What We Do to Protect Wetlands and Watersheds

MangroveOur waters provide habitat for a myriad of species, recharge groundwater and provide opportunities for wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreation. Climate change is drastically altering the water cycle as we know it, bringing more intense storms, floods, droughts, and sea-level rise as well as reduced habitat for many species. Given the ever-increasing demands on our waters, we need more than ever to protect and restore these precious resources and the beneficial functions they offer.


Some of the waters NWF works to protect include: 

  • Wetlands - Those amazingly productive and diverse waters that stand between upland and open water. As important as they are to water quality, flood storage, and biodiversity, they are vanishing at such a quick rate in some parts of the country that within our lifetime they may just be a memory. Economists estimate that one acre of wetlands provides about $10,000 worth of ecosystem services which include: filtering and recharging drinking water, preventing flooding, protecting our coasts from hurricanes and storms, and providing habitat for diverse wildlife populations.

  • Streams - Where water often first surfaces from underground and begins its march to the sea. They form a complex hydrologic network that absorbs and then gradually releases nutrients, organic matter, and stream flow downstream. These headwaters support a staggering diversity of fish and wildlife species. Like wetlands, they provide essential "services" for humans such as preserving water quality and lessening the impacts of flooding.

  • Floodplains- The flood-prone bottomlands that cradle rivers, streams, and wetlands are nature's best defense against floods and provide invaluable functions for wildlife and communities. Undisturbed floodplains — or those that have been restored to a near natural state — provide such benefits as flood and erosion control, groundwater recharge, enhanced farmlands, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. Development along floodplains puts people and property in harm's way, resulting in more frequent and severe floods, puts species at risk, and compromises water supplies.

To protect these valuable waters, National Wildlife Federation:

  • Works to restore Clean Water Act protections lost due to two controversial Supreme Court decisions. We advocate for legislation and agency action to restore Clean Water Act protections.

  • Advocates for preventing wetland and stream destruction and pollution through strong enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Since passage in 1972, the Clean Water Act has made great strides in protecting and restoring America's waters. A series of court cases and agency decisions threaten to reverse the unprecedented progress that was made over the previous 30 years. NWF litigates, advocates, and works with federal, state and local agencies to keep safeguards strong and protect our waters from development and population pressures.

  • Urges agencies to consider global warming and wildlife impacts when making decisions affecting our nation's waters. Decisions that affect our nation's waters must take into account the impacts of global warming on fish and wildlife — especially endangered species — and the aquatic habitat they depend on. NWF litigates, advocates, and collaborates with all levels of government to protect our wetlands, streams, and floodplains.

  • Keeps people and wildlife out of harm's way by promoting nonstructural solutions to flood control. Flooding poses a major threat to people and wildlife. National Wildlife Federation works at the local and national level to prevent development along floodplains. NWF has actively advocated for reforming the National Flood Insurance Program so that flood insurance rates reflect real risk.

  • Prevents the construction of water projects that will degrade, destroy, or alter waters' natural and beneficial functions and promotes economically and environmentally sound solutions. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' water civil works projects and outdated federal water policies can have devastating impacts on the nation's rivers, wetlands, and coasts.  National Wildlife Federation coordinates the Water Protection Network to help hundreds of organizations and community leaders understand and influence Corps projects and federal water policy to ensure water projects and policies are economically and environmentally sound. NWF is also leading a campaign to prevent the Corps from constructing the New Madrid Levee Project.

  • Works to enact new national water planning guidelines that are more friendly to wildlife, that preserve intact ecosystems to feed our economic growth and buffer our communities from increasing threats from global warming. The 21st century, with the increasing pressures on our nation's water resources, demands a more proactive approach to water planning, rather than the piecemeal, project-by-project approach taken thus far.