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American Wetlands Month: Prime Hook Refuge speaks about the importance of wetlands

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MILTON, De. – Wetlands, marshes and marshes. These are all located along the coast and are all important parts of our ecosystem and existence.

May is American Wetlands Month at Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. Employees take pride in knowing they are doing something that not only benefits the environment, but everyone who is part of it.

“Many people may not even fully appreciate the value of the nearby wetlands, and may see them as wastelands… salt marshes can help buffer against storms… they also support many species important for commercial harvesting, things that we eat, things that we can go fishing for.” Susan Guiteras is the supervising wildlife biologist at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and knows all too well that this is not the case.

Costal saltwater marshes are very popular in Delaware and make up most of Prime Hook’s refuge. Kate Toniolo, project manager, says it’s also important that you protect the wetlands in your own backyard to ensure you prevent runoff and pollution in those areas. The most important thing is that our wetlands remain intact. “Delaware is the lowest state in the country, so we have a lot of wetlands, a lot of wetlands, marshes and freshwater marshes and they do everything.” Guiteras adds that they also support many species that are important for commercial harvesting, things we eat, things we can go fishing or crabbing for.

Conservationists say pollutants aren’t the only threat they face, and there are many organizations and coalitions around Delmarva to protect nature. “In Delaware, I would say the biggest threat would be the pressure of development, not necessarily on the development itself, but even nearby it could affect water flow and change pollution,” Guiteras says. “Even if they have federal protection under the law, the wetlands themselves could be at risk if they have a lot of development around them.”

Prime Hook experts say taking the smallest step to protect wetlands can have a huge ripple effect on ecosystem conservation. Toniolo says, “Knowing if you have wetlands in your neighbor’s yard or in your backyard and basically keeping those areas clean,” is one way to make an effort to help the environment. Guiteras is confident that if people knew more, they would do more. “Wetlands are really beautiful habitats if you want to get out and see wildlife… Education is important, and laws that help preserve them are beneficial to everyone… Most importantly, their existence helps you in more ways than you think .”

Prime Hook says the community is welcome to come and enjoy the scenery this summer and throughout the year. Some areas may be off limits for endangered species conservation, but officials say there is still plenty of room to fish, sit and enjoy the trails and boardwalks.