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

bos2PA Regulations and Court Victories Translate Directly into Wins for the American People

By Gina McCarthy – EPA Connect – January 19, 2017
Over the past few years we have heard a pretty constant refrain about “EPA overreach” which is shorthand for saying EPA has gone beyond the authority given to it by Congress.   Even though as Administrator both Lisa Jackson and I pledged to follow two guiding principles – the rule of law and scientific integrity – it seemed with few exceptions that nearly every significant step EPA took to protect public health and the environment was met with criticisms of EPA overreach.   So I recently asked Avi Garbow, EPA’s General Counsel, to conduct an analysis of court decisions reviewing the actions taken by the Obama EPA under the Clean Air Act – which were the largest set of actions EPA took.  The purpose of this analysis was to determine whether in fact, the EPA followed these first principles of law and science. For full blog post, click here.

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wppHow to Find Funding for Unpaid Internships

By Elizabeth Morgan – National Wildlife Federation’s Blog –January 26, 2017
Several years ago, I developed a passion for working in wildlife conservation. However, I’ve found that entering the wildlife industry is about much more than just having a passion. Many jobs in wildlife management and conservation — and in many green career sectors — require an advanced degree, several years of experience, and expert knowledge. Internships seem to be few and far between, and often I will find a great position only to discover it is unpaid or in a location out of my reach. I have had thoughts of giving up, but I have been fortunate to find alternate funding sources to continue pursuing my career. In this post, I’ll share some examples of how to find funding for unpaid internships and other work experiences. For full blog post, click here.

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cwlogoBy Jeanne Christie, Executive Director, ASWM

“How lucky I am to have something that makes
saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

As January 2017 comes to a close, two people retiring from the federal civil service will be sorely missed by myself, the staff of the Association of State Wetland Managers and many other wetland/aquatic resources professionals around the country.  Their careers have followed different tracks, but their respective impacts on wetlands and aquatic resource protection and conservation have been significant.

Stephen Samuels is retiring from his position as Assistant Section Chief in the Environmental Defense Section. He is a nationally recognized expert on Clean Water Act jurisdiction and has spent much of his career successfully supporting the U.S. government’s position on Clean Water Act issues.  His contributions have been many, but I can only speak to his importance to myself and state wetland managers.

samuels012617For 15+ years he has made presentations in various ASWM venues on changes in Clean Water Act jurisdiction providing state wetland managers and other attendees with critical insights. CWA jurisdiction has been a continually changing area of public policy particularly since the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers 2001 Supreme Court decision significantly reduced Clean Water Act jurisdiction over wetlands. This was followed by the Rapanos v. the United States in 2006 which provided additional constraints and uncertainty.  Steve helped us make sense of the decisions themselves and the various challenges making their way through the courts around the country.  This allowed states to determine how these changes to Clean Water Act on a national level impacted individual state programs.  To hear from Steve directly about how he chose a career in public service, there’s a video! Why I chose a Career in DOJ’s Environmental Defense Section.

Dave Evans is perhaps less well known, but his contributions have been very important. He has had a long career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency serving most recently as Wetlands Division Director beginning in 2005 and then as Deputy Director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds since 2013.  As Wetland Division Director, Dave was a regular participant at ASWM meetings. Among his many accomplishments, he has been a strong advocate for improving the capacity of states and tribes to carry out wetland programs including supporting establishment of the Enhancing State and Tribal Programs (ESTP) initiative.  He has also encouraged actions by the EPA to support state and tribal assumption of the Section 404 program.

evans012617It is difficult to articulate the contributions of these two extraordinary individuals over all the years I have had the privilege of working with them. What I remember best is not a catalogue of legal briefs by Steve or program initiatives by Dave but their accessibility, intellect, dedication and humor.

Steve liked to lighten his admittedly dense presentations on Supreme Court decisions with images of fruit on his PowerPoints pointing out that the opinions of the various Supreme Court justices were not apples to apples but rather apples to oranges to cherries. But most memorable was Steve’s careful, deep thinking about the details and ramifications of decisions by the various courts.  And he also made that information accessible to non-lawyers who needed to understand these cases to carry out their work.

Dave, as a representative of USEPA has been perpetually positive and interested in understanding the viewpoints of everyone at the table.  He brings a calm sense of purpose and possibility to every challenge.  This is particularly important working in the arena of wetlands and public policy because the challenges never stop coming. We had many conversations about wetland science, wetland programs and public policy changes over the years and Dave’s ability to take the long view and put day to day events in a larger context has made him a valued participant in national policy discussions.  On a more personal note we share a love of running and routinely catch up on our latest adventures on the road and trail.

