Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

wppNon-Native, Invasive Species for Dinner? Bring Out the Melted Butter!

By Marcia Anderson – The EPA Blog – June 21, 2016
Recently, I discovered some really tasty invasive species on the dinner menu in lower Manhattan. Many non-native species can be really good eating if they can be caught and properly prepared. There is an innovative movement for eating invasive species taking place and they are showing up more and more on restaurant menus. For full blog post, click here.

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bos2California Proposes Adopting New Permitting Program for Wetlands and Waters of the State

By Keith Garner – Lexology – June 20, 2016
On June 17, 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) published proposed amendments to the Ocean Plan and the water quality control plan for Inland Surface Waters and Enclosed Bays and Estuaries and Ocean Waters of California to adopt procedures for discharges of dredged or fill material to waters of the state that are not protected by the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).  In addition to the proposed amendments, the State Board also published a detailed staff report and a separate comparison of the new “State Supplemental Dredged or Fill Guidelines” to the CWA’s Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines, which requires sequencing of impacts to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to waters.  Two workshops and a public hearing are scheduled in June and July, with the public comment period ending on August 4, 2016.  The proposal is tentatively scheduled to be considered by the State Board in the fall of 2016. For full story, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst

ASWM is currently working on a project funded by an EPA Wetland Program Development Grant to research what makes up high quality wetland training, assess alternative ways to deliver this training, and pilot some training activities.   In the process of assessing characteristics of high quality training, ASWM has been reviewing both peer-reviewed and gray literature on training quality.  From this work and contributions of a national project work group, a strong list of characteristics have emerged.  The growing list includes everything from technical components and content considerations to trainer skills and even trainer approaches to teaching.  A full report will be published in 2017 with ASWM’s findings.  But the reason I chose to write my blog this plantsession0701162week about high quality training is that I just participated in one.  Not a person in the room knew what I knew about these research-based elements of quality, but I promise you everyone in the room KNEW they had been part of something good.  The only difference was that I could identify WHY it was so effective.

Let me set the stage.  The training wasn’t actually about wetlands, it was about improving practices to reduce chloride in local waterbodies from snow and ice control activities.  But that is the beauty of adhering to good training design and practices – they hold regardless of the training content.  This knowledge is important for everyone who trains wetland professionals.  There are things you can do to make your trainings more effective and learning more meaningful.  Alternatively, if you are participating in a training, there are things you can look at to determine if the training has quality elements.  We have all participated in POOR training and know the feeling of waste and disappointment that comes from those experiences.  This blog shares some considerations designed to help you avoid poor training experiences.

If you are planning to participate in a training and you are looking at options, check whether or not the training:

  • Identifies the training’s purpose, learning objectives and expected learning outcomes
  • Is taught by a trainer with demonstrated expertise in the training area
  • Identifies the minimum skill-level required
  • Identifies prerequisites (e.g. minimum one year of experience in the field)
  • Identifies the equipment needed to participate (hardware, software, Internet access, etc.)
  • Makes clear how the training may be applied in the workplace
  • Provides an agenda/syllabus in advance of the training
  • Focuses on one or two key topics per section
  • Enrollment is limited to an appropriate number of participants for the type of training (e.g. <20 for graduate course, <50 for undergraduate course, <25 for interactive online training session; <10 on the ground training; unlimited for webinars)
  • Incorporates an interactive component appropriate for the training design
  • Provides high quality printed/electronic training materials (ex. a manual that includes the slides, information, references and notes pages)
  • Includes take-home reference materials (esp. quick reference guides)
  • Provides the training materials in advance of the first training session
  • Includes evaluation of both what was learned and the quality of the training itself

Other considerations that will help determine whether the training choice may be effective for you:

  • wetlandtraining71616Do you have adequate equipment/services to participate (e.g. web access, software, car)
  • Does it build on previous training/sessions you have taken?
  • Does it tap into your preferred learning style(s) – for example hands-on, visual, etc.?
  • Is it scheduled at a time that works for your schedule?
  • Does it provide adequate opportunities for interaction based on your needs?
  • Is it held at a convenient and appropriate location for what you want out of it?
  • Is your supervisor supportive?

If you are developing a training, make sure to evaluate and incorporate what makes sense for your training from the lists above.  There are some additional considerations you may want to think about as well.  The following is a short list to help you make the most of your time together with training participants:

  • Conduct a needs assessment prior to developing your training session(s)
  • Match your training design to those learning needs
  • Schedule your training at a location designed to facilitate learning, with adequate equipment to participate, comfortable accommodations, and minimal distractions
  • Make sure content is relevant to the work of the participants
  • Do not incorporate too much material for the training time provided
  • Use pictures used to illustrate topics (not just bulleted PowerPoint text), enhanced images, and animation with scenarios when possible
  • Emphasize and revisit your main takeaway points
  • Stick to basics in beginner courses and control the introduction rate of new material
  • Leave enough time for questions
  • Moderate question time to ensure less verbal participants have opportunity to ask questions

fieldwork070116Interactive/Hands-on Components:  As noted above, ASWM’s project includes a national work group, which is comprised of a range of stakeholders including state wetland program managers, trainers, on-the-ground wetland professionals and others.  They have repeatedly emphasized that trainers need to incorporate as many interactive and hands-on components as possible in order to provide participants with opportunities to practice applied learning.  Some examples include scenario exercises, small group work/problem solving and role playing. (Photo Caption: Field work during wetland training course; Photo Credit: USACE)

Presenter Style and Presence:  Not to be overlooked is a truly essential element of high quality training and that is the style of the presenter.  A trainer who is not only competent in their field and an expert on the material, but also engaging, able to employ a sense of humor and truly connect with those he/she is training is one of the most commonly-reported characteristics of high quality training.  Choosing the right people to carry out training is key.  While information that allows you to assess trainer style is likely not included in the training promotional materials, ask around for opinions and surely you will quickly find which courses and trainers others have found engaging or not.

trainingtips070116On-Line Training Tips:  For those developing online courses where face-to-face communication is not possible, make sure to include chat rooms where small groups can discuss issues and relate content to their personal work context, use polls to “listen” to the views or circumstances of your trainees, and capitalize on other online technology tools.  Make sure that online courses are moderated in ways that encourage constructive dialogue and exchange.  If your online course would have benefitted from a field component, but cannot provide one, an alternative is to design self-guided exercises for the participant to take into the field independently and work on. A wealth of material is available on the web to help guide your online training efforts.  ASWM is currently working to compile and condense this information to be useful for wetland trainers.  Additionally, ASWM is working to develop a series of online training modules on the basics of hydric soils for on-the-ground wetland professionals in an effort to gain experience adhering to the practices described above.

Best with a Supportive Work Environment:   A final element of effective training I want to share with you today is the environment in which the participant is working when they take the training and the context in which they will seek to implement what they learned when they return from the training.  As one would imagine, training is more effective when the participant’s supervisor is involved and supportive.  It is also more effective when the participant’s organization is open to supporting implementation of new skills/learning/behavior change after the training.  We know this is not always possible to achieve, but if it can be, it makes a difference.  Working with supervisors to help plan out training and implementation plans ahead of time can increase the likelihood new approaches, tools and behaviors can be adopted.

badtraining7116Avoiding Creating Bad Training Experiences:  In stark contrast to these elements, all you have to do is ask someone to describe a bad training experience and you are likely to get an earful.  Everyone has been part of a training that seemed to go on forever, that made them feel trapped, wasted their time, was deathly boring… Ala the Ferris Beuhler’s Day Off movie, “…Mesopotamia…Buehler?….Buehler?  To this end, avoid at all costs providing endless amounts of reading to teach concepts, or hours of talking heads or PowerPoints where the presenter reads text-heavy slides and avoids interaction with participants.  While these may be the EASIEST ways to deliver training, they are surely the least effective.

Good Training in Action:  So, back to my training experience.  Our trainer was an expert with 20+ years working in the field and seven years teaching on the day’s topic.  He started the day by clarifying what we were going to learn, why it was important and how we could apply it to our work after.  He made clear there could be accommodations for different learning styles and abilities.  He made the audience laugh and relax.  He explained the testing and deflated any anxiety around the test with humor and promises to be clear about what key takeaways would be.  He outlined each segment of the session, which was well organized into segments.  He gave adequate time for breaks and lunch.  He was available between sessions for questions.  He handed out a binder with all the information he was presenting, support documents, and follow-up links.  He gave everyone an evaluation form at the start of the course and reminded goodtraining070116people at breaks that he was interested in their feedback.  His presentations were filled with images, tables that included interpretation, and photos. He used stories and anecdotes.  He kept it moving and fresh.  And by the end, I felt like my day had been well spent and that I had learned concepts and practices I wanted to share with the municipalities I work with about improving operations.  Most importantly, I knew what I did and didn’t know and where to go to fill those gaps.  As I work on ASWM’s training project, it was incredibly useful to participate in an outstanding training experience as a trainee.

training070116Share Your Insights on Quality Training with ASWM: We welcome you to share your ideas and experiences with us to help us with our project.  Your insights are valuable as we strive to help wetland professionals have access to high quality training.  To share insights about your good, your bad and your ugly training experiences with ASWM, please email me (Brenda Zollitsch, ASWM Policy Analyst) at .  We’d love to hear from you!

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bos2We’re at an Infrastructure Crossroads

By Howard Neukrug – US Water Alliance May 23, 2016
In today’s modern American cities, we enjoy the benefits of the water infrastructure networks designed and built over the last two centuries.  And the passage of America’s great water laws just over four decades ago allowed for new level of expectation and significant progress in public health and environmental protection.  However, we are at an infrastructure crossroads— and we are beginning to witness the effects of a weakening in our water infrastructure’s armor. For full blog post, click here.

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wppGoing Hog Wild in the Marsh

By Rebecca Heisman – Hakai Magazine – June 23, 2016
Sharp has spent the past three years on a quest to understand how feral hogs are affecting the fragile saltwater marshes that line much of the East and Gulf Coasts. And that effort is paying off. Sharp’s preliminary results now suggest that up to half the saltwater marshes in Florida have been damaged by hogs—a problem that has, until now, been largely overlooked. For full article, click here.

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cwlogoBy Jeanne Christie

I am not a birder.  I have many good friends who are and I admire their passion.  I’m not sure why I never caught the birding bug.  Perhaps it’s because binoculars quickly give me a headache.  Perhaps it’s because birds seem so elusive – just a flicker in the distance or a puffins1song in the trees and I crave outdoor experiences that are more tangible.

Even so some of my most memorable moments outdoors have been encounters with birds and one of the best occurred last month in Scotland when I went ‘sunning with puffins’.

puffins2Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) are pelagic (ocean-living) birds that nest in large colonies on coastal cliffs, often located on islands in the North Atlantic. Puffins can live 20 years.  They form strong pair bonds often returning each year to join their mate on the cliffs where they were born.  Their brilliant bills are only present for breeding season and are shed later in the year revealing a smaller, less colorful true bill beneath.

puffins3The male builds the nest tunneling down about 2-3 feet and lining the burrow with soft grass.  The female lays a single egg and both parents incubate the egg and feed the chick.  The new family winters at sea far from their summer home.  The new chicks spend a few years at sea before returning to find a mate and start a family of their own on the cliffs where they were born.

island062316Staffa Island, only 82 acres in size, is one of the islands that make up the Inner Hebrides in Scotland.  It is famous for its largest sea cavern which was the inspiration for the Hebrides Overture by Felix Mendelssohn.  There are also puffins.

Tourists are taken to the island by boat and dropped off to visit the cave—and to linger at the top of a special cliff where the puffins are nesting.

Scotland is famous for its inclement weather, but the weather the day we arrived on Staffa was uncharacteristically warm and sunny. The tour operator pointed to the cliff with an orange marker on top and told us if we climbed up cliff062316there and sat on the grass the puffins would come up and sun with us on the top of the cliff.  He explained the puffins there were constantly harassed by seagulls. Various species of gulls may prey on puffins or steal their food.  The presence of humans discouraged the seagulls.  This puffin colony took advantage of the respite provided by the humans by flying to the top of the cliff and relaxing.

grass062316So we sat on the grass under the sun and the puffins flew up to us.  They stood on their orange feet and groomed each other gently clicking their beaks together and basked in the sun and we sat in the grass and watched and took pictures.

Maybe I should think more seriously about becoming a birder.


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bos2Incorporating Environmental Justice into all Regulatory Efforts

By Charles Lee and Kelly Maguire – EPA Blog – Environmental Justice in Action –June 7, 2016
Today marks an important moment in environmental justice history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its first-ever Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance).  This guidance represents a significant step towards ensuring the impacts of EPA regulations on vulnerable populations are understood and considered in the decision-making process. For full blog post, click here.

