Wetland and Watershed Protection Toolkit for New York:
Guidance Materials for Local Governments

Americans consider water quality one of the greatest environmental health concerns they face, according to a 1999 study commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts. “Wetland and Watershed Protection Toolkit for New York: Guidance Materials for Local Governments” [herein referred to as “the Toolkit”] is a collection of materials designed to encourage, aid and improve the incorporation of wetland and watershed management into local government comprehensive planning.  Use of the Toolkit should also facilitate increasing development of and use of wetland and watershed management plans, increased understanding of and compliance with wetland regulations, and reducing of point-and nonpoint-source pollution.

The Toolkit provides print and digital materials to help incorporate wetland resource management into municipal planning – the tools to do the job!  Informational narratives and new and pre-existing multi-media materials including publications, World Wide Web pages and links, a CD ROM and posters are provided.  For further study, bibliographies and other resources lists are included when appropriate.  Much of the Toolkit is easily reproducible and recipients are encouraged to share the information with constituents and others.

This Toolkit is meant to be a primer on multiple aspects of wetland or comprehensive planning.   However, the regulatory atmosphere is always changing, sometimes directed by judicial decisions and sometimes directed by the passage of new bills by state and federal legislatures. Please check with the appropriate regulatory agency to verify that the information contained herein is still accurate.

The intended audience of this Toolkit is local governments in need of information about various aspects of wetland management and ways to incorporate this information into the wetland, watershed, or comprehensive planning process.  Nonprofits and other state and federal agencies may find the toolkit useful to support local government efforts.   Local governments not involved with watershed or comprehensive planning may find the materials useful during day-to-day interactions with local landowners, regulatory agencies, and nonprofits.   Consulting professionals may also find the extensive resource list contained in the Toolkit useful.

Toolkit Resources

Each Section is comprised of several components.  A basic introductory narrative or overview is provided for each section and is followed by a listing of the resources included and recommended.


  • Publications Included - Print copies of materials that can be easily reproduced or ordered.
  • Posters – Artistic and informative pieces that can decorate an office or circulate among school groups. 
  • Web Pages Included – Sample, representative web pages to supplement printed materials.  On occasion, the websites may have more current information than what is in the printed materials.  
  • Relevant Web Sites - A list of other relevant websites not included. 
  • CD ROM List – Many different digital materials including PDF versions of documents included (when available); PDF files of documents when print version isn’t available; and PDF files of documents that provide more detail about a topic than the introductory and print materials enclosed.  The CD is intended to be a stand-alone resource, and includes the Adobe Acrobat Reader software required to view the PDF files.

Limited quantities of the Toolkit are available as three-ring binders and on CD. To request a copy, contact ASWM.


Table of Contents



Section 1.  What are Wetlands and Why are They Important

Section 2.  Establishing a Wetland and Watershed Management Program

Section 3.  Federal and State Regulatory Methods of Wetland Protection

Section 4.  Local Government Role in Wetland and Watershed Management

Section 5.  Nonregulatory Methods of Wetland Protection

Section 6.  Outreach and Information Campaigns for Wetlands and Watersheds

Section 7.  Technical and Financial Assistance for Wetland Restoration, Creation or Information Campaign

Section 8. Special Topics

  • Conservation Buffers
  • Stream Restoration
  • Beaver Management
  • Floodplains
  • Invasive Species
  • Stormwater Management and Best Management Practices    
  • Coastal Zone Management and Waterfront Revitalization
  • Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)

APPENDIX A. Directory of Agencies/Organizations/Individuals [829 kB PDF file]

APPENDIX B. Bibliography

APPENDIX C. Glossary & Abbreviations/Acronyms


Project Director: Jennifer Brady-Connor - Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc.
Research: Jennifer Brady-Connor and Susan Brent - Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. Barbara Beall, PWS - New York State Wetlands Forum, Inc.
Editor: Sharon Weaver, Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc.

Assistance from ASWM Executive Director Jeanne Christie, Associate Director Jon Kusler and ASWM Staff Sharon Weaver and Mary Hampton was essential to the completion of this project, and we thank you.  Also, many thanks to the interns who assisted in preparation of the binders, including hole-punching, collating, photocopying, stuffing, labeling the toolkit binders, including Jenna Newton, Amanda Lewis, and Brittany Sader.

Special thanks are also extended to the people who advised us along the way, including:

Dana Chapman, Agricultural Consulting Services

David Church, NY Planning Federation

Michael Corey, NYS Department of State

Christine DeLorier, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Todd Fabozzi, Capital District Regional Planning Commission

David Fallon, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

George Hodgson, Saratoga County Environmental Management Council

Barbara Kendall, Dutchess County Environmental Management Council

James McCardell, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

Les Monostory, Onondaga County Council on Environmental Health

Fred Mushacke, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Patricia Riexinger, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Elizabeth Smith-Holmes, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

Todd Stevenson, Monroe County Health Department

Ralph Tiner, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Roland Vosburgh, Columbia County Planning Department

Matthew Witten, US Environmental Protection Agency

Jeff Zappieri, NYS Department of State

Appreciation is also extended to those who anonymously returned questionnaires when this project was progressing from the abstract into reality.  The ideas and suggestions submitted were helpful in shaping its development.

Special thanks to the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, whose foresight in developing a local wetland toolkit has provided the inspiration for this and other projects.

Inquiries about other wetlands publication can be directed to:
Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc., 1434 Helderberg Trail, Berne, NY 12023-9746
Phone: 518-872-1804; Fax: 518-872-1804, E-Mail

Although preparation of this “Wetland and Watershed Protection Toolkit for New York” was funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Wetlands Division. Although developed under Grant Assistance Agreement # X992998-99-0, the views represented in this product should not be interpreted to be those of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) is a membership based, nonprofit organization established in 1983.  The Association was created to help build the nation’s capability to protect and manage wetlands and other waters in both the public and private sector, to promote the exchange and dissemination of information about wetlands and other waters, and to educate the public concerning the varied aspects of wetlands protection and management.  The Association carries out various activities to achieve this goal including conferences, workshops, paper and electronic publications and field trips.


Section 1.  What are Wetlands and Why are They Important


Wetland losses have occurred in New York State since colonial times.  Wetlands were ditched, drained, filled, or otherwise destroyed.  A simple definition of a wetland is an area within a watershed [drainage basin of a body of water] where land and water meet.   They occur in transitional areas between deeper aquatic and drier upland plant and animal communities, and often have some of the qualities of both. Wetlands can also exist when groundwater flows near or at the soil surface, saturating the soil and the root zone of the plants that grow there. Society and scientists have created numerous definitions of wetlands, depending on how they -- both the definitions and the wetlands -- will be used. An excellent source of the history of wetland definitions may be found in the book, Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries [see link below].

Freshwater wetlands commonly include marshes, swamps, bogs, and fens, cover about four percent of the land area in the State, and are found within each New York town. Tidal wetlands are wetlands influenced by tides and they line much of the salt-water shore, bays, inlets, canals, and estuaries of Long Island, New York City, and Westchester County. Tidal freshwater wetlands primarily receive fresh water inflows but retain some tidal influence and are found along the upper reaches of the Hudson River, Nissequogue River, and other tidally influenced rivers. For specific regulatory definitions, visit the NYSDEC websites listed below or review the materials enclosed.

Values of Wetlands within Watersheds Wetlands are valuable components of watersheds for many reasons.  As wetland area and function decreases over a period of years or decades, the overall quality and quantity of the surface water flow within the watershed is altered and often expensive man-made utilities are required to make up for the loss of the wetland functions.  A community that incorporates growth while maintaining or improving wetlands and wetland functions can achieve lower flood peaks, fewer drought periods, more wildlife and habitat, and better surface water quality than comparable watersheds with fewer wetlands. Wetlands also provide recreational opportunities for boating, hiking and bird watching, and aesthetic value in the landscape. Tidal wetlands are valued for marine food production; wildlife habitat; flood, hurricane, and storm control; recreation; cleansing of ecosystems; absorption of silt and organic material; education and research opportunities; and aesthetic values. Areas adjacent to tidal wetlands often carry many of the same or similar valuable attributes and, in addition, provide a valuable buffer for the wetlands. 

Locating and Recognizing Wetlands Many tools are available to aid a community in locating wetland resources.  Most can be found at their County Soil and Water Conservation District or Planning office.  See Section 8 for more details on where to find these resources.

The following publications discuss in greater detail the characteristics, functions, and values of freshwater and tidal wetlands in NY.  Additional information on watersheds is located in Section 2.




Relevant Websites:

Association of State Wetland Managers www.aswm.org
New York State Wetlands Forum, Inc. www.wetlandsforum.org
League of Women Voters Wisconsin: Wetlands www.lwvwi.org/wetlands.htm
EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds www.epa.gov/owow/
EPA Office of Wetlands www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands
EPA’s Wetland Fact Sheet Index www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/contents.html
Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries www.nap.edu/books/0309051347/html/index.html
Ecological Communities of New York State www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/heritage/
NYS DEC Freshwater Wetlands www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/habitat/fwwprog.htm
NYS DEC Tidal Wetlands www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/marine/twhome.htm
NYSDEC Tidal Wetland Categories www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/marine/twcat.htm
USDA NRCS “Where the Wetlands Are”  http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/highlights/wetlands/where.html
Syracuse Blue Print Company, Inc. www.syracuseblueprint.com
               [printer of NYS Freshwater Wetland maps]
Wetland Words and What They Mean:

Wetland Hydrology www.wetlandsforum.org/newsletter/wetword1.htm                
Words Related to Soils www.wetlandsforum.org/newsletter/wetword2.htm
Vegetation www.wetlandsforum.org/newsletter/wetword3.htm


Section 2.  Establishing a Wetland and Watershed Management Program


Wetland and watershed management is an approach that integrates wetland ecosystem management with traditional water and watershed management goals and techniques. It manages water resources, taking into account the functions and values of wetlands, and it manages wetlands in broader water regime and ecosystem contexts. It can be called watershed management, river basin planning, greenway planning, water planning, advanced identification of wetlands, wetland planning, multi-objective floodplain management, or by another name.

