Friday, March 31, 2006

"Increased wetlands"; also, Felicity Barringer shows bravery uncharacteristic of NYT

I seem to complain a lot in this space, so it is with a rare sense of pleasure that I point to Felicity Barringer's report today on the U.S. Dept. of the Interior's recent report on "increased wetlands":

WASHINGTON, March 30 - In the bog of the federal regulatory code, a wetland is defined as a marshy area of saturated soils and plants whose roots spend part of their lives immersed in water. In the Interior Department's periodic national surveys, a wetland is defined, more or less, as wet.

Traditional tidal, coastal and upland marshes count, but so do golf course water hazards and other man-made ponds whose surface is less than 20 acres.

And so, even at a time of continued marsh depletion, pond inflation permitted Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns to announce proudly on Thursday the first net increase in wetlands since the Fish and Wildlife Service started measuring them in 1954. Wetlands acreage, measured largely by aerial surveys, totaled 107.7 million acres at the end of 2004, up by 191,800 acres from 1998.

Holy shit, a reporter from the New York Times Washington bureau who has the courage to state plain facts, without giving credence to misleading spin for the sake of balance. She does report the administration's spin, but she gives the reader enough crucial context, both political and scientific, to ascertain its hollowness. She also writes with force, concision, and clarity. Bravo, Ms. Barringer.

Of course, the substance of the article is deeply upsetting, but hardly surprising. See, e.g., the Sierra Club on Gale Norton.

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