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

The Compleat Wetlander: Wetland Report Card Available for Review

By Jeanne Christie

On Thursday, November 5, 2015 EPA published a Federal Register notice announcing a 30 day public comment period for the draft report, National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) 2011: A Collaborative Survey of the Nation’s Wetlands. The Federal Register Notice and link to the report can be found here. And the report: The National Wetland Condition Assessment Draft for Public Review and Comment can be found here. Comments are due December 7.

nationalwetlandcondition111215This is the first-ever report on the health of the Nation’s wetlands.  The data was collected in 2011 by states, federal agencies and others from 1,179 wetland sites across the United States. At each site crews sampled vegetation, soils, hydrology, algae, water chemistry and possible stressors. Because this was the first study ever conducted on this scale, it has taken considerable time to collect, process, and analyze the data.  The National Wetland Condition Assessment Report is part of an ongoing project by EPA, states, and other partners to evaluate the ecological condition of the Nation’s waters.  Those who follow wetland policy may wonder how it relates to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Status and Trends reports.  The FWS reports have documented losses and gains in wetlands acres.  This report examines the ecological condition (i.e. health) of wetlands that persist.  It describes the distribution of wetlands in “good,” “fair,” and “poor,” condition nationally, and by ecoregion.

The FWS Status and Trends report has influenced federal and state policies with respect to stemming ongoing losses of the Nation’s wetlands.   The National Wetland Condition Report will provide insights into priorities for management and stewardship of these important aquatic resources so that we as a nation can continue to benefit from the many ecosystem services wetlands provide.

It is important to recognize that like the FWS status and trends, this is a national report and the findings may not reflect what is happening within the area of a single state because the number of sites sampled in a single state is generally too small to be ‘statistically significant’ i.e., the sample size is too small to be reliable.

statesunder111215There were some state wetland programs where there was both the interest and the financial resources available to do an intensification study and sample additional sites within a state to be able to gather enough information to evaluate wetland health. These states will be able to provide additional information to their citizens and policy makers in their states about the health of the state’s wetlands. In addition, many states have ongoing wetland monitoring programs that can provide further information on ecological wetland health within a state’s boundaries.

When the final report is published next year, there are likely to be questions raised by Governor’s offices and Legislatures about what the report means to their state. At least that has often been the experience with previous FWS status and trends reports and other aquatic surveys of the health of lakes, rivers, and coastlines.  In anticipation of those questions, ASWM has developed a set of outreach templates for states and tribes to use to publicize the final National Wetland Condition Assessment report and tailor that outreach to an individual state.

ASWM’s NWCA communications guidance and templates include:

nwcatemplate111215ASWM NWCA Communications Guidance for States and Tribes

ASWM NWCA Template Factsheet [Word]

ASWM NWCA Template Administrative Briefing [Word]

ASWM NWCA Template Legislative Brief [Word]

ASWM NWCA Draft Potential Tweets [Word]

ASWM NWCA Press Kit Guidance

Since is often takes 2-4 months for review and approval of outreach and communication materials within a state, ASWM hopes states and tribes will consider working on communications plans in the near future. These materials are also available to other groups who would like to share information about the final report.

ASWM will be providing an additional factsheet on the final report itself, but will only after the report is finalized. If you have any questions, seek technical assistance working with the templates or would like additional information, please visit the template webpage for contact information.

The completion of the first ever report on the health of the Nation’s wetlands is a significant achievement. To all the people around the country who worked so hard to make it possible – Thank you!

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