Dave Evans and Stephen Samuels have characteristics in common:  honor, integrity, and a commitment to serving the public good.  They leave big shoes to fill.  Wherever they are bound for next, I hope we continue to have an opportunity to work together.  After all…

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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bos2Continuing to Protect the Country’s Waters

By Gina McCarthy – EPA Forward – January 12, 2017
Water is something deeply personal to each of us. We depend on it for running our homes and operating our businesses. Americans collectively drink one billion glasses of tap water each day. We need it for fishing, swimming, and boating with our families. If we want to continue to seize opportunities for improvement in clean and reliable water, we must make water a top national priority. For full story, click here.

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wppMaking Natural Infrastructure Solutions Happen

By James Schwab – American Planning Association – January 17, 2017
Almost all planners know from training and experience that the path from idea to implementation can often be fraught with difficulty. The best environmental concepts can be particularly hard to explain both to elected and appointed officials and to the general public, even when support exists for the general idea of a healthy environment. The devil, as they say, is in the details. For full blog post, click here.

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

The term “natural infrastructure” is interpreted broadly and had been used to describe many different types of infrastructure – from bioswales to living shorelines and from wet meadow restoration to removal of dams – and is often used interchangeably with the term “green infrastructure.” Some government agencies and non-profit organizations have developed succinct definitions for each, but more often than not, these definitions differ from one organization to another. One of the reasons for this is because the science and practice for the design and implementation of these types of projects is relatively new – particularly as tools for flood and hazard management – and we are in the middle of a steep learning process. Wetland and floodplain restoration projects have been implemented for over 25 years as a way to restore critical habitat and region7epaprovide clean drinking water. But the interest in the development of these projects has risen rapidly over the past 10 years due to an increase in our knowledge about the functions of healthy wetlands and floodplains and their ability to provide multiple benefits, paired with a significant increase in extreme precipitation events, drought and impaired water quality nationwide.

For several years now, the Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) has been hearing anecdotal stories about natural infrastructure projects that can’t quite seem to get off the ground. Most of these are voluntary restoration projects that face the same level of regulatory oversight as compensatory mitigation projects. However, the reasons for the development of a voluntary restoration project versus a compensatory restoration project are often very different. Compensatory mitigation is legally required to offset any losses due to damages or alterations of an existing wetland, whereas voluntary restoration projects are developed to improve an existing site. However, regulatory programs did not anticipate the rapid increase in the interest in voluntary restoration as a form of natural infrastructure and many requirements that were designed (and are necessary) to address potential issues for compensatory mitigation or for traditional hard infrastructure (building dams and levees), are often not a good fit for voluntary restoration projects and in fact, may result in unnecessary delays and expenses that can stop a good project even before it’s shovel ready.

During 2016, ASWM worked with the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) and the American Planning Association (APA), as a subcommittee of the Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance Steering Committee, to develop a workshop with the goal of addressing some of these barriers and identify opportunities to revise existing policies and programs to leverage natural infrastructure solutions. By October, we had added The Pew Charitable Trusts to our planning committee and on November 29, 2016 we held our workshop, entitled “Overcoming Policy and Permitting Challenges to Implementing Natural Infrastructure Solutions,” at The Pew Charitable Trusts headquarters in Washington D.C. with around 50 invited participants and speakers.

pewcharitableWe had three speakers provide case studies that highlighted some of the barriers that they have confronted. Rob Evans, Vermont State Floodplain Manager, spoke about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirement for map revisions and floodway regulations that were problematic for a small local project (Cox Brook Dam Removal). He explained that the project was limited in impact, would result in very localized reductions in base flood elevations, and had no impact on insurable buildings. Additionally, the existing flood data was so old that the requirement to update all the data to produce revised maps was cost-prohibitive.

Next, Ted LaGrange from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission spoke about the challenges he faced in implementing a private lands riverine restoration project on a highly altered landscape that included filling a drainage ditch, mechanical excavation to remove invasive cattail and culturally-accelerated sediment, and installing a low-water crossing/rock check structure. He experienced a general lack of consistency and efficiency in dealings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) in regard to what was considered a complete Pre-Construction Notification (PCN), what type of wetland functional assessment was required and what was acceptable for wetland delineation. It took him about 14 months to obtain a Nationwide Permit #27 authorization, which for most farmers and ranchers is longer than they are willing to wait. Thus many opportunities for protecting and restoring wetlands and floodplains are lost.

