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Wetlands at Risk 

Agricultural FarmlandDrainage for agricultural purposes is the main reason for loss of wetlands. You can understand why some farmers may want to see these areas dry. They would have more land to use for producing crop loss. Drainage also eliminates a source of weeds and obstacles. This allows farmers to get their equipment onto the fields earlier in spring through dry areas.

However, agriculture is not entirely to blame for wetland loss. Other human activities have also contributed to wetland loss in the province. Economic uses such as peat extraction, timber production, oil and gas exploration and development as well as waste disposal, water contamination and silting all contributed to shrinking and loss of wetlands. The climate may also play a role. Many dry years in a row can reduce the number and size of wetlands.

As cities and towns grow, they expand their housing, shopping and industrial areas, often draining and filling in wetland areas. The surrounding wetlands are drained to eliminate populations of biting insects that breed in these sites, to make life more comfortable for people in the cities. Wetlands also can become convenient disposal spots. Roughly 75% of the wetlands around Calgary and Edmonton were eliminated by 1966. Road development in the province has eliminated many wetland areas as well. Roads are often built directly through wetlands that are filled in. Even when roads are built some distance away from a wetland, the natural filling and draining of water into the wetland is often disrupted or sometimes blocked.

Reprinted from Focus On Wetlands  (1994) with permission of Alberta Environment.

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