An individual, organization, agency, academic institution, or other party can initiate the establishment of a wetland and watershed planning and management effort. Leaders of the effort require the ability to draw other individuals, groups and organizations together to form and implement a common vision for wetlands and water resources. The essential steps of establishing a wetland and watershed plan vary somewhat and are listed in the Common Questions brochure enclosed.

Local governments often begin a wetland and watershed management planning effort in response to current water resource related issues and problems, land use planning goals, etc. Many local governments have found it useful to begin efforts by inventorying flood impacts, reduced water quality, loss of habitat, and other water problems. Such a survey may provide the basis and incentive for more detailed mapping of wetlands and more detailed watershed assessment and planning to remedy problems and meet future needs. Section 7 provides additional information about technical resources and funding available.

The publications included here discuss in some detail the characteristics of watersheds, the importance of wetlands to watersheds, and how to develop and implement a watershed management effort.




  • Primer:  New York Watersheds NYS DEC, May 1995.  For additional copies call 518-485-8743 
  • Wetlands: A Key Link in Watershed Management (A Guide for Watershed Partnerships). Conservation Technology Information Center. For additional copies call 765-494-9555 
  • Common Questions: Establishing Local Government Wetlands and Watershed Management Programs.  Association of State Wetland Managers, 2001.  For additional copies call 518-872-1804
  • Cooperative Watershed Protection: What Makes It Work? Cornell Cooperative Extension Local Government Program, 1996. For additional copies call 607-255-2080 or visit www.cce.cornell.edu/publications
  • Watershed Conflict Resolution: Some Guiding Principles. Cornell Cooperative Extension Local Government Program, 1996. For copies call 607-255-2080 or visit www.cce.cornell.edu/publications
  • Building Watershed Partnerships: Case Studies in Watershed Alliances. NYSDEC Water Week publication, 1997. For additional copies call 518-485-8743

Relevant Websites:

Conservation Technology Information Center “Know Your Watershed”    www.ctic.purdue.edu/KYW/
EPA Office of Water – Watershed Protection ww.epa.gov/owow/watershed
EPA Office of Water – Watershed Academy www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/wacademy
NYSDEC – Division of Water www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/index.html
EPA – Why Watersheds? www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/why.html
EPA – Surf Your Watershed www.epa.gov/surf
EPA – Watershed Information Network www.epa.gov/win
Center for Watershed Protection www.cwp.org
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation ww.dec.state.ny.us
NYSDEC Division of Water www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/index.html
Top Ten Watershed Lessons Learned www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/lessons
Federal Clean Water Action Plan www.cleanwater.gov
NYSDEC “Take Credit” Watershed Recognition program  www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/stewop1.pdf     


Section 3.  Federal and State Regulatory Methods of Wetland Protection


The protection of wetlands can seem like a web of overlapping jurisdictions.  For that reason the introduction to Section 3 is lengthy yet informative. To simplify and illustrate jurisdictions we have included a Flow Chart that explains some of the responsibilities of each entity and other resources and links to web sites that provide the text of the legal authority required for regulating wetlands.

Federal Regulatory Review

On the federal level wetland the US ACOE (COE) administers laws and regulations, with oversight by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The US ACOE  also coordinates its regulatory processes with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Legal Authority: The COE regulates waters and wetlands under two laws.  The first law, which is quite old (1800’s), is the Section 10 Rivers and Harbors Act.  Under this regulation, a permit is required from the COE for any project that involves work or structures in, over or under navigable (truly navigable) waters of the United States.  Examples of activities regulated under this law are docks in the Hudson River, underground utility crossings of the Mohawk River, or installation of rip rap along the shoreline of Long Island.  The second, more recent law is Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.  Under this law, a permit is needed from the COE for the discharges of dredged or fill material into any water of the United States, including wetlands, which are a type of water of the United States. Wetlands are identified in the field using the COE delineation manual. [Please note: A recent Supreme Court ruling, SWANCC v USACOE, has impacted regulations of “isolated wetlands.”  Unfortunately no clear guidance as to the definition of the term or the impacts has been provided at this time.  Please visit http://aswm.org/swancc for updates.]  The federal regulatory process is a constantly evolving and shifting regulatory program.  These changes are updated on the Corps’ districts websites.

The Districts: New York State is comprised of two regulatory US Army Corps of Engineer Districts.  The Buffalo District regulates the western and central portion of New York State, including those watersheds of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River.  The New York City District regulates the eastern portion of New York State, including those waters that flow into the Hudson, Mohawk, and Champlain watersheds.

General and Individual Permits: The COE generally has two different types of permits that it can issue for projects.  The first are “General Permits”, and include Nationwide permits, regional permits, and other authorizations for minor projects that have minimal impacts on the aquatic environment.  The review process typically involves submitting an application and delineation to the COE office, an abbreviated review process, and a decision whether or not the project should be authorized under the general permit, or under an individual permit.  An Individual Permit review process also involves submitting an application and delineation to the COE office.  A public notice review process is required, and the regulatory standards associated with this review are typically more stringent than the general permit process.  In addition, there is often a more formal coordination process with the FWS, NMFS, and EPA under these reviews. Finally, there are Letters of Permission.  These also require interagency coordination and notice to adjacent property owners, but no public notice (so it does not go out to a larger group).  A "Letter of Coordination" is issued providing a twenty-day comment period.  Activities that can be authorized by Letters of Permission vary from district to district.  For example, the COE New York District only authorizes activities under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (no Section 404 work allowed).