The final case study was presented by Eileen Shader from American Rivers who spoke about their Shuford Dam Removal Project in Brookford, North Carolina. Like Rob, she also spoke about barriers created by FEMA’s out of date flood map data, in particular the need to “dumb down” more detailed local models in order to match the much older FEMA models. She also discussed the issue of requiring mitigation to replace acreage of wetlands that were formed by the dam after its removal even though the wetlands were never there historically. All of these issues need to be and can be addressed by FEMA and the ACOE through policy revisions.*

nffaworkshopIn the afternoon we heard from a federal agency panel that included Jennifer Moyer (Regulatory Program Chief, USACE), Cindy Barger (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Army, ACOE Civil Works), Nicole LaRosa (Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Policy Branch, FEMA), Rick Sacbibit (Chief, Engineering Services Branch, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, FEMA) and Maria Honeycutt (Coastal Hazards Specialist, Office for Coastal Management, NOAA and Technical Mapping Advisory Council Subcommittee Member). Each panelist provided their perspectives/reflections from the morning case studies and discussed ways in which each agency could possibly help improve the permitting process. Three primary themes arose from the panel discussion with workshop participants that rang true for all levels of government: 1) a need for sufficient funding and staffing, 2) a need for more professional training for everyone (regulators, wetland managers, practitioners, etc.), and 3) a need for improved communication between federal, state and local agencies/organizations.

The workshop was successful at bringing together a diverse group of organizations, sharing real world experiences, and identifying barriers and potential opportunities by all the various agencies and organizations that participated. Although we were not able to identify immediately implementable solutions in just one day, there was overwhelming consensus that this initiative needs to be continued. The NFFA Steering Committee is currently developing a strawman of actions to undertake in response to the workshop which we will continue to report out on throughout 2017 and beyond, so For Peat’s Sake, stay tuned and get involved with the NFFA. More information about NFFA can be found on ASWM’s website by clicking here.

*Progress Report Update: Since this workshop, the ACOE released the new 2017 Nationwide Permits for work in streams and wetlands under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. A new Nationwide 53 is included for removal of low-head dams. ASWM will be hosting a webinar on this new Nationwide within the next few weeks – information will be posted here once it is scheduled.


Posted in adaptation, Clean Water Act, ecosystem services, floodplains, green infrastructure, Infrastructure, mapping, mitigation, permitting, restoration, water policy, watershed management, wetland regulations, wetland restoration, wetlands | Tagged | Leave a comment

bos2Public Land Giveaway Would be Disastrous for Rivers

By Davide Moryc – American Rivers – January 9, 2017
On the first day of the new Congress the new Republican led U.S. House voted to ease the transfer of public lands signaling that the threat of our public lands being given or sold to state and private interests is real and imminent. This is a part of an outrageous broader scheme by some in Congress and state legislatures to transfer or sell our public lands and rivers and must be vehemently opposed by all Americans regardless of political party. By adopting new rules to avoid costs to the federal treasury they came up with an accounting trick—decreeing that public lands have no value. Of course in so many ways this couldn’t be further from the truth. For full story, click here.

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wppScience-Based Conservation Under Attack in 2017

By Candice Gaukel Andrews – Good Nature Travel – January 3, 2017
We’ve closed the books on 2016. It’s natural to want to assess the past year, now that we’ve made it through to the end. In the past 12 months, there has been some significant, positive progress: according to World Wildlife Fund, the giant panda is no longer endangered; for the first time in years, tiger numbers grew; the Arctic’s federal waters were spared from U.S. drilling plans; and newly developed, antipoaching technology led to dozens of arrests in Africa. What do all of these gains have in common? They were made possible because of science. For full story, click here.

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by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst, ASWM

Over the winter holiday, I got to spend a number of precious days with my elementary school-aged children.  We went snowshoeing through the woods and even explored some icy wetlands.  I always like to support their learning, so when one of my children’s teacher asked me for resources on wetlands to share with their class, I said “no problem” and jumped on the web, expecting to find a plethora of materials to choose from childrenwetlandsthat fit the bill.  What I found, instead, was a lot of what I would call “lost websites” — websites that may have once been engaging, functional and up-to-date, but that had since fallen into disrepair with broken links, out of date information or not very interesting or interactive materials.  If I, as a wetland professional, could not easily find what I was looking for, I thought, perhaps others may have an even harder time.

So, today, I am going to share with you the fruits of my labors and lay out some of the different ways that schools, homeschool groups and parents can connect children with wetlands: 1) through access to some interesting and informative websites; 2) through curriculum that focuses on wetland topics; 3) through visits to local wetlands; 4) through taking action to protect and advocate for wetlands; and 5) by developing wetlands  on their own school grounds to create an onsite learning laboratory.

