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

The Wetland Wanderer: Release of ASWM’s Status and Trends Report on State Wetland Programs in the United States

by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst

Last week, ASWM Executive Director Jeanne Christie and I went to Washington DC and West Virginia to meet with staff at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Association of Clean Water Administrators, Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as with the Mid-Atlantic Wetland Working Group (MAWWG) and others about a variety of projects and studies we aswmstatesummarieshave been working on and are planning for the future.  During this trip we shared the results and findings of ASWM’s hot-off-the-press Status and Trends Report on State Wetland Programs in the United States  and the related 50 individual State Summary Documents  now available on the ASWM.org website.

The Status and Trends Report is the culmination of 18 months of research and verification work, identifying the status of 48 different areas of information about each state wetland program.  The study focuses primarily around EPA’s four Core Elements (Regulation, Monitoring and Assessment, Wetland Water Quality Standards and Voluntary Wetland Restoration) as well as Climate Change, extreme weather adaptation efforts by wetland programs to aswmstatuareport103015integrate with other state programs.  To carry out the study, information was collected from existing sources, next draft state summaries were developed and then the content of these summaries were verified by state wetland program staff.  The result has been the writing of more than 800 pages of individual state summaries and a 93-page comparative analysis report looking at the status of wetland programs across all 50 states.

Making presentations about the project in Washington DC and West Virginia was rewarding and I came away with an even greater appreciation of how the state summaries and analysis are likely to be used.

Here is some of what we heard:

Facilitating Peer-to-Peer Sharing

pwpThe chance to see what everyone is doing across the country helps states put their own work in context.  The ability to identify other states who are working on or towards similar efforts is helpful.  The ability to look at the maps, find appropriate contacts and pick up the phone, rather than guessing and calling around to find out who is doing what, is cost-saving and useful.

Documenting Precedent

States report that they often have the greatest success in proposing changes to their own state leadership when they can point to other states where similar efforts have been effective and accepted.  By allowing wetland program managers to see where work has been done across the United States, this report provides a way for states and tribes to advocate for beneficial developments in their own program.

Linking Readers to Models and Templates

The State Summaries Project capitalizes on access to technology.  Both the Status and Trends Report and the individual State Summary documents are rife with web-based hyperlinks to hundreds of documents, policies, rules, regulations, administrative forms and other templates that states and tribes can review and adapt for their own use.  With the report’s breadth of information, readers are finding value in being able to look also at the context within which each specific tool has been implemented by a state, allowing them to judge whether or not they might work in their own state setting.

Providing a Springboard to Additional Information

The goal of ASWM’s State Summary Project was to develop a concise summary of info103015information with contact information and links that lead the interested reader to where they can access additional/complete information about the specific topic.  Consequently, the reader is encouraged to read the initial information and then follow-up with the states directly.  We received feedback that this “access to more” is highly valued and saves states and tribes time in tracking down how to access the information they are seeking.

Opportunities for Future Research

This set of ASWM state summaries was developed as a formal, research-based project, with specific information gathering protocols, processes and templates.  This collection process and format will facilitate formal trends analysis in the future, making it possible to look at changes in specific data over time more effectively.  Additionally, the breadth of information in the state summary documents presents great opportunities to conduct additional analyses.  The current Status and Trends Report offers a broad brush comparative analysis.  There are ample opportunities for additional exploration.

A Final Caution: Making Maps is Complicated

state103015Both one of the greatest outputs and one of the greatest challenges of the project has been the development of nationwide maps in the comparative analysis report that compare the status of state wetland program work between states.  These maps provide an easily accessible way to look at one type of information across the board.  However, creating maps means developing and defining categories and making decisions about what fits into each category.  This leads to challenges ensuring that both the decisions about which category a state should fit into is correct and making sure that the reader understands what the map is intended to communicate as well.

ASWM worked hard with states to ensure that they are accurately represented and to provide clarifying text explaining what each map specifically illustrates.  The bottom line: We encourage you to contact the state to verify the information in the report if you are using the data where accuracy is critical.  Additionally, because this is a snapshot document, the status of the state may have changed since December 2014 (in fact we know of several states where this is indeed the case).

Getting It Out There: Use it!  Share it! 

In the end, the value of a project is really determined by how useful it is to its intended audience.  ASWM is pleased to share the Status and Trends Report and state summary documents with states, tribes, agencies, nonprofits, consultants and others who can benefit from the information.  We encourage you to take a look at the range of resources the project now offers you and to share the materials with others who may benefit from the information they provide.  Over the coming months, ASWM plans to use the results and findings of the report to guide the development of additional projects and initiatives in ways that build the capacity of state and tribal wetland programs and inform policy decisions.  We hope that you will find the information both informative and useful.

Note: Although this grant project is now completed and only limited changes can be made to the final materials, we always welcome your feedback.  Feel free to send comments, corrections or insights to Brenda Zollitsch, ASWM Policy Analyst, at

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