Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Wetlands
Nature Bulletin No. 670    March 10, 1962
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

WETLANDS
This bulletin is addressed to the young people who will determine and must share the future of our country. As citizens you will have responsibilities. Among them will be the conservation of its natural resources.

You have learned a lot about why and how we are endeavoring to conserve and use wisely the forests, soils, waters, minerals and wildlife. You may not know much about still another resource, nor that it is being destroyed -- largely by drainage for agricultural purposes but also by flood control projects, industrial and residential developments, dumps and pollution. That resource is what remains of our precious natural WETLANDS.

They are important and must be preserved. They not only provide the habitat for waterfowl, for fur bearers such as muskrats, mink and beaver, and for many upland game birds and mammals, but also for hundreds of non-game mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. They are increasingly important for the recreation, education and enjoyment of PEOPLE .

The term "wetlands" is used to designate low areas covered with shallow and sometimes temporary or intermittent waters, but not streams, deep lakes and reservoirs. It includes marshes, sloughs, swamps, bogs, wet soggy meadows, and also bottomlands subject to overflow by rivers and creeks. It includes shallow lakes, ponds and potholes characterized by growths of aquatic plants such as cattails, bulrushes, reeds, arrowhead, smartweeds, and a host of marsh grasses and sedges.

All of those types of wetlands occur in your forest preserves. In the Palos Division, alone, there are more than a hundred sloughs, ponds and potholes -- from less than an acre to 325 acres in area -- many of them restored or improved by damming the outlets. Four of the largest are famous for the thousands of wild ducks and other waterfowl, wading birds and shore birds that stop there to rest and feed during migration. Many others are attractive to visitors who merely sit, look and listen, because they are secluded in the wild interiors.

Those wetlands are community centers for a myriad forms of wildlife -- from microscopic animals in the water to the deer that come to browse and drink. Muskrats build houses there; prowling mink, raccoons, opossum and foxes leave tracks on the shores; rabbits, pheasants, quail and turkeys find food and hiding places around them. Hungry herons, egrets and bitterns stand like statues in the shallows; redwing blackbirds nest among the cattails; martins, swallows, dragonflies and bats pursue insects on the wing; ducks, trailed by ducklings in single file, glide in and out of the vegetation in summer.

Science teachers and naturalists bring groups to wetlands to see and collect aquatic plants, insects, crayfish, the eggs and tadpoles of frogs, toads and salamanders, as well as jars of water teeming with tiny organisms. Bird watchers find more kinds around wetlands than anywhere else.

This nation surely has enough farm and pasture land already; enough to eat and wear; enough surplus crops in storage. Let's preserve the wetlands. As our population grows and its leisure time increases, wetlands become more important to the culture and happiness of Americans. Man doth not live by bread alone.

What happens to the wetlands will depend upon your understanding, your convictions and your votes, so remember the Chinese proverb: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.


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