I have formatted the information in this way, after recently hearing a presentation by outreach coordinator Brittany Hayward from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control that discussed the importance of interaction to edgardaleimprove learning outcomes.  She shared Edgar Dale’s research, which shows that (from learning activities), people remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of that they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they both see and hear
  • 70% of what they say and write
  • 90% of what they do

If you talk at people or have them read something, it’s only mildly effective at knowledge transfer.  However, when people take an active role in their learning — doing an activity, completing an online game, reading through something and taking a quiz or a pledge — the result is more meaningful comprehension and retention.  So with that in mind, I share the following resources organized by the location on the Cone of Learning.  I encourage teachers and learners alike to find their way as far along this continuum of engagement as they can. Not just because the learning will be stronger, but the learning becomes more fun as well!

Step 1: Learning by Looking and Gathering

First, let’s talk about some good visual information on wetlands for children on the Internet. There are a lot of sites that have information about wetlands.  Children can search and find hundreds of links.  But most of them are not targeted for their age and contain terms and formatting that is not conducive to child learning.  During my search, I found some specific sites, however, that are well-structured, engaging and well-maintained.

Ranger Rick’s “What Is a Wetland” Webpage

rangerrickThis is a great starter webpage, especially for younger children.  On this page, kids get to meet a guide — Wet Wally — a frog who walks them through the basics of what a wetland is, whether wetlands are all the same, and why they are important.  It includes some neat factoids that my kids loved as well.  The site also includes crafts, recipes, outdoor activities, and songs (some wetland-related). The site also provides an “activity finder,” which allows you to select activities by age, season, type, animals and kids subject.  Clearly, a well thought-out site that includes wetlands, but offers a whole lot more as well.

ScienceTrek – Wetland Facts Webpage

sciencetrekThis site is incredibly well-laid out and interesting. The information is slightly more advanced and hence suited to grades 4+.  The value of this site is that it goes into quite a bit of detail (in a youth-friendly manner) about pollution, functions of wetlands, and some wetland terminology.  For the budding young scientist, this site doesn’t skip the important science parts – it explains how wetlands work, including water, soil and plants.

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis’ “Kids Do Ecology” Website on Freshwater Wetlands

While this website focuses on a variety of different world biomes, this link is to the site’s webpage that focuses on freshwater wetlands.  The page provides well-written information on location, plants, animals, relationship with people and an array of links that are useful.

EPA Wetland Webpages

eparestorationWhile the EPA’s information on wetlands is not specifically geared to young learners, for older students the EPA does offer an array of more advanced topics and technical briefs.  I often think we underestimate the skills and capacity of young people.  While some may be challenged by the word choice or bored by the layout of the materials, the information is useful and can be used to support interactive learning activities in the classroom or in the field.   This site introduces students to the concept of regulating wetlands to protect them, as well as monitoring and assessment, wetland water quality standards and wetland restoration.  EPA’s site includes a link to resources for parents and teachers, with an especially useful reading list on wetlands for K-12.

Association of State Wetland Managers – Resources for Youth and Teachers

Our own ASWM website offers a number of resources for educators, including how to design workshops and more.  Additionally, ASWM has offered webinars on building education at wetland centers.  As the Wetland Wander, I wrote a previous blog on Wetland Books for Inquiring Young Minds, which offers some recommendations for high quality children’s books on wetland topics.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – What You Can Do to Help Wildlife Website

usfwsWhile this website is not wetland-specific, it is one of my favorite because it focuses on things that young people can do to help the environment.  It lists all sorts of very do-able actions that people can take to reduce their impact on wildlife and their habitats.  This one’s a keeper, so I chose to include it.

Note: In the future, I plan to review the way apps, social media, games and other electronic tools can be used to support wetland teaching and learning as well. 

Step 2: Moving Children from Consuming Information to Interacting with It

Students learn and retain more if they interact with the information they are consuming.  The following set of resources includes activities that teachers or parents can use to engage students in their learning about wetlands.

The Magic School Bus Gets Swamped

magicschoolbusFor those of you living or working with elementary school children, you are most likely already familiar with the Magic School Bus Series.  They go on wonderful nature adventures with a beloved teacher and have all sorts of learning adventures.  I was thrilled to find that the Magic School Bus program had taken on wetlands, as was my daughter.  The site includes a hands-on activity, a “wetland pollution fighters” story by one of the child characters, and instructions on how to create a wetland bulletin board

Exploring Our Wonderful Wetlands (Teacher-guided Activities)

While this resource is best targeted to students in the southeastern part of the country, there are activities that are transferable to any classroom or home.  This teacher’s guide is chock-full of information, activities and ideas for teaching.  It includes five individual “explorations” that educators can use.  The copy-ready activity pages are high quality and will be engaging and thought-provoking for kids in grades 4-7.

