The Environmental Protection Agency this month launched the field sampling for its first-ever nationwide assessment of the condition of America's wetlands.
The ambitious project is supposed "to provide regional and national estimates of wetland ecological integrity and rank the stressors most commonly associated with poor conditions." It begins with a pilot survey of the Gulf of Mexico coastal wetlands, some of which are still recovering from last summer's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The final report is due in 2013.
Of course, if they do much sampling in Florida, they're liable to find a whole lot of wetland stress -- if they can find the wetlands. As we reported in "Paving Paradise," the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allowed more wetlands to be wiped out in Florida than in any other state.
Ironically the EPA is launching this survey at a time when the agency itself -- and the laws it's supposed to enforce -- are themselves under a lot of stress. In fact, during the budget crisis, some elements in Congress were trying to limit the EPA's authority over wetlands. So it will be interesting to see whether, by the time on the nation's wetlands is completed, the EPA will still be in the business of protecting them.