Wetlands Watch started in 1999 as a backyard group of Norfolk citizens concerned about dredging and wetlands destruction. Today, we are the only statewide organization in the Eastern United States working at the grassroots level with a singular focus on saving wetlands.
Our Case Statement
Wetlands are a vital part of a healthy world. Swamps, bogs and marshes, as well as the shallow waters of our rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds are wetlands. Upland areas that flood or have saturated soils for some period of the year are also wetlands. Wetlands have important natural functions that humans, land animals and plants and marine life depend on for survival.
Unfortunately, wetlands have historically been unappreciated. Only half of the wetlands of Colonial times have survived. Wetlands Watch was formed because protecting wetlands…
“requires a corps of volunteers observant enough to know something is wrong, aggressive enough to delve into complex regulation, and persistent enough to combat an often hostile bureaucracy.” (Virginian Pilot, July 30, 2001)
Wetlands Watch works with both a top-down approach, through state and federal policy advocacy, and a bottom-up approach, using grass roots education and activism to influence local government land use and regulatory decisions.
The newest chapter of our work is focused on sea level rise, which at current rates will take out 50 to 80 percent of our tidal vegetated wetlands. We are helping local governments adapt to this new threat to Virginia’s coastal wetlands.
We are currently collaborating with state and local organizations to develop innovative land-use models that can be used by Virginia tidewater communities in coming years to protect our wetland resources as the sea rises.
Wetlands Watch is conducting education and advocacy programs at the local level to educate and motivate citizens to press our state and local governments to take sea level rise into account in wetlands regulation and conservation.
We are also working to bring the private sector into resource conservation work, helping develop a Maryland-Virginia program for education and certification of private landscape professionals in nature-based approaches to stormwater runoff reduction.
Finally, we are working to enlarge our membership and attract major individual and corporate donors so that we can become self-sustaining and continue this work in the future.
Our work has been recognized in many ways. One of our founding members, Dr. Jay Taylor, and our executive director, Skip Stiles, have both received the William H. Savedge III Environmental Achievement Award from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Skip Stiles was asked to serve on the Virginia Commission on Climate Change in 2008 in recognition of the work Wetlands Watch was doing on sea level rise. Our collaborative work to develop nature-based designs for sea level rise adaptation won an award and secured a $115 million grant for the city of Norfolk in the 2015 National Resilience Design Competition.
We Believe That...
Education leads to informed and engaged citizens who appreciate and value wetlands, providing the motivation and knowledge to protect and conserve them. Environmental regulators and local government need the support of these informed and engaged citizens to effectively enforce laws and regulations. Wetlands protection and conservation cannot be achieved without consensus, commitment, and partnership. Working at the state and local government levels, Wetlands Watch and its partners look at land use and regulatory practices, identify the factors that undermine wetlands protection, and advocate for changes needed for effective stewardship of our wetlands resources.
Through better land-use decisions and practices wetlands impacts from activities like dredging, hardened shoreline protection like bulkheads, sprawl and shoreline development can be minimized or avoided. At the local level, Wetlands Watch works with homeowners, developers, planners and regulators to encourage better land-use decisions and practices.
Sea Level Rise combined with land subsidence threatens tidal wetlands, wildlife and fish habitats, and the economy in coastal Virginia. In order to prepare for these impacts and ensure a vibrant economy and environment, Virginia must develop and implement an adaptation plan. Wetlands Watch works to raise awareness, engage and educate all stakeholders and decision-makers about existing and potential sea level rise impacts, incorporate this threat into regional and local land-use plans and decisions, and develop and implement sea level rise adaptation plans.