Op-Ed: How the U.S. came to protect the natural world — and exploit it at the same time
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its National Assessment of Soil Erosion and Sedimentation (NASES), a comprehensive and rigorous study of the nation’s soil and water pollution. The assessment, which took nearly 4 years to complete, finds that U.S. soils and watersheds continue to erode, contributing to a number of water and air quality impacts, including soil erosion.
The EPA is publishing the report in the hope of raising awareness of the problem and encouraging Congress and the administration to take action. The report is the first to comprehensively address soil erosion from all sources, including development and forestry.
“Every day, we see the impacts of pollution on our environment, and it’s important that we all understand that the source is equally important,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who presented the report at a news conference today in Washington, D.C.
The report finds that soil erosion is at or near record levels nationwide. In 2010 alone, 4.5 million acres of land were reported to have sustained significant water-related losses due to erosive activities. And this trend is likely to continue.
“Over the decades, erosion and sedimentation from land has continued to increase, resulting in significant impacts to our water and air quality,” said EPA Regional Administrator Mark C. Romig, who presented the report at the event. “As the rate of soil erosion continues to increase, we must ensure we are doing everything in our power to mitigate these problems and help ensure that our waters and forests don’t become polluted and degraded.”
The report comes months after the release of another National Assessment of Soil and Water Pollution (NASHES), which was the first comprehensive study of soil pollution in the U.S. Since then, the EPA has used the NASHES data to help develop guidelines for how to prevent and reduce pollution from agricultural sources. In fact, the EPA has issued numerous reports, including a series of recommendations to reduce pollution from agriculture.
To address soil erosion in the U.S. beyond the recommendations, the EPA’s National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program will fund a multi-agency