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

Compleat Wetlander: The Wetland Pyramid and EPA’s Core Elements

At the beginning of 2010 the Compleat  Wetlander listed the top 10 wetland news stories for 2009  http://aswm.org/wordpress/799/the-compleat-wetlander/ and http://aswm.org/wordpress/809/the-compleat-wetlander-top-ten-wetland-news-tories-of-2009-%e2%80%93-part-ii/.

One of these stories was about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Enhancing State and Tribal Wetlands Programs (ESTP) Initiative: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/initiative/estp.html. The initiative encourages states and tribes to build comprehensive wetland programs that address four core elements: These are listed below:

1. Monitoring and Assessment
http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/wetlands/monitoring.cfm
2. Regulatory Activities including 401 certification http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/wetlands/regulation.cfm
3. Voluntary Restoration and Protection http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/wetlands/restoration.cfm
4. Water Quality Standards for Wetlands
http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/wetlands/quality.cfm

The EPA Regions have encouraged states and tribes to develop Wetland Program Plans in applications for funding through the Wetland  Program Development Grants.  Wetland Program Plans describe how individual grant projects will contribute to a larger state or tribal strategy to  protect and conserve wetlands by building capacity in one or more of the four core elements.

All four core elements are necessary for a successful wetland program.  To illustrate this, take a moment to look at the Wetland Pyramid (below), which very roughly represents the distribution of the existing acres of wetlands in the lower 48 states.  An estimated 100 million acres of wetlands have been lost since European settlement.  100 million acres of wetlands remain and if they are not going to be lost, they need to be protected.  There have also been several million acres of wetlands restored in the past 30 years.  It makes up a much smaller piece of the pyramid.  On an annual basis the number of wetland acres mitigated only adds to a few thousands or tens of thousands of acres—a very small piece of the pyramid.  An effective state or tribal wetland program strategy should encompass more than one portion of the pyramid—preferably it would include all three.

For example, regulatory programs protect and mitigate for wetland losses.  Restoration programs restore historical wetland losses.  Water Quality Standards provide scientific criteria for protecting and mitigating losses.  Monitoring and assessment programs provide both maps and the scientific basis for the development of water quality standards to protect and conserve wetlands and support scientifically sound restoration and mitigation decisions. But this can only be accomplished if the four core elements are integrated.  They cannot successfully protect and conserve wetland resources unless program managers communicate and collaborate.  The EPA initiative provides a framework for both program development and program integration.

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