World Wetland Day is sponsored by the organization called Ramsar. Ramsar Sites are wetlands identified and designated because they are considered Wetlands of International Importance. These wetlands contain representative, rare or unique wetland types, and they are important for conserving biological diversity. Only 38 Ramsar sites are in the U.S. of the 2,200 Ramsar sites identified in the world. The Missisquoi Delta and Bay wetlands is the only Ramsar Site in Vermont.
The Missisquoi Delta and Bay Wetland is important for maintaining the biological diversity of the region, due to its size, location, and variety of habitats. The floodplain forest, scrub-shrub wetlands, swamps, and emergent wetlands (dominated by soft-stemmed plants) provide habitat for a large number of different animals, such as the river otter and 34 other mammals, over 200 species of migratory and resident birds, numerous insects/pollinators, amphibians, reptiles, fish, mussels and a variety of plant species. Some plants, birds and animals found within the wetland are Rare, Threatened, or Endangered (RTE) within the state.
The wetland also provides floodwater storage, protects water quality including protection of our drinking water, and helps stop land along the river or lakeshore from washing away. There are almost 2,000 acres of floodplain forest and an extensive wetland grassland which grows along both the Missisquoi River and Lake Champlain shoreland. There are two Research Natural Areas specifically identified within the wetland.
In addition, the presence of the Missisquoi wetland system is a driver of the local economy. Hunters and fishermen, bird watchers, hikers, kayakers and motorized boaters use and enjoy the wetland. These visitors support the local economy through their purchase of food, fuel, lodging, and purchase of activity related equipment (boats, clothes, hunting gear). Increased visitation to the refuge over the years is considered by many to be the cornerstone of the Swanton revitalization effort, as refuge users contribute to the local economy. The presence of the wetland and the opportunities it provides has a cumulative economic impact and cannot be understated. Approximately 80,000 visitors come per year with their consumption of goods and services, purchase/rental of equipment locally, and payment of fees for the use of shuttles and guide services. The Missisquoi Refuge budget provides approximately $400,000 per year to the local economy through staff salaries, expenditures for construction contracts on the refuge, and purchases from local businesses for operation and maintenance of the refuge.
The functions and values that the Missisquoi wetland provides is repeated across the landscape within wetlands of all shapes and sizes. The wetland at the north end of lake Bomoseen provides the habitat needed for fish to breed and for young to grow; supporting the over 15 fishing derbies each year. The Otter Creek wetland system between Rutland and Middlebury saves Middlebury between $126,000 to 450,000 each year in potential flood damages. The LaPlatte River wetland system through Shelburne helps protect the water quality of both the river and Lake Champlain from the activities occurring on the surrounding agricultural and developed lands. Vermont’s wetlands are worth celebrating every day, and especially on World Wetland Day. Go visit!