By Megan Lang
For many a growing season, Matt and Marilyn Spong thought of the wetland on their farm as a problem spot. Year after year, crops they planted there would either fail completely or produce a smaller yield then the rest of the farm.
But rather than abandoning the area altogether, the Spongs got creative: with the help of the Service, Matt and Marilyn transformed their wet spot back into a natural wetland, creating new habitat for dozens of species.
For decades, wetlands in the U.S. have been in decline. A study in the 1980s found that the country had lost an area of wetlands twice the size of New Jersey from 1950 to 1970, restricting habitat for species like migratory birds that rely on wetlands to make their yearly migration. It’s only in recent years that conservation groups like the Service and its partners have been able to reverse that decline, and it’s only worked with the help of private landowners like the Spongs.
And the results, they say, have been worth much more than the crops that would never quite thrive.
“We see a whole lot more shorebirds and water turtles now, and we also see bald eagles that we rarely saw before the wetland was restored,” Matt said.
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The Spongs’ story is featured in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Nature’s Good Neighbors series, which highlights people across the U.S. who depend on the land as much as the land depends on them. These modern-day stewards of the land are working with nature to make a home for people and wildlife.