Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cranes in the marsh

I spent a lot of time on I-95 this Thanksgiving weekend. A lot of time. However, in the throng of grumpy travellers, there was a happy sight for which I was thankful. And this small delight came when I least expected it - when traversing the badly degraded Hackensack Meadowlands, which is generally, for me, a mournful crossing. The sight: cranes on the marsh. Not avian cranes!

There is a massive restoration taking place on the Richard Kane Wetlands, where the Meadowlands Conservation Trust and EarthMark Mitigation Services are removing invasive Phragmites, reconnecting tidal creeks, and planting salt marsh grasses on >200 acres of brackish marsh. The area is large - the photo below (a good one, no? I was pleased with it.) does not capture the full area being restored. This work is financed as a "mitigation bank" - companies or agents (in this case, mostly transportation agencies) degrading or destroying wetlands in other places compensate by paying for the restoration improvements. It is positive that this approach can fund truly large scale restoration efforts. However, these positive advances come at the cost of continued wetland degradation and destruction elsewhere. Is this tradeoff the best option for funding restorations?