William Byrd led the party that surveyed the North Carolina-Virginia state line through the Dismal Swamp in 1728. He summed up what most settlers of North Carolina’s coast thought of the vast stretches of marshes, swamps and bogs that confounded them.
“Never was rum, the cordial of life, found more necessary than it was in this dirty place,” Byrd wrote in his history of the survey.
What we now call “wetlands” were considered wastelands in Byrd’s day. They were thought to be unhealthy and, thus, were avoided and given names like “Dismal.” The only good swamp, Byrd and his contemporaries concluded, was a drained one.
Until rather recently, the most productive use of a swamp or marsh, it was thought, was as a soybean field, a housing development or a shopping center. Coastal salt and fresh water marshes, swamps and forested wetlands are among the most threatened landscapes in North Carolina. Threats include ditching and draining for mining, agriculture and forestry and filling for development. We now know and understand more about wetlands, of course.
We know, for instance, that an acre of salt marsh can be more productive than an acre of corn, and we now understand that without wetlands our coastal estuaries and the abundant sea life they support wouldn’t exist. Wetlands filter pollutants, provide habitat for birds, mammals and marine life and control erosion.
Our Wetlands Restoration Work
The Federation at Work
The federation works to restore and protect wetlands as a means of improving coastal water quality and restoring habitat. Since 2004, we have restored over 11,000 acres of coastal wetlands, and our preservation projects have protected of over thousands of more acres.
The federation restores wetlands through targeted large-scale projects, such as the North River Farms in Carteret County and Mattamuskeet Drainage District in Hyde County. Our Living Shoreline Program works on a smaller scale by maintaining the important connection between coastal wetlands and the adjacent buffers.