10. WETLANDS — AND THE PEOPLE NEAR THEM — WILL SURVIVE
When Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers was criticized, rightly, for failing to build decent levees. But the Corps received less attention for its dubious role in allowing the destruction of the wetlands that would have diminished the storm before it hit the city. The Corps is charged with reviewing all requests to fill and destroy streams and wetlands — the elimination or destruction of which only eliminates protective buffers and barriers against high-impact storms; under Bush, the Corps almost never denies said requests.
The Corps is also responsible for rescuing and restoring wetlands — such as in the long-delayed $11 billion plan for the dying wetlands of the Florida Everglades. Little progress has actually been made, largely because of the Bush administration's lack of interest. Just in the past few weeks, emergency measures had to be taken to prevent what the Miami Herald described as the "threat of a major wildlife die-off." Some environmental groups believe the Everglades are at, or near, a tipping point, after which they will be unsalvageable.
"We may be facing an unprecedented environmental collapse," says April H.G. Smith, director of ecosystem restoration for the National Audubon Society. She is hoping to convince the Obama administration to make wetlands rescue and restoration projects, like the Everglades, part of its economic-stimulus investment plan.
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