Illinois ELI State Wetland Protection: Status, Trends, & Model Approaches
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Original Wetland Acreage Remaining Wetland Acreage Acreage Lost % Lost
8,212,000 1,254,500 6,957,500 -85%

Illinois Wetlands: Most of the State’s wetlands are either palustrine forested wetland such as bottom-land hardwood forests and bald cypress swamps. Also open-water palustrein wetlands – primarily farm ponds – are present throughout the State.

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Summary Features Regulation Water Quality Standards Mitigation Monitoring and Assessment Restoration Public/Private Partnerships





Overall Program:

The state regulates state and state-funded projects in wetlands. But, there is no regulation of wetlands on private lands except through the floodplain regulation program, local regulations, and the Section 401 Water Quality Certification Program.

Innovative Features and New Programs/Initiatives:

A detailed statewide wetland inventory and digitized wetland database was developed in the 1980's.  The State has noted a number of problems with the accuracy of the original data and is currently funding a pilot project in one central Illinois watershed to identify methods to improve and update the National Wetlands Inventory.

State Wetland Conservation Plan

A State Wetland Conservation Strategy was prepared but never adopted.

No Net Loss/Net Gain Goal

A no net loss goal exists for state-supported activities.




Wetland Regulatory Statutes and Administrative Rules

Interagency Wetland Policy Act of 1989: State projects and state funded projects must achieve a goal of no net loss of wetlands.

Floodplain Management Statute: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Office of Water Resources issues permits for development within a 100-year floodplain. It also issues permits for filling and dredging public water bodies.  No specific permits are issued which address wetland impacts on floodplains.

Wetland Definition and/or Delineation; Comparability With Federal Definition

Illinois’ Interagency Wetland Policy Act of 1989: Adopted the Federal 1987 definition of wetlands. The act also includes mitigation and requires an alternatives analysis to minimize adverse wetland impacts for planned construction projects.

Evaluation Methodology

Adverse wetland impacts are compensated by a ratio applied to the size of impact and location of compensation relative to the impacted wetland.  The ratio varies from 1:1 to 5.5:1. 

Most actual regulation of wetlands on private lands occurs at the local level.

Regulated and Exempted Activities

Interagency Wetland Policy Act of 1989: This statute regulates State and state-pass through construction activities for activities over $10,000.

Special Provisions for Agriculture and Forestry
Interagency Wetland Policy Act of 1989: This statute does provide limited exemptions for agricultural and silvicultural practices and some wetland management actions on State wildlife management areas.

Penalties and Enforcement

Wetland compensation plans are needed before a project can proceed. The State does not have any specific penalties other than a non-compliance finding.

Illinois Department of Conservation conflict resolution is contacted through the office of the Governor.

Permit Tracking

The Department has a limited database for tracking internal and external projects but there is no comprehensive statewide project tracking system for wetlands.

State General Permit (PGP or SPGP) for 404

A programmatic general permit for the state was evaluated but not adopted.

Assumption of Section 404 Powers

None indicated.

Joint Permitting

The state has developed a joint application form used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and Department of Natural Resources for use in conjunction with the Corps’, 404 Permit Program.

Special Area Management Plans and Advanced Identification Plans

ADID studies have been completed and/or revised for counties in northeast Illinois.

Role of Local Governments

Most regulation of wetlands on private lands is by local governments.  Lake, DuPage and McHenry (pending approval) Counties have adopted wetland regulations, which involve activities on private land.

Staffing (Regulatory Staff)

One full time staff person is assigned to manage the State’s Interagency Wetland Program.

Water Quality Standards

Wetlands and Water Quality Standards

The state has a Section 401 program administered by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (35 Ill. Adm. Code, Chapter 11, Part 395.).

Wetland Definition

Definition is deferred to the Corps.

Designated Uses

Wetlands are covered in part under the Aquatic Life designation.

Narrative and/or Numeric Criteria

None at the present time.