There are many other agencies involved in the COE’s reviews of projects.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation must issue a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification.  The New York State Department of State, Coastal Zone Management program staff review projects within the New York State’s coastal zone (the Hudson River north to the federal dam at Troy, New York, the Great Lakes, and the ocean) for compliance with the State’s approved Coastal Zone Management plan.  In addition, communities along major water bodies in New York State may have adopted Local Coastal Zone Management Plans, and documentation of compliance with those communities’ plans may be necessary as part of the regulatory review process.  The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered by Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) provides detailed maps of flood prone areas, and coordination either with FEMA or the local agency charged with implementing FEMA’s NFIP might be needed.  Coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office is required for both the COE’s and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s review of projects to assure that there are no adverse impacts to cultural, historic or prehistoric resources eligible for listing or listed on the federal or state register of historic places.  Coordination is also required with the FWS and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s significant habitat units to assure that the project does not impact federal or state listed, threatened, or endangered species or their critical habitats.  

State Regulatory Review

Article 24: Article 24 of New York State’s Freshwater Wetlands Act regulates draining, filling, construction, pollution or any activity that substantially impairs any of the several functions and values provided by wetlands of 12.4 acres or larger.  Wetlands regulated by Article 24 are assigned a number and depicted on regulatory maps that are available through county Soil Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices, County and local municipal offices, and the County Department of Health (DOH) offices.  Copies of New York State Freshwater Wetland Maps are also available from Syracuse Blue Print in Syracuse, New York.  The regulatory maps correspond to the USGS Topographic Quadrangles for New York State.  It should be noted that if a landowner has been notified that a wetland that qualifies for NYSDEC jurisdiction is present on the property, even if it has not been mapped, it is subject to NYSDEC regulatory review.  Article 24 of the Freshwater Wetlands Act regulates not only the wetland, but also a 100 foot buffer area.  The regulatory standards classify wetlands according to their characteristics and assign a type of value rating (Class I through Class IV, with Class I being the highest quality).  The regulatory standards then list different types of activities and whether they are compatible or incompatible with the wetland or its adjacent area.  If a proposed activity is not compatible, then the Applicant must demonstrate why the permit should be issued, examining impacts to the environment, public health and welfare.  The Applicant must also demonstrate compliance with the “Weighing Standards”, a set of standards associated with the different classes of wetlands.  The Weighing Standards for a Class I wetland are more stringent than the Weighing Standards for a Class IV wetland.  Review of a permit application follows the processes established in the New York State Uniform Procedures Act.  The permitting review process typically involves a completeness review, public notice period, and a time afterwards for review and coordination of comments with the Applicant.

Article 25:  Tidal wetlands regulation is based on the Tidal Wetlands Act (6NYCRR Part 661). Under the Tidal Wetlands Act, DEC administers a permit program regulating activities in tidal wetlands and their adjacent areas.  In general, tidal wetlands consist of all the salt marshes, non-vegetated as well as vegetated flats and shorelines subject to tides. The adjacent areas extend up to 300 feet inland from the wetland boundary (up to 150 feet inland within New York City). DEC requires a permit for almost any activity that will alter wetlands or the adjacent areas.  The United States ACOE  also has jurisdiction and a Corps Permit may be required whether or not DEC requires one. The DEC website http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/marine/twcat.htm lists a number of tidal wetlands categories and definitions.

Adirondack Park Agency: The Adirondack Park Agency is responsible for administering the State of New York’s Article 24 Freshwater Wetlands Act within the Adirondack Park.  Within the Park protected wetlands can be as small as one acre in size.  Other regulatory measures are substantially similar to those administered outside of the Park.

New York State Protection of Waters Program: Article 15 of New York State’s Freshwater Wetlands Act protects the beds, banks and areas within 50 feet of water bodies by requiring permits for the excavation, placement of fill material, or use of navigable or protected waters of the New York.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation administers this program.  A permit is needed for any activity or work within or 50 feet from a stream with a classification rating of C(T) or better.  Additionally, under this regulation, the New York State Office of General Services reviews the use of waters owned by New York State. 

SPDES: The State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit regulates discharges from industrial and sanitary wastewater facilities to surface and groundwater.  SPDES implements the Clean Water Act under the review umbrella of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.  There are also SPDES General Permits for Stormwater Discharges for Construction Activities (Article 7, 8 and 70 of the Environmental Conservation Law).  These regulations require that a stormwater management, soil erosion, and pollution prevention plan be prepared and submitted to the NYSDEC and the local municipality for activities disturbing greater than 5 acres of land. 

State Wild, Scenic and Recreational River Corridors:  Regulations at Title 6, Chapter X, Article 1, Part 666, requires a review of the impacts of any change to the land in areas within ½ of a mile of a water body or river designated as part of the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River System of New York State.  This Act is administered by the Adirondack Park Agency in the Adirondack Park, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for the rest of the state.

