Article Index




Wetland Definitions

Wetlands can be generally defined as land that is periodically flooded, whether by the tide, river flows, rain, or groundwater. More precise definitions have been developed for purposes of state and federal regulation.

NYS Freshwater Wetlands Act [Environmental Conservation Law Article 24 S 24-0107]

1. "Freshwater wetlands” means lands and waters of the state asshown on the freshwater wetlands map which contain any or all of thefollowing:

(a) Lands and submerged lands commonly called marshes, swamps,sloughs, bogs, and flats supporting aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetationof the following types:

(1) wetland trees, which depend upon seasonal or permanent flooding or sufficiently water-logged soils to give them a competitive advantage over other trees; including, among others, red maple (Acer rubrum), willows (Salix spp.), black spruce (Picea mariana); swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), red ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), American elm (Ulmus americana), and Larch (Larix laricina);

(2) wetland shrubs, which depend upon seasonal or permanent flooding or sufficiently water-logged soils to give them a competitive advantage over other shrubs; including, among others, alder (Alnus spp.), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata);

(3) emergent vegetation, including, among others, cattails (Typhaspp.), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), bulrushes (Scirpus spp.),arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), arrowheads (Sagittaria spp.), reed(Phragmites communis), wildrice (Zizania acquatica), bur-reeds(Sparganium spp.), purple loosetrife (Lythrum salicaria), swamploosestrife (Decodon verticillatus); and water plantain (Alismaplantago-aquatica);

(4) rooted, floating-leaved vegetation; including, among others, water-lily (Nymphaea odorata), water shield (Brasenia schreberi), and spatterdock (Nuphar spp.);

(5) free-floating vegetation; including, among others, duckweed (Lemna spp.), big duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza), and watermeal (Wolffia spp.);

(6) wet meadow vegetation, which depends upon seasonal or permanentflooding or sufficiently water-logged soils to give it a competitiveadvantage over other open land vegetation; including, among others,sedges (Carex spp.), rushes (Juncus spp.), cattails (Typha spp.), ricecut-grass (Leersia oryzoides), reed canary grass (Phalarisarundinacea), swamp loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus), and spikerush(Eleocharis spp.);

(7) bog mat vegetation; including, among others, sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.), bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), and cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos);

(8) submergent vegetation; including, among others, pondweeds(Potamogeton spp.), naiads (Najas spp.), bladderworts (Utriculariaspp.), wild celery (Vallisneria americana), coontail (Ceratophyllumdemersum), water milfoils (Myriophyllum spp.), muskgrass (Chara spp.),stonewort (Nitella spp.), water weeds (Elodea spp.), and watersmartweed (Polygonum amphibium);

(b) lands and submerged lands containing remnants of any vegetation that is not aquatic or semi-aquatic that has died because of wet conditions over a sufficiently long period, provided that such wet conditions do not exceed a maximum seasonal water depth of six feet and provided further that such conditions can be expected to persist indefinitely, barring human intervention;

(c) lands and waters substantially enclosed by aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation as set forth in paragraph (a) or by dead vegetation as set forth in paragraph (b), the regulation of which is necessary to protect and preserve the aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation; and

(d) the waters overlying the areas set forth in (a) and (b) and the lands underlying (c).

NYS Tidal Wetlands Act [Environmental Conservation Law Article 25 S 25-0103]

1. "Tidal wetlands" shall mean and include the following:

(a) those areas which border on or lie beneath tidal waters, such as, but not limited to, banks, bogs, salt marsh, swamps, meadows, flats or other low lands subject to tidal action, including those areas now or formerly connected to tidal waters;

(b) all banks, bogs, meadows, flats and tidal marsh subject to such tides, and upon which grow or may grow some or any of the following: salt hay (Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata), black grass (Juncus gerardi), saltworts (Salicornia ssp.), sea lavender (Limonium carolinianum), tall cordgrass (Spartina pectinata and Spartina cynosuroides), hightide bush (Iva frutescens), cattails (Typha angustifolia and Typha latifolia), groundsel (Baccharis halmilifolia), marsh mallow (Hybiscus palustris) and the intertidal zone including low marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora).

USACOE / USEPA Wetlands Definition [42 Fed. Reg. 37, 125-26, 37128-29; July 19, 1977]

Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.

Waters of the United State [33 C.F.R. § 328(a)(3)]

A subset of "waters of the United States" is described as: "All other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation, or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce . . .”