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

The Compleat Wetlander: Smarter, Better, Clearer: Improving Wetland Permitting

         I do not undertake to say all that is known
         Or may be said of it
         But I undertake to acquaint the reader
         With many things that are not usually known
                                           — The Compleat Angler

Over the past six months the Association of State Wetland Managers has been working with a half dozen states to describe how state wetland program managers are improving wetland permitting.

This is not the kind of work that makes the headlines. It has nothing to do with the drama of high profile Supreme Court cases that create uncertainty over what’s regulated or the tragedy of oil washing into the wetlands of the Gulf Coast. Or maybe it has everything to do with it, because the purpose of ‘improving wetland permitting’ is to prevent those things from ever happening.

“Improving” is not the same as “streamlining,” which is generally used to describe an initiative to issue permits faster. As we’ve learned in the Gulf of Mexico, faster is not always better.

ASWM’s definition of “improving” permitting has dual goals. It’s about making the process of reviewing and issuing or denying permits more efficient while maintaining and improving protection of wetlands and water resources. It includes making it easier for both program staff and permit applicants to understand the permitting process. It may include issuing permits faster, but not at the expense of wetlands and other natural resources. ASWM’s State Wetland Permitting Task Force identified the following general categories to describe the actions states undertake to improve wetland permitting

1) Consolidating permitting;
2) Communication before permitting;
3) Online applications;
4) Utilizing science & technology;
5) Enhancing data management; and
6) Consistency in program management.

Change and innovation are vital to providing timely, balanced, consistent decisions. Programs can be improved regardless of the size or scope of a state wetland program. New knowledge about wetlands, new tools, better technology—it’s happening all of the time. Wetland permitting programs should change and improve as well. Many are.

For example—

    New York has created an on-line resource mapper that applicants can use to
    obtain information on what resources are present on their property/site,
    wetland maps, etc.

    Wisconsin is currently developing an agreement with the Corps St. Paul District
    on the minimum education/training/experience state and federal staff need to be
    able to review wetland delineations.

    Indiana has a “Volunteer Mitigation Mapping” tool that provides a conduit for state
    employees, environmental consultants, and the public to share information regarding
    potential mitigation sites for wetlands, streams, lakes or other water features.

    California is developing a Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy.

    Virginia has created a Joint Permit Application for multiple agencies.
    Applicants submit one application, which is distributed to three agencies
    simultaneously. These agencies include Virginia Department of Environmental
    Qualtiy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Virginia Marine Resource

    Oregon has created a standard permit conditions template and is drafting a
    removal fill guide with standard operating procedures.

    New Jersey has a call center that answers all freshwater wetland permit calls
    every day. They also conduct some of the less complicated pre-application

ASWM has established a peer-to-peer exchange webpage, where states can summarize and share projects to improve wetland permitting with other states and the public. For more information visit: and check back in the coming months as more states provide information about the activities they are undertaking to improve permitting.

Jeanne Christie
Executive Director
Association of State Wetland Managers

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