SEQRA:The State Environmental Quality Review Act  (SEQRA), (6 NYCRR Part 617) requires all levels of government in New York State to fully disclose the potential impacts associated with a proposed action.  This includes impacts to any wetlands affected by the action, except those specifically exempted or excluded.  This law is administered by the lead agency, as designed during the SEQRA lead agency review process for each project. 

Other Federal Laws, Executive Orders, and Treaties

For a complete listing of all laws, executive orders, and treaties that could impact wetland management, view the US ACOE’s Wetland Management Handbook on the Toolkit CD ROM (details below).




  • Building Near Wetlands:  The Dry Facts.  EPA Region 2, 1999. Available from the Wetlands Hotline: 800-832-7828
  • The Freshwater Wetlands Act:  A Primer for Landowners. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, year of publication unknown. For additional copies call your local NYS DEC Regional Office listed in Appendix A.
  • “Wetlands and Real Property Valuation – What does it mean for your property taxes.” NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, 1990. For additional copies call your local NYS DEC Regional Office listed in Appendix A.
  • Tidal Wetlands Program:  Applicant’s Guide, NYSDEC, 1996. For additional copies call your local NYS DEC Regional Office listed in Appendix A. 
  • “Wetlands Management Handbook.” ACOE Engineer Research and Development Center. December, 2000.     

Relevant Web Pages:

Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters www.usace.army.mil/public.html
ACOE NY District Regulatory Web Page                        www.nan.usace.army.mil/business/buslinks/regulat/forms.htm
ACOE Buffalo District Regulatory Web Page www.lrb.usace.army.mil/orgs/reg
ACOE Selected Statutory Materials                                   www.usace.army.mil/inet/functions/cw/cecwo/reg/sstat3.htm
EPA and The Clean Water Act www.epa.gov/region5/defs/html/cwa.htm
NYS DEC Freshwater Wetlands Program                          www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/habitat/fwwprog.htm
NYS DEC Program to Conserve Wetlands                        www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/habitat/fwwprog4.htm
NYS DEC Freshwater Wetlands Delineation Manual      www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/habitat/wdelman.pdf
NYS DEC Freshwater Guidance to Compensatory Mitigation    www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dfwmr/habitat/wetlmit.pdf
NYS DEC Tidal Wetlands Program

Section 4.  Local Government Role in Wetland and Watershed Management


Once good comprehensive planning and wetland inventory is in place local governments have several options available to formally protect wetlands and watersheds.  Several are outlined below. When wetlands are regulated at the local level the ACOE  or the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation needn’t permit wetland projects unless they have already been approved locally. Local control over local resources and land values is retained.

According to the NYS Department of State Local Government Handbook, “With respect to freshwater wetlands, three regulatory possibilities are present:

1) All wetlands that are smaller than 12.4 acres and that are not deemed of ‘unusual importance,’ are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the municipalities where the wetlands are located (ECL §24-0507).

2) Under ECL, §24-0501, a local government may enact a Freshwater Wetlands Protection Law to fully assume jurisdiction over all freshwater wetlands within its jurisdiction from DEC, provided its law is no less protective of wetlands than Article 24 of the ECL and provided that DEC certifies that the municipality is capable of administering the Act. There is also a limited opportunity for counties to assume wetlands jurisdiction if the local government declines.

3) Under ECL, § 24-0509, local governments can now adopt freshwater wetland regulations applying to wetlands already mapped and under the jurisdiction of DEC, provided that the local regulations are more protective of wetlands than the state regulations in effect. No pre-certification by DEC is required.”

SEQRA, Wetlands, and Watersheds

An option that is available to all towns, villages and cities in NY is the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).  Communities can use the SEQRA process to protect important wetlands and other waters by identifying them as Critical Environmental Areas, or CEAs.  Under SEQRA, any Type I or Unlisted activities that might impact the environmental characteristics of a designated CEA are a relevent area of environmental concern and must be evaluated in the determination of significance prepared pursuant to Section 617.7 of this Part.

Wetlands on a site are a SEQRA concern in evaluating the significance of environmental impacts.  In order for the lead agency to determine whether the impacts to the wetlands are significant or not, they may wish to have a copy of any permit applications submitted to the ACOE or NYSDEC.  In making the determination of significance, the lead agency should review the type of permit application made to the ACOE and/or NYSDEC (is it a nationwide or individual permit); the type and area of wetlands being impacted (are they high quality or low quality); and the type and nature of compensatory wetland mitigation being proposed (is it in-kind or out-of-kind, does the mitigation replace lost functions and values and lost wetland acreage onsite or at another location). 

Local communities shouldn’t be concerned about making a determination of significance before the federal or state agency issues a wetland permit.  An Applicant cannot receive a wetlands permit from a federal or state agency without a determination of significance from the local municipality due to the Uniform Procedures Act [UPA]. Under the UPA, the NYSDEC cannot issue a determination of completeness on the wetlands permit application until the lead agency has either issued a negative declaration or has accepted a complete draft Environmental Impact Statement.  Given that most of the ACOE’s permits require a Section 401 Water Quality Certificate from the NYSDEC, the wetland regulatory review process is on hold until the lead agency makes the determination under SEQRA first.

Wetlands may also be indirectly regulated through subdivision and site plan review laws that can include wording on avoiding inappropriate building areas of a site, including wetlands.

Local Zoning
Another way that communities can protect wetlands and water quality is to create a Comprehensive or Master Plan.  Under this Plan a community may develop and adopt local regulations for storm water control; ordinances for sediment and erosion control; building and sanitary codes; floodplain regulation; timber harvesting guidelines or other vegetation removal standards. 

Monitoring Activities
Local governments have a vital role in monitoring activities near or in wetlands within their municipal boundaries and should have access to all related project plans and permit requirements to facilitate monitoring.  Monitoring project development periodically will increase compliance and provide additional influence over local wetland management.

For more information reference the enclosed materials or the resources listed below.




Relevant Websites:    

NYS Dept. of State Division of Local Government Services www.dos.state.ny.us/lgss/localgovt.html
Local Government Environmental Assistance Network www.lgean.org
Wetlands Permit Info - Town of Yorktown Dept. of Building and Zoning  http://yorktownny.virtualtownhall.net/Public_Documents/YorktownNY_Building/index
SEQRA in NYS www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dcs/seqr/index.html
NYS Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials www.nycom.org/ 
New York Planning Federation www.nypf.org
The Association of Towns of the State of New York www.nytowns.org/
National Association of Counties www.naco.org/
Lincoln Land Institute: “A Methodology for Valuing www.lincolninst.edu/workpap/wpap6.html 
                      Town Conservation Land”
Smart Growth Network www.smartgrowth.org
American Planning Association www.planning.org
EPA Programs and Research for Smart Growth www.epa.gov/livability
Open Space Model Ordinance. Center for Watershed Protection. http://www.stormwatercenter.net/Model20Ordinances/open_space_model_ordinance.htm


Section 5.  Nonregulatory Methods of Wetland Protection


In many instances, implementing a local government wetland regulatory program may be infeasible due to the time, expense, and/or logistics involved.  Some communities may want methods in place to preserve wetland and watershed functions without adding a third or fourth layer of regulations. These methods can involve conservation easements, deed restrictions, donations to a land trust, grants from state and federal governments or funding secured through bonds to purchase unique or important wetland watershed areas.  The resources provided describe the methods in considerable detail and provide contacts and bibliographies for additional assistance.  In most of these instances the landowner, non-profit, or state or federal government shares the costs with the local government. 

A large-scale example of nonregulatory wetland and watershed protection is the New York City Land Acquisition and Stewardship Program. This program is a unique willing seller/willing buyer program through which the City acquires property and conservation easements at fair market value. More information about the program may be found at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/news/easement.html An excellent resource on using land conservation to improve water quality is the Trust for Public Land's report, "Building Green Infrastrusture: Land Conservation as Water Protection Strategy"that is available in hard copy or PDF file through their website.

Information about the numerous USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service resource protection programs may be found in Section 8 and Section 10.1 of the Toolkit.




  • Conservation Options:  A Landowner’s Guide.  How to Protect Your Land for Future Generations.  Land Trust Alliance, 1993. To order additional copies call 202-638-4725    
  • Voters Invest in Open Space – 1999 Referenda Results. Land Trust Alliance, 2000.
  • Wetlands Assistance Guide – Voluntary Wetlands Stewardship Options for Your Private Landowners. National Association of Conservation Districts.
  • Strategies for Saving Wetlands: A Summary. Seattle Audubon Society/WetNet, 1997.
  • Economic Impacts of Protecting Rivers, Trails, and Greenway Corridors: A Resource Book. National Park Service, 1995.

Relevant Websites:

Land Trust Alliance www.lta.org
The Trust for Public Land www.tpl.org
Restore America’s Estuaries www.estuaries.org
American Farmland Trust NY Chapter http://www.farmland.org/northeast/index.htm
Ducks Unlimited www.ducks.org
The Nature Conservancy http://.nature.org/
National Association of Conservation Districts www.nacdnet.org 

Section 6.  Outreach and Information Campaigns for Wetlands and Watersheds


How does a municipality get information about wetlands across to landowners, whether it is wetlands functions and values or regulations?  How does a municipality get landowners to care about wetlands and their existence?  How does a municipality get landowners to then participate in a wetland and watershed management plan, follow through on a wetlands permitting process, protect their wetland in perpetuity or participate in any other activity involving wetland management?  An outreach and information campaign is a key aid to municipalities in accomplishing these goals.  Educating the various players as to their roles and responsibilities is a vital step.  Below are some resources that can direct a community or organization in establishing and implementing a wetland and watershed outreach and information campaign.  The enclosed resources like most of those contained here in may be photocopied and distributed as needed. 