Antidegradation Policy

The State does have an Antidegradation Policy and wetlands are covered in part under this policy.


None indicated.

Staffing (Wetland Water Quality Staff)

Wetland issues are covered by an equivalent of 1.5 full time employees.


Mitigation Policy

Mitigation is required for state projects. A state wetland compensation plan is required.

Mitigation Banks

Each state agency has the authority to establish a “compensation account.” Illinois has privately owned and operated wetland banks.  The majority of the banks are concentrated in Northeast Illinois where mitigation sites are at a premium and the majority of the wetland impacts are under .5 acres.

In Lieu Fee Program

The State does not have an In Lieu Fee Program.

Ad Hoc Arrangements

Ad Hoc Arrangements are allowed for approved wetland research or educational projects as part of a compensation plan only after there is a 1:1 replacement of wetland acres.

Mitigation Database

The State does not have a system to track wetland losses or gains.

Staffing (Mitigation Staff)

The Interagency Wetland Program manager reviews and approves wetland compensation plans.

Monitoring and Assessment

Mapping Inventory

The Illinois Department of Conservation (now the Department of Natural Resources) undertook a comprehensive statewide inventory of wetlands in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1980's. The Inventory is out-of-date and no funds are available to prepare a new inventory.

Wetland Classification and Assessment

The Department of Natural Resources through its Critical Trends Assessment Program has implemented a volunteer program to conduct general environmental monitoring at 150 sites across the state over a 5-year period.  Wetland assessment is one component of the process.

Overall Wetland Gain and Loss Tracking System

It would be desirable to have a tracking system, however, there are no funds to develop any type of tracking system at this time.

Staffing (Monitoring and Assessment Staff.)

The Interagency Wetland Program manager is responsible for reviewing monitoring and assessment on State funded projects.



Program Description

The Department participates in the federal Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) WHIP and WRP.

Restoration Program Goals

Riparian wetlands in the Mississippi and Illinois basins are the primary focus under CREP.

Other programs are statewide in scope.

Eligibility Criteria

Both public and private lands are eligible.  Funding limits the level of participation.

Restoration Database

A database tracks the CREP projects.

Staffing (Wetland Restoration Program Staff.)

One full time employee.  District biologist participates in the site evaluation and ranking process.


Public/Private Partnerships

Acquisition Program

The Department administers the Open Space and Land Acquisition Grant Program (OSLAD).  The program includes all habitat types. 

Illinois has a private lands program which helps landowners develop natural resource plans for their farms (include all resources).

Public Outreach/Education

The Department’s Office of Land Management and Education does provide educational materials for the public and teachers, which include wetland information.

Tax Incentives

The State does provide limited tax benefits to private land owners whose property meets certain qualifications and becomes enrolled through the Nature Preserve Commission as a Nature Preserve or Land and Water Reserve.

Technical Assistance

The Department does provide assistance to the pubic and to private landowners on a wide range of habitat management issues through the Office of Resource Conservation’s District Biologists.

Other Nonregulatory Incentives for Private Landowners


Wetland Training and Education

There are brochures targeted toward specific groups - agriculture and developers, local governments and the general public. The wetland delineation manual is available.

Watershed Planning

The Department does participate in watershed planning projects.

Special Problems

Urban expansion in Northeast Illinois in the Chicago vicinity is a primary concern. This part of the state has the largest remaining concentration of isolated wetlands.


The Interagency Wetland Committee, chaired by the IDNR insures consistent implementation of the Act and addresses other wetland issues involving State activities.  There are no other formal methods of coordination at the state level for wetland issues.

Contact Person(s)

Patrick A. Malone
Illinois Department of Natural Resources
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, Illinois 62702
(217) 785-5500

Bruce J. Yurdin
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
2200 Churchill Road
Springfield, IL 62794
(217) 782-1696

Contact Points

Guidebooks, Brochures, Websites, Other Educational Materials

IDNR, Office of Land Management and Education