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp/states/in.html>.