Are you AWARE of the State of the Anacostia River Wetlands?

I guess a better question would be: are you AWARE of the state of the Anacostia River tidal wetlands? From being considered "malarial swamps" in the early 20th century the Anacostia wetlands have a (relatively) better connotation in people's minds; however, there is still a lot of work to do to restore them and to show people their value.

First of all, we are excited to announce our new Stewardship Team project, AWARE, which stands for Anacostia Wetlands Awareness and Restoration Effort. AWARE will tackle one of AWS' favorite watershed restoration topics, tidal wetland restoration. Eleven years ago AWS took the plunge by developing a small wetland plant nursery at Bladensburg Waterfront Park; since then, we have been expanding the river's tidal wetland acreage by revegetating (with native plants, of course) mudflats at the confluence of Dueling Creek, at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and the Kingman Island area of Anacostia Park. Throughout the process we have started and/or strengthened partnerships with many people and organizations and we have come a long way learning about wetland restoration in a disturbed urban environment.

Now we are 'back in the business' with a refreshed program after some years of deceleration of our operations caused by uncertainty over the management of the resident Canada Goose population in the river. After almost a decade in the making, the National Park Service has finally prepared a draft goose management plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that is ready to be approved. Additionally, NPS has been monitoring the resident goose population and employing some non-lethal methods (e.g. egg addling) attempting to control the population in the meantime. With the plan approved (sometime this year?) NPS will manage the population by using both lethal and non-lethal techniques.   

Over the last sixty years, the Anacostia River has seen 2,500 acres of tidal emergent wetlands destroyed between Bladensburg and the confluence with the Potomac River according to The Army Corps of Engineers. Nowadays, only about 180 acres of tidal emergent wetlands exist, most of them created through restoration efforts -- including ours! Wetlands are extremely important ecosystems because they are like the kidneys of a river system; they filter, recycle, and purify the water of sediment, nutrients, and pollutants. Wetlands also provide a plethora of other valuable ecosystem services such as flood control, shoreline stabilization, recreational opportunities, and high-quality fish and wildlife habitat. The native wetland plants AWS propagates in the mudflats of the river have a high ecological value since they provide food and habitat to many songbirds, waterfowl, mammals, fish, and other wildlife.

The most exciting thing about AWARE is that we are partnering with Biohabitats Inc. a cutting-edge consulting firm based in Baltimore with notable experience in ecological restoration, regenerative design, and conservation planning. Biohabitats will act as our scientific consultant overseeing the restoration process and assisting us in the process of removing Phragmites. We will also partner with our good old friends at Groundwork Anacostia, an NGO that has been instrumental in engaging underserved DC communities east of the river. Groundwork Anacostia utilizes environmental restoration goals as a vehicle for community development. Groundwork Anacostia will provide the local manpower to help us and our volunteers with the field work involved in wetland restoration. We will also interconnect our programs internally at AWS so that we have a holistic approach integrating our teams -- namely our Youth Environmental Education Team, our Stewardship Team, and our Recreation events in one project.

During the 2-year project we will restore more than 6 acres of tidal emergent wetlands and shoreline buffers at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and Anacostia Park in DC. We will also engage 750 youth in environmental education activities, and 700 people in volunteer events and recreational activities like canoeing and kayaking in the wetlands.

We will definitely keep you informed, but make sure to check out our calendar of events regularly for volunteers events involving site prep, installing goose fences, doing wetland plantings, nursery work, paddling events and more. Make it one of your New Year's resolutions to help us restore the wetlands of the Anacostia River.

Comments

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