Video: Regulatory 101 (children's video)
It sure is a great planet we live on! And it's important to protect it so that people and all kinds of wildlife will be around for years to come. One of the best ways to help keep any place healthy is by taking care of the water. Every living thing needs water to survive. Our thirsty bodies are made up of more water than anything else - including skin, bones and muscles. And we have to keep up our bodies’ water supply to stay healthy. It’s the same for plants and animals. We all need clean water! Did you know - water covers two thirds of the Earth? And water provides food and helps people - and the products we need - get from one place to another. A big part of the job for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to protect and manage our nation’s water resources. That includes our oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. You might be wondering why the Army has this job. Well, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is just one part of the Army. In fact, one of their first jobs ever was to make sure our waterways were protected, so our troops could safely use them while protecting all of us. Today, however, the Corps faces new kinds of challenges regarding our waterways and wetlands. Wetlands, by the way, are places where the soil is wet all or part of the time, like in marshes and swamps. The water may be fresh or salty. The water levels change all the time. Sometimes they are very wet, and sometimes, wetlands are dry! Wetlands are important because they can help prevent flooding. They filter and clean water. Wetland plants and trees also help to keep our shorelines from washing away, and protect them during hurricanes and other storms. Wetlands are home to birds and other wildlife – giving them a place to nest, eat and raise their babies. But wetlands are very fragile. They're easily damaged and they could disappear. So, exactly how does the Corps protect, preserve and restore wetlands? Well, one way is by making sure anyone who wants to build on, or live near a wetland asks for permission first. If the Corps decides that a project is important to people and won’t harm the environment, they give permission to build it. The Corps also makes sure that if you use up wetlands in one place, you make up for it by creating or protecting wetlands someplace else. This way you have to replace what you use. It’s kind of like recycling, and we all know how important that is. Pretty cool, huh? Not everyone receives permission for their projects. It's not automatic. The Corps looks at lots of information before they give permission for a project, and they ask a lot of people for their opinions, too. For instance, caring for the environment is especially important for protecting endangered species. Endangered species are plants and animals that are in danger of becoming extinct. That means they will be gone – forever! There are more than 1,000 species that are endangered, from the tiniest insects to gigantic whales, and from cactus to coral! Coral reefs are fragile and contain endangered species, too. If they disappear, so will the fish and other sea life that depends on the reefs for food and shelter. Protecting these special places is so important because they are home to many creatures that need them to survive. That's why, when deciding whether to give permission, the Corps first likes to make sure there will be enough living space and food for all wildlife. The Corps is concerned about making sure water resources meet the needs of people, too. Our waterways are used for a lot of other things... like recreation, transportation and making electricity. Having plenty of clean water provides lots of fun for kids of all ages! Whether you like splashing at the beach, riding in a boat, or snorkeling and seeing the world from a fish’s point of view, water is an important part of the picture! Waterways, like rivers, help to keep our country safe and strong by providing “water highways” to move people and products from one place to another. These waterways must be maintained and kept clear so they are safe for boats to use. Sometimes this means that sand and other material on the bottom of the waterway must be moved out of the way to make it deep enough for boats to use. The Corps gives permission for these types of projects, too. Water is also a powerful source of energy, which we call hydropower. Thousands of years ago, water was used to turn wheels that ground wheat into flour. Now, dams and other structures are built to hold water back, and the water is used to generate electricity. Hydropower is a popular source of energy because as long as we have rain, we will never use it all up! Another thing the Corps considers when managing our waterways is how everything might be connected. For example, some wetlands are connected to creeks or streams, streams are connected to rivers, and rivers are connected to lakes or oceans. So understanding these connections can be real helpful when deciding whether or not to allow a project to happen. Because something that affects a wetland has the potential to affect many other – and bigger – water bodies and ecosystems. Now imagine what a great job it would be protect, preserve and restore our waterways and wetlands. This could be you! You could be a scientist or an engineer, reviewing projects, giving permission and protecting the environment. It's all possible. Just stay in school and study hard. And who knows... maybe one day you'll be part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helping to keep our planet healthy for people and wildlife too! To learn more about what the Corps does, and possible careers with the Corps, please visit their website.