  • Wetlands Outreach: Getting the Message Out: New Techniques and Partners for the Millennium [338 kb PDF file]. Association of Wetland Managers, 2001.
  • Welcome to the Wetlands.  Poster; EPA Region 5, 1997; Watersheds. Poster. EPA Region 2, 1999. Both posters available by calling the EPA Wetlands Hotline at 800-832-7828
  • “Tips for Wetlands Protection.” EPA Region 5, 1999. Available from the Wetlands Hotline: 800-832-7828 
  • Wetlands Walk Manual and Wetlands Walk Manual - Data Sheets. EPA Region 10, 1996.
  • The Volunteer Monitor: Wetlands. National Newsletter of Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring, Spring 1998.
  • The Young Scientist’s Introduction to Wetlands. Army Corps of Engineers, 1993.  
  • The Wetlands Reading List. EPA OWOW Wetlands, 1997. 

Relevant Websites:

Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) www.iwla.org
IWLA American Wetlands Month Campaign Kit www.iwla.org/sos/awm/awmkit.html
USFWS Wetlands Reports and Publications http://wetlands.fws.gov/Pubs_Reports/publi.htm
National Wildlife Federation www.nwf.org/wetlands/
National Audubon Society www.audubon.org
National Association of Conservation Districts www.nacdnet.org
The Watercourse: “WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands” 
NRCS Backyard Conservation Series http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/features/?&cid=nrcs143_023574
EPA Wetlands Information Hotline Publications www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/wetline.html


Section 7.  Technical and Financial Assistance for Wetland Restoration, Creation or Information Campaign


Financial and technical support is key to any comprehensive wetlands and watershed management program. Included in this section is a compilation of resources including funding sources available and agencies that provide technical assistance. For field guides to wetlands and the plants and animals found in them, refer to Appendix D.

Financial Assistance
There are numerous state, federal and nonprofit programs that fund wetland and watershed planning and protection. Two complete references on funding are listed below.  Other sources of funding include open-space bonding or budgeting general funds for the acquisition, restoration, or protection of wetlands or for the development of a wetland and watershed management plan.

Technical Assistance
Many tools are available to aid a community on identifying and mapping wetland resources and most can be found at their County Soil and Water Conservation District or local planning office.  These tools include NYS Freshwater Wetland maps, soil surveys, National Wetland Inventory maps, aerial photos, and USGS topography. The National Wetlands Inventory Project website provides users with information about the characteristics, extent and status of specific wetland and deepwater habitats. The website allows users to view and print maps of local wetlands; purchase hard copy wetland maps, view or purchase wetland-related publications from the USFWS, and view power point presentations.  The website is http://wetlands.fws.gov. The NYS GIS Clearinghouse provides digital maps of wetlands as well and is at http://www.nysgis.state.ny.us/.

Finally, there are state, federal and private environmental professionals who are available to assist in the identification and mapping of wetlands. If a private consultant is needed, the Society of Wetland Scientists provides a registry of certified Professional Wetland Scientists on their website at http://www.sws.org.




An Introduction and User's Guide to Wetland Restoration, Creation, and Enhancement Designed to achieve two goals: introduce non-technical readers to the basics of wetland projects including planning, implementing, and monitoring; and direct interested persons to documents and resources specific to a particular region or wetland type. Interagency Workgroup on Wetland Restoration, 2002.

“Conservation Districts and You: Services Provided by Soil and Water Conservation Districts” For copies contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District.

Guiding Principles for Constructed Treatment Wetlands: Providing for Water Quality and Wildlife Habitat. EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds, 2000. Additional copies available from the Wetlands Hotline: 800-832-7828.

Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment and Wildlife Habitat: 17 Case Studies. EPA Office of Research and Development, 1988. 

Common Questions Pertaining to Wetland Assessment, Association of State Wetland Managers, 1998.

Funding Sources and Tips on Grant Applications for Watershed Protection and Restoration. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, 2000. For additional copies e-mail . Also available on the Toolkit companion CD.

“Table 6: Some Principal Wetland Data Sources” Excerpted from “Protecting Nontidal Wetlands”. American Planning Association Planning Advisory Service Report Number 412/413. December 1988.

“Protecting Wetlands with the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.” EPA 832-F97-017. EPA Office of Water. September 1997.

Funding for Habitat Restoration: A Citizen's Guide. Restore America’s Estuaries, 1999.

Managing Wetlands to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution. EPA OWOW Fact Sheet.

New York State Saltmarsh Restoration and Monitoring Guidelines. NYS DEC and NYS Department of State, 2000.

“Wetland Bioassessment Fact Sheets”. EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds, 1998.

Wetlands Delineation Manual. US ACOE, 1987.

Relevant Web Site Links:

Financial Assistance
Federal Commons Grants Management Portal                               www.cfda.gov/federalcommons
EPA Catalog of Federal Funding Sources for Watershed Protection   www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/wacademy/fund.html
EPA Wetlands Grant Site                                                           www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/initiative/#financial
EPA Environmental Finance Program
National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program            www.fws.gov/cep/cwgcover.html 
NRCS Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program     www.nrcs.usda.gov/NRCSProg.html
NYS Conf. Of Mayors and Mun. Officials – Grant Link 
Hudson River Estuary Grants Program www.dec.state.ny.us/website/hudson/hrep.html

Technical Data and Assistance
USFWS - The National Wetlands Inventory 
Syracuse Blue Print Company, Inc. [NY wetland maps]
New York State Soil Surveys List 
New York State Hydric Soils List 
New York State Hydric Soils Field Indicators List 
Digital Soil Data for New York State 
EPA Watershed Tools Directory 
EPA OWOW Constructed Wetlands Publications page www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/watersheds/cwetlands.html
COE Wetlands Regulatory Assistance Program 
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service 
NYS DEC Freshwater Wetlands Permit Application                  
NYS DEC Tidal Wetlands Permit Application                             
NYS DEC Watershed Restoration and Protection 
NYS DEC Key to Aquatic Macroinvertebrates 
NYS Natural Heritage Program 
Society of Wetland Scientists 
NYS Soil and Water Conservation Committee 
River Corridor and Wetland Restoration Update 
BAWWG Wetland Biassessment publications 
Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. 


