Coastal wetlands are critical when it comes to wildlife habitat and coastal protections. However, the filling of protected dune wetlands that follows vegetation removal programs has been happening unregulated and unmonitored for decades. If the plants being torn out are simply left to grow, peer-reviewed studies show wetland areas are actually created along with dune forest habitat. Wetlands and dune forests provide coastal protections and wildlife habitat far more so than destabilized sand.
While the Coastal Commission staff is aware of these wetland impacts, they continue to turn a blind eye.
Conversely, when a rancher or land manager wants to repair or strengthen a levy, the hurdles become almost impossible even though the importance of doing so is clear ("Officials Brace for Sea Level Rise," Jan. 17).
The Bay Trail will also need considerable mitigations because filling coastal freshwater wetlands is a part of the trail building plan. Unfortunately, it appears that valuable freshwater wetlands at the Lanphere Wildlife area will be converted to salt marsh in those mitigations. I wish I could tell you that makes sense.
Our community is going to have to make a choice. Are coastal freshwater wetlands as valuable as we say they are or should we keep converting them into salt marsh or mud flats and fill them with destabilized sand just because we want a trail and some people don't like certain plants?
It is unfortunate that the obsession with native vs. non-native plants has blinded many land managers. Of course, with ongoing climate changes the actual definition of "native" remains elusive. Whether a plant or animal is useful is a much better question.
Uri Driscoll, Arcata