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The Compleat Wetlander: Wetland Adoption Programs: The Basics

There are many place-based adoption programs.  These don’t entail ownership, but instead represent a commitment to help sustain and preserve the health and beauty of a park or a stretch of highway or a stream.   The Adopt-a-Stream program has been around since at least the mid-80s and it provided a rough framework for the Adopt-a-Wetland Program which followed.  Back then wetland protection and restoration were relatively novel concepts and the Adopt-a-Wetland Program was a way to get adults and children actively engaged in learning about the wetland resources located in their community.

The root of these kinds of public/private partnerships goes back much farther.  One of the best known was the beautification program sponsored by Ladybird Johnson in the 1960s to clean up America’s highways

When President Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 into law, he said:

“We have placed a wall of civilization between us and the beauty of our
countryside. In our eagerness to expand and improve, we have relegated
nature to a weekend role, banishing it from our daily lives. I think we are a
poorer nation as a result. I do not choose to preside over the destiny of this
country and to hide from view what God has gladly given.”

In May 2010 the state of Delaware celebrated the 20th anniversary of the state’s Adopt-a-Wetland program.

Delaware Adopt a Wetland Program Turns 20 in Delaware
Delaware Adopt a Wetland Program
Delaware Adopt a Wetland Homepage

Georgia and Texas also have active programs:
Adopt a wetland workshop set for July 17
University of Georgia Website
Georgia Adopt a Wetland Program Evaluation
Texas Center for Coastal Studies Adopt a Wetland Program
Texas program video about the program can be downloaded at:

An Adopt-a-Wetland Program can be designed as part of a comprehensive local government wetland program.  It offers a role for volunteers.  The state of Maine’s Beginning with Habitat Program provides local government with maps that identify important natural resources.  It identifies a wetland adoption program as one part of a much larger package of activities that the maps can support. (Adopt a wetland is in the third bullet from the bottom).  Other communities interested in developing a similar comprehensive approach might find ‘Common Questions Local Government Wetland Protection Programs’ as a good starting point.

Whether its highways, streams, or wetlands, these programs all have one thing in common.  They are partnerships.  Successful partnerships require careful development, mutual respect, and sustained commitment.  To get started it is worth reviewing some useful ideas included in Conservation Partnerships: A Field Guild

Additional Information about Adopt-a-Wetland Programs around the country and internationally are available at:

EPA Region I How to Adopt a Wetland

Pennsylvannia’s Adopt A Wetland Student Training Module (1999)

Adopt a Wetland, Oakdale, MN

Southwest Colorado

Long Beach, California El Dorado Nature

International Bahamas Adopt a Wetland Program

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One Response to The Compleat Wetlander: Wetland Adoption Programs: The Basics

  1. Good article, thanks.

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