Birds Need Habitat. Urge State Lawmakers to Protect Indiana’s Wetlands

More than 300,000 wetland acres at-risk of destruction in Indiana

If you visit an Indiana wetland, look closely and you might see a Sedge Wren as it creeps about in grassy marshes and damp sedge meadows of the Great Lakes, often out-of-sight. Wetlands (areas of land saturated with water, which may be wet year-round or seasonally) can be mysterious places, but countless birds and wildlife need them to survive and thrive. 

Over the past half century, human activity has significantly degraded the wetland habitats that birds like the Sedge Wren depend on, and as a result, many marsh bird populations are in steep decline. A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA could have enormous consequences for the wetlands that remain.  

This ruling curtailed the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to regulate “waters of the United States” – limiting what waters are considered under the Clean Water Act and depriving as many as 300,000 acres of Indiana’s remaining wetlands of federal protection.  

What it Means to Lose Wetlands

When we lose wetlands, we lose the benefits they offer to wildlife, and our Hoosier communities. Wetlands can be stunning places, filled with vegetation, birds and other wildlife. And sometimes wetlands don’t look like much. But whether small or big, or filled with water year-round or part-time, these natural spaces are key to our way of life.  

Wetlands offer natural protection from flooding to protect our homes and neighborhoods. Like sponges, wetlands soak up water. One acre of wetland can store up to one million gallons of water! When heavy precipitation has passed, wetlands slowly and safely release floodwater back into our environment. This key ability of wetlands to protect us from flooding is going to be increasingly important in the coming years, as rainfall is expected to intensify across Indiana and the Great Lakes region.  

Birds and other wildlife depend on wetlands for their survival, using wetlands to eat plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates. The American Bittern has adapted its coloring to feed in a wetland environment, lowering its risk of becoming prey. Wetlands also provide shelter to species like the Canvasback Duck, which protects its young under the cover of marshes that are almost impenetrable to wind, and to countless species on their long migration journeys.  

It’s not hard to imagine what will happen to birds without these important spaces.  

But as devastating as the loss of wetlands is to birds, the opposite can be said for their conservation. Standing at 4-5 feet tall, Sandhill Cranes are believed to have existed for more than 2.5 million years in their present form. By the mid-1930s, the population of the Midwest subspecies of the bird had been reduced to just two dozen nesting pairs, due to loss of habitat and overhunting. Efforts were introduced to protect and restore this wetlands habitat Sandhill Cranes relies on. Gradually, the Sandhill Crane population rebounded, a success story that’s considered one of the conservation movement’s big wins 

How You Can Help Protect These Important Spaces 

The importance of wetlands is clear and Hoosiers agree. Our polling shows that over 94% of Indiana voters believe that state leaders should either strengthen or maintain Indiana’s current wetlands protections. Despite overwhelming opposition from Hoosiers, special interests are once again working to further weaken wetlands protection.  

Two years ago, Indiana lawmakers passed Senate Bill 389, which rolled back protections for more than half of Indiana's wetlands. Since then, more than 260 wetland acres have been destroyed. We need to make sure that no further rollbacks happen. Indiana has already lost over 85% of its wetlands. Wetlands are among the most important resources for America’s birds.

The fate of these critically important spaces lies in the hands of our state lawmakers. We are hearing of attempts to roll back protections even further and we could lose more of our vital wetlands and all the important services they provide for the people, birds and wildlife in Indiana. Help us protect the state and its wildlife. Tell your elected officials to protect our hardworking wetlands today!

How you can help, right now