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

Compleat Wetlander – Wetland Mapping Training: The Basics

It is not easy to map wetlands.  It requires good remote imagery as well as trained wetland mappers.  The imagery is expensive and the training is intensive.  But now there is the opportunity to learn the basics about wetland mapping online.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) has published three training modules.

The online training covers a series of topics in these modules:

Module 1: What is the National Wetlands Inventory?

Module 2: National Wetland Classification Standard (Cowardin)

Module 3: National Mapping Standard (Wetlands)

The online training is just one of many action items identified in the Implementation Plan for the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s Wetlands Mapping Standard.
The training is designed for image interpreters already skilled in mapping other landscape features using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) who may need special training for mapping wetlands.  The training covers how to interpret and classify wetlands and apply the new wetlands mapping standard and requirements. It has been developed to encourage mapping partnerships between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife NWI and other other organizations including nonprofits, private industry and other government agencies (local, state and federal).  Local and state mapping projects must comply with the mapping standard described in the training if they are going to be added to the National Wetlands Inventory.

In addition, the training is useful to individuals who are not wetland mappers but would like to spend a little time becoming acquainted with the National Wetlands Inventory, the Cowardin classification system and the new wetlands mapping standard.  I am not a wetland mapper or a GIS expert but I spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the training modules while they were in the design phase as one of the partners in the project.  The training modules filled in some gaps in my knowledge.  In particular, I have a much better understanding of the Cowardin classification system.  This training will also be useful for individuals who are going to be working with wetland maps or hiring others to create and update wetland maps.

Additional training modules are planned.  These include training on image interpretation of wetlands and how to get organized to get started mapping wetlands on a computer.  More long term plans include training on a system for mapping riparian areas in the western U.S. and  a hyrdogeomorphic approach to classifying wetlands that compliments the Cowardin classification system called LLWW (landscape position, landform, water flow path and water body type).

Online wetland mapping training is a new approach to sharing information about how to map wetlands.  It does not replace intensive classroom training on the topic.  It does not address data verification tools, guidance and quality control of data prior to adding maps to the National Wetlands Inventory.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is interested in receiving feedback on the training that has been published.  It is also looking for individuals interested in reviewing future training modules as they are developed.  Those interested in either of these activities can send an e-mail to with the word “Training” in the subject line of the e-mail.

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