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wppThe Rise of Ocean Optimism

By Elin Kelsey – Hakai Magazine – June 8, 2016
Things are far more resilient than I ever imagined. Me, green sea turtles, coral reefs blown to bits by atomic bombs. In a twist of fate that even surprised scientists, Bikini Atoll, site of one of the world’s biggest nuclear explosions, is now a scuba diver’s paradise. Bikini Atoll, located in the Pacific’s Marshall Islands, didn’t just inspire the famous bathing suit; the US Army detonated the first hydrogen bomb there. Between 1946 and 1958, 23 nuclear explosions were carried out, at an incalculable cost to the people and the marine environment. Fifty years later, scientists record a thriving coral reef habitat that includes large tree-like branching coral formations with trunks the diameter of dinner plates. “It’s made a brilliant recovery,” says Zoe Richards, a scientist at the Australian Museum. For full article, click here.

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For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

In 2014, the Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) published a report titled “Ecosystem Service Valuation for Wetland Restoration: What It Is, How To Do It and Best Practice Recommendations” which endorses the valuation of ecosystem services as an advantageous method for the promotion of wetland restoration. The report provided an introductory peek into the world of environmental economics and the various methods available to elicit qualitative and ecosystemreport061616quantitative values for the many benefits provided by wetlands such as habitat, floodwater attenuation, storm surge protection, stormwater filtration and recreation, among many others. The findings from the report were shared through presentations offered at ASWM’s Annual Meeting and the Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration in 2014, as well as at the Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting in 2015. A swath of valuation tools were identified in the report, but the report did not include an in-depth analysis of the various tools and their usability for state wetland programs. Some of the attendees at the presentations commented that an overview of the usability of the various valuation tools and methods available would be useful.

analysis061616So in 2015, the Association hired an intern, Mark Healy, from Southern Illinois University, who with the guidance of his academic advisor, Dr. Silvia Secchi, conducted an extensive review of existing decision support tools and selected six tools that maintain “off-the-shelf” capability for wetland program managers. Over an eight month period, ASWM held regular check-in calls with Mark and Silvia to discuss parameters and provide focus for the report. Advice and assistance was provided by partners at the U.S. EPA Atlantic Ecology Division and the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, as well as the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and Industrial Economics. The final report, titled “A Comparative Analysis of Ecosystem Service Valuation Decision Support Tools for Wetland Restoration” was completed at the end of February, 2016.

The six tools chosen for review include InVEST, TESSA, Co$ting Nature, Wildlife Habitat Benefits Estimation Toolkit, ARIES and SolVES. The first section of the report defines and introduces twelve criteria for comparison and differentiation between the six selected decision support tools. The twelve assessment criteria for choosing the selected tools include: accessibility, interface, analysis scale, analysis type, data input demand, valuation units, cartographic output, tool requirements, time requirements, skill requirements, user support and cost. Each tool is evaluated side by side in a comparative matrix. Three ecosystem service categories were used (biogeochemical, hydrological and ecological) to provide a conceptual framework that aligns with wetland restoration defined as “the manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of a site with the goal of returning natural/historic functions to a former or degraded wetland” (U.S. EPA 2012).

In section two of the report, each tool is expanded on in individual one page profiles that include a brief description, target users, ecosystem service models, background/methodology, development outlook, general information as well as references and additional resources. The third section of the report compares each tool side by side in another comparative matrix that evaluates them according to their handling of ecosystem services, including climate regulation, water purification, sediment retention, inland flood regulation, coastal protection, habitat, aesthetic value and recreation value. A thorough discussion of each tool’s performance in addressing these ecosystem services is provided in the pages following the matrix.

The Association is extremely pleased with the excellent research performed by Mark and is very grateful for all the guidance of his advisor, Dr. Secchi. I’ve had the honor of markhealy061616mentoring several other interns and volunteers in my professional life, but have never done so remotely before. So I was very pleased when Mark’s abstract was accepted for the Society of Wetland Scientists Annual Meeting in Corpus Christie, TX this spring where I had the pleasure of finally meeting him in person. It’s wonderful to see such a young, intelligent and hard-working individual in the wetlands community. The report is available for free download on ASWM’s website. So for Peat’s Sake, check it out – it’s a must read by anyone interested in performing an ecosystem service valuation for their wetland restoration project.

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wppWetland restoration was a family journey

Herald Times Reporter – May 24, 2016
“I can remember planting corn and beans here,” landowner and Wisconsin Wetlands Association member Paul Becker said, standing at the edge of a wetland where dragonflies and birds now fly. The wetlands, part of Becker’s family property in northeast Wisconsin, have been restored and, for the past 20 years, have provided the Becker family with hunting and recreational opportunities and improved water quality. For full story, click here.


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