River mouths are called estuaries

Estuarine protection is described as a form of environmental conservation that seeks to reconcile, in theory, the balance among preservation, wise persistent use, and development. As examples of common property resources, river mouths–unless carefully protected and adaptively managed–are examples of a tragedy of the commons in terms of the timing, distribution, quality, and quantity water flowing through them, their submerged lands, and numerous food fisheries that are nourished by estuaries.

Conservation contrasted with preservation | Geography | Keystone species defined | ecocentric | coastal conflicts


Americans and the Tidal Seas

"As the American nation has grown older, its attitudes toward natural resources have changed and matured, and its legal underpinnings for environmental polices have been reinterpreted and reformulated to accommodate changing understandings and values.

Although the environmental protection ideal can claim a heritage from the national concern for fish and wildlife conservation, it is much broader than that. The popularization during the 1950s and 1960s of scientific findings on the role of estuaries in the larger biological scheme of thins helped to inspire a national constituency to to advocate new policies. The new ideal recognizes that health tidal wetlands are essential to fisheries, flood control, coastal water supplies, limited sewage processing, and recreation.... estuaries are integral parts of the earth's ecology. Tidal marshes are supremely suited for flood control and as wildlife habitats....The new understanding of wetlands, though, goes beyond such utilitarian motives to a biotic or ecological view of humankind's place in nature. It replaces a notion of land as simply real estate with a concept of land as the living matrix in which energy is converted into life. It acknowledges the ultimate human dependence on healthy biotic relations.


Moreover, the estuarine preservation ideal is not a closed, dogmatic creed,but rather a mature view of humans as part of an unfinished process. It recognizes that for every action taken to protect some estuary or estuarine creature other losses must occur....The estuarine preservation ideal recognizes that the worth of protecting estuarine integrity must be measured against what the society can afford to do without and what must be protected for the future.

p. 188-189.

Reserving significant lands for special social functions in perpetuity is the essence of the ancient public trust. To deny that we owe untold future generations the privilege of watching a great blue heron feed or the right to experience a seal herd basking in the sun is the greatest of follies. It amounts to a denial of an obligation.


Human dignity requires that the enhancement of natural public areas be every individual's passionate duty....to benefit form the innate fertility of river mouths and to enjoy continued and meaningful contact with the ebb and flood of the sea. Estuaries, a womb of life, are a ready reminder of the ethical distance we have come and have yet to travel."

In these coastal regions where American civilization has tread most heavily, wild marshes hold a special appeal. The untamed beauty and wide expanse of those quiet shores sing to modern culture a haunting refrain in the never-ending yet urgent search by humans to find their identity in relation to natural landscapes. These few tidal marshes remain to admonish us that we are the current caretakers of a delicately coevolved maritime garden whose produce must always be thoughtfully harvested."

p. 191.

Marshes of the Ocean Shore


The coastal marshes form a wetland edge to an upland maritime forest.


Marshes of the Ocean Shore: Development of an Ecological Ethic

The terms to know and use in essays: Keystone Species | Population density | Three waves.

8: Politics and The Preservation of Estuaries

extended notes

Complete guide to the Siry book

Review | Key Players | Significant Ideas | Summary

"The pejorative implications of The words morass, slough, muck and miasma still associated with wetlands need no comment, These terms are common synonyms for obstruction, nuisance and disease. Yet as part of The national 'battle to preserve The common estate,' coastal marshes and tidal flats became The focus of a major drive for The protection of natural resources during The late 1950s."


Conservation contrasted with preservation | Geography | Keystone species defined | ecocentric | coastal conflicts

Keystone Species

Idea that species on which many wildlife depend are essential for the health of ecosystems and humans; for which reasons they ought to be protected.

Very like keystone species, estuaries are keystone terrains and seascapes holding the fragile arch of watersheds and oceans together with the flow of migratory fisheries and birds.

Bill Ely

Maryland farms among the marshlands of Chesapeake Bay.

The National Estuary Protection Act, 1968

Legislative History

Legal and political Analysis

Cultural significance of coastal preservation

Meaning of conservation and ecological protection

Key Players

Gifford Pinchot

Justice William O. Douglas

Senator Warren Magnuson

Review of Chapter Eight's main points:

National Battle to preserve the common estate

"The first principle of conservation is development,"

Gifford Pinchot (Chief forester of US, Governor of Pennsylvania.)

denying the individual the right to harm the public or damage public good

preservation of wildlife habitat and scenic beauty

ecocentric approach to protection, LBJ called, the "new conservation," in 2-8-1965, speech

Many estuaries were the places where the nation was growing the fastest.
Average density of the US is far less that in the coastal areas where both the population and density of people increased sharply.

Anne Simon, 53% of the nation lived near the lakes or seashores.

Southern California and Chesapeake Bay density comparisons from 3,980 to 940 persons/ square mile far exceeds the national average.

In addition to population growth, per capita demands for water and resources by industrial consumption strained the assimilative capacity of river mouths to sustain both fisheries and commercial development as a source of pollution.

Conservation contrasted with preservation | Geography | Keystone species defined | ecocentric | coastal conflicts
Branches of government support
Stewart Udall's The Quiet Crisis, Secretary of the Interior, from Arizona 1961-68.
Three waves of conservation reform, were distinguished:
Congressional support in Senate and House

Supreme Court decisions

Justice Douglas on planning and zoning, support for

Douglas called for "A Wilderness Bill of Rights"


Conservation contrasted with preservation | Geography | Keystone species defined | ecocentric | coastal conflicts

National background: California and New York

estuarine preservation ideal was being translated into policies and needed laws

Regional needs from West, East and Gulf coasts were similar

California and Bay Area of San Francisco transportation planning triggered regional concerns

Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG,

Army Corps of Engineers and plans for filling in of half of San Francisco Bay

Bodega Bay and the nuclear plant proposal on the San Andreas fault zone

Save San Francisco Bay Association

Corps violated the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act of 1934

State pressured to create a regional planning body: BCDC Bay Conservation and Development Commission, June 1965

1970, Proposition 20, called for amending the State Constitution to allow for Coastal Protection

Boston and Chesapeake Bay parallel development

New York State's experiences

1952 Conservation Department of the State of NY argued that there existed:

A serious loss to the extent of a growing crisis in Long Island wetlands due to coastal dredge and fill operations that replaced nutritious tidal wetlands with expensive real estate, marinas, and docks.

Oyster Bay, Town of Hempstead. 29% of Long Island wetlands were lost in 10 years (1954-64)

New York City flight to suburbs, Nassau county tripled in population in 30 years

Affects of toxic DDT in Long Island Marshes, George Woodwell

Carson's Silent Spring

Storm King electrical facility & Indian Point nuclear plant both were on the Hudson River and the reactor was near the river's spawning grounds for the valuable striped bass fishery. Fish gathered their because of the nutrients trapped in the different water density layers in the estuary give rise to phytoplankton and bacteria on which fish thrive.

Legislative action

"a tragedy of the commons."

Dominant Animal.

Keystone species.

Conservation contrasted with preservation | Geography | Keystone species defined | ecocentric | coastal conflicts