Section 8. Special Topics 

  • Conservation Buffers 
  • Stream Restoration
  • Beaver Management
  • Floodplains
  • Invasive Species
  • Stormwater Management and Best Management Practices
  • Coastal Management and Waterfront Revitalization
  • Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)


A buffer is, by definition, something that lessens or absorbs the shock of an impact.  Conservation buffers are land areas designed to lessen or absorb impacts between areas of disturbance and natural resources including streams, wetlands, and forests.  Generally strips of land with permanent vegetation, buffers are situated adjacent to the natural resource and are designed to intercept pollutants (sediments, pesticides, fertilizers, litter), alleviate erosion, enhance wildlife, and protect biodiversity. Some types of conservation buffers include: forested buffers, grassed waterways, windbreaks, living snow fences, contour grass strips, and shallow water areas for wildlife. In some instances wetlands may be appropriately used as buffers while in other instances, buffers are used to protect wetlands.


Web Site Links:
NRCS: Buffers:  Common-Sense Conservation http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/buffers/
CT Rivers Joint Commission Riparian Buffers 
Buffer Model Ordinance. Center for Watershed Protection.


Over the past twenty years, stream restoration has developed new importance in wetland and watershed management.  Stabilizing stream channels, daylighting underground streams, and restoring streambanks can all benefit the water quality of wetlands and watersheds. Stream Corridor Restoration: Principles, Processes, and Practices is the premier document today on the topic.  The hard copy version may be ordered at the website listed below.  At Water’s Edge is an excellent guide applicable to stream corridor management in New York State, as are the other documents enclosed on the CD.  Also, the Association of State Floodplain Managers (see Appendix A) provides stream restoration training and information. 



  • At Water’s Edge:  A Guide for Stream Corridor Management in the Upper Hudson River Watershed.  United States Department of Agriculture, 1998. For additional copies call 518-885-6900.
  • Daylighting: New Life for Buried Streams. Rocky Mountain Institute, 2000.
  • Stream Corridor Restoration: Principles,Processes, and Practices. Federal Interagency Stream Restoration Working Group, 1998.

Relevant Web Sites:

EPA Watershed Academy: Stream Corridors www.epa.gov/watertrain/stream/
EPA: Ecological Restoration – A Tool to Manage Stream Quality www.epa.gov/OWOW/NPS/Ecology/
Association of State Floodplain Managers www.floods.org


Beaver and human conflicts have been an issue for tens, if not hundreds, of years in New York State.  Beaver dams are a natural feature of the landscape, and beaver are sometimes welcomed and other times despised for their wetland creation and restoration activities. Trapping nuisance beaver for fur and/or removal is no longer the only option in watersheds of the northeastern United States thanks to the study and development of beaver deceivers, dam boards, beaver bafflers, and similar techniques.  Finally, a joint permit for beaver and beaver dam removal exists between the COE and the NYSDEC. Explore numerous options for beaver management in the resources enclosed. 



  • How to Control Beaver Flooding, 3rd Ed. Beavers, Wetlands and Wildlife, 2000. To order additional copies visit www.BeaversWW.org or call 518-568-2077. 
  • Managing Nuisance Beavers Along Roadsides: A Guide for Highway Departments. Cornell  Cooperative Extension, 1999.  
  • Control of Beaver Flooding at Restoration Projects. ACOE’s Regulatory Assistance Program, 2001.


Floodplains are low areas adjacent to water bodies that are periodically flooded. Floodplains combine with water bodies and wetlands to form a complex system that supports a multitude of water resources. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has primary federal responsibility for floodplains, although other state, federal, and sometimes local agencies become involved in floodplain management and development.


Relevant Web Sites:
Association of State Floodplain Managers
NYS DEC GIS / Floodplain Management www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/bfp/gisfpm/ gisfpm.htm
NEPA: “Fact Sheet: An Overview of Floods”                   
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov


What makes a species invasive?  According to Executive Order 13112, an "invasive species" is defined as a species that is 1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and 2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Generally, human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions.  In New York State, problem plants include purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Common Reed (Phragmites australis), and Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), though any plant species can be invasive given the proper conditions.  The Nature Conservancy has an excellent web site with descriptions and control methods for common invasive plants.  The Invasive Plant Council of NYS lists New York’s “top twenty” invasive plant species and links describing plants to avoid when landscaping or gardening.  Information about other invasive species including zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) may be found at the Great Lakes Information Network’s website.


Relevant Web Sites:

EPA Watershed Academy: Invasive Species                
U.S. Invