Wetland banking programs could have more withdrawals 0...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

July 04, 1998

Wetland banking programs could have more withdrawals 0) than deposits

Not everything that sounds good for the Chesapeake Bay actually is. Wetland banking, a program whereby developers restore wetlands in one area to make up for wetlands they have destroyed elsewhere ("Cashing in on wetland restoration," June 23), is such a program.

In Virginia, we have learned that it sometimes can be a useful tool to stem the flood of wetland destruction, but it also can lead to further abuses.

Wetlands are essential parts of the bay's ecosystem. They provide a nursery for most bay animals, serve as natural filters for pollutants entering the bay and protect property from storm damage. Wetlands are complex and diverse in the benefits they create.

Their composition, size and location are essential to their function.

The values wetlands provide are inextricably tied to their location within a watershed, such as their juxtaposition to one another and to adjacent waters.

Any program that allows the destruction of wetlands must guarantee that the full suite of values provided by a lost wetland are replaced. Mitigation banking, as evidenced by real examples in Virginia, often does not meet that basic premise for a number of reasons.

Wetland bank proposals in Virginia have allowed the replacement of wetlands outside the watershed where the damage or loss occurred.

Since 1995, an existing private bank in the Chowan River watershed (in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina) outside the bay watershed has been used to mitigate more than 50 acres of wetlands lost within the bay watershed. This trend of replacing wetlands outside the bay watershed will escalate as an additional four banks, totaling thousands of acres, are slated for development in the Chowan River watershed.

Simply put, moving wetlands around the landscape and especially outside the bay watershed will guarantee a continued net loss of wetlands and downward spiral of the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Banks often incorporate preservation of existing wetlands, even though they are already protected by state and federal programs. Unfortunately, the math just doesn't work with this approach -- you lose an acre here and mitigate by preserving an existing wetland acre there, leaving you with one acre, rather than the two you started with.

Given that we have already lost 50 percent of the wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, any plan that allows for further net loss of wetlands cannot be good for restoration of the bay.

Mitigation banking may on the surface appear to be a win-win so- lution for developers and the environment.

On closer examination, banking often poses more problems than it solves. Maryland should consider what's currently happening in Virginia and proceed with caution.

0&Ann Jennings Richmond William Street

Annapolis

The writers are, respectively, Virginia staff scientist and Maryland staff scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Citizens must change nation's drug policies

According to the article "Drugs: the city-suburban connection" (June 21), increasing numbers of addicts are going into the city to obtain heroin and cocaine. The larger numbers and cheaper drug prices are but another example of a nationwide trend. Yet more money is being spent each year on law enforcement and prisons.

The war on drugs has failed, but politicians promise more results with escalating punishments and interdictions while painting their opponents as being soft on the war on drugs. For instance, the House Republicans, while disparaging the present administration efforts to end illicit drug use, have pledged support for the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug Free America and want to achieve a drug-free America by 2002. No politician has the courage to say that the emperor has no clothes.

Obviously, the drug policy must be changed, but concerned citizens instead of politicians must initiate the change. As a guide to the best approach, we should study the voluminous literature on drugs that includes government-commissioned major studies. The stakes are too great to allow ideology, misconceptions and cynical politicians to determine our drug policy.

Kevin Fansler

Havre de Grace

If you were to dry up the demand for drugs, the pushers would become ineffective.

I was therefore delighted to see this idea has already been implemented by the police, who have made several stings, including the one where suburban residents were arrested. These people will be humiliated in front of relatives and friends and possibly lose their jobs. There wouldn't be 55,000 drug addicts if they were arrested in the first place.

Those suburban buyers raised in good neighborhoods often in affluent circumstances should be made to do community service among the less privileged and see how lucky they are.

A user is a loser.

Miriam Topel

Baltimore

Teen-age smoking will survive Joe Camel

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