Dig a hole in your back yard and fill it with water. Outgoing Secretary of Interior Gale Norton might send you a letter of commendation for adding to the nation's wetlands. And that is no joke.
One of Norton's last acts in office (she recently announced her resignation) was to brag that for the first time in more than 50 years, the nation had an overall gain of wetlands. Although a half-million acres of natural wetlands have been destroyed, 700,000 acres of artificial wetlands have been added.
And what replaced those swamps, marshes and salt flats that are the incubators of life and natural water filters? Norton counts golf course water hazards, ornamental ponds and wastewater treatment lagoons among the legitimate substitutes for nature.
"A significant amount of the increase has been in ponds," Norton said. "People like having ponds as an amenity. . . . Even ponds that are not a high quality of wetlands are better than not having wetlands."
It would be hard to find anyone with expertise in such environmental matters to agree with that statement.