Ladies and Gentlemen, we are given two choices of wetlands to pick from for conservation and management for generations to come. Many factors have to be considered before we make a decision.
The first wetland is isolated from the original river hydro-period and stands alone with endangered and rare species in the old growth riparian area. The second wetland has not been isolated from the river hydro-period but has been used for agriculture for 50 years. Given the difficulty of returning either one to a more natural state, I wish to proceed with the purchase of the second site and I will outline one reason why.
When we look at the long and short term return on our investment in the environment we need to look at the cost of ownership and the total cost of maintenance, so we can improve and further our endeavors. The second site is a wiser choice fiscally, because to convert the 3,000 acres back to natural wetlands we would have a cost of $114.4 million, an average cost of $38,275.00 per acre(Baca, 1994) to restore over a thirty year period. While the cost of the first wetland would be $38.3 million using the same median price of wetland restoration cost of $38,275.00.
This value does not count on the higher cost of reversing the heavily converted upstream and downstream river hydro-periods. The highest price that has been reported for wetlands restoration is $77,900 an acre(Baca, 1994), which might be closer to the actual cost because of the extra conservation steps needed to preserve the endangered species.
The cost of restoration for the first wetland also does not include the additional land purchases that are hoped to be made. If in the same thirty years, the goal was to make the first wetland as large as the second, an additional 2000 acres would need to be purchased. If the the land in question was farmland it might be as low as the national average of $2,650 per acre(USDA, 2012). If the land was residential the average cost would be $161,202 per home(Davis, 2004) regardless of the size of land the house was on. If that land was commercial or industrial the land value would be $300,000 to $600,000(Nichols, 2010).
With these variables on the value of the surrounding lands, and while seriously looking to choose wetlands for conservation, the first wetland is too volatile a risk fiscally.
By: Daniel James Crawford