Conducting Wetland Education using Project WET

oakmarshProject WET is a nationally-recognized curriculum providing water education for teachers.  Project WET has numerous resources that are useful for teaching children in both the classroom and the field.  I was especially interested in this link (above), which shares how Project WET can be used to conduct wetland education with children at wetland sites.

Scholastic – A Look at the Louisiana Wetlands Following the Gulf Oil Spill

For teachers or parents who are looking to teach youth about the more complex issues of pollution and the relationship between wetlands and polluting events, like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this video teaching tool provides a thought-provoking louisianawetlandsexploration of the impacts of human activities on a wetland and what these impacts mean for both people and the environment.  This is an excellent civics or environmental policy learning tool, which can be adapted for use for K-12 learning.  The young Scholastic reporter is highly engaging and shows students that they can have a role in making a difference.

Links to additional interactive workbook materials can be found at the end of this blog.

Step 3: Helping Youth Visit Local Wetlands

There is nothing like being out in nature to get people to care about and understand it better.  The ability to step into a wetland and see all they have learned about in books, on the web or in the classroom in the real world is of great value.  As the Wetland Wanderer, I encourage any educator to take your children/students out into a local wetland.  There are dipnetwetland centers, refuges, and sites all across the United States.  Holding a frog, drawing wetland grasses, hearing wetland insects, testing water samples all lead to memorable takeaways for children.   If you are not sure where to find a local wetland, contact your local Audubon Center , your state wetland program office, or search the web.  Wetlands are everywhere, so find one and get out into it!

Remember, when you take children out into a wetland, make sure they are properly clothed (and have good footwear for the wet ground conditions), have bug repellent, food and water, as well as maps to help guide their walk and nature guides for identifying wetland creatures.  One of the most popular additions to wetland walks is often a dip net, which allows kids to scoop into the water and explore what they find.  If you have the opportunity to secure the support of a wetland educator for your field trip, all the better!

Examples of some useful field guides for your wetland field trip include:

Step 4: Taking Action – Teaching Wetland Advocacy

Students can take their learning to the next level by taking action to protect or advocate for their local wetlands.  This can take the form of a wetland clean-up, raising money for wetland protection, serving as a volunteer at a local wetland center and many other activities.  Another type of action kids can take is learning about careers related to wetlands.  The following resources help guide youth as they explore ways they can take action to help wetlands.

actionprojectwildProject Wild: Taking Action

When children are motivated to make a difference, finding just the right guidance is important at each step of the way.  Project WILD provides parents and teachers with this useful guide on how to help kids take action on issues that are important to them, including wetlands.  The guide includes an overview of action and the rationale for action, how to add action to your teaching, an action matrix to guide your projects and other tools, including examples of success stories.

Wetland Job Profiles

If your young one or a student is interested in jobs that work with wetlands or wetland creatures, this resource is a great conversation starter about options in many fields that deal with wetlands.

Step 5: Creating and Exploring School-based Wetlands

schoolyardFinally, learning always has an advantage when students and teachers have ownership for what they are doing.  Across the country there are a growing number of schools and communities that have taken this to heart and developed wetland teaching labs in their schools and neighborhoods.  Here are a number of resources for schools or community groups interested in creating learning wetlands for their students.


In conclusion, there are an infinite number of ways to teach children about wetlands, regardless of your access to resources, travel funds or community support.  Wetlands are often close by and serve as great teaching tools about the interactions between nature and people, as well as ecosystems and food webs.  The work you do to connect youth with wetlands is laudable and we hope that these resources will help you think about new ways to get kids excited about wetlands.    Please let us know of any resources you think are great teaching tools and we will add them to our resource list.  Email any recommended resources to me at .

Whatever role you play in teaching and sharing with kids, we hope you too have fun teaching and sharing the wonders of wetlands!

Additional Interactive Wetland Workbooks and Activity Sheets:

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bos2Chesapeake Restoration Gets Hi-Res Land Cover Data

Eco Magazine – December 12, 2016
There’s no question that technology has changed every facet of modern life. The corporate world and the health care industry are examples of fields that were quick to capitalize on the power of technology, becoming more efficient. However, until relatively recently the conservation movement lagged far behind in harnessing the power of technology and innovation. This summer, the Chesapeake Conservancy spearheaded and partnered with the University of Vermont, and WorldView Solutions, Inc. to complete the Chesapeake High-Resolution Land Cover Project, one of the largest, high-resolution land cover datasets for the nation. For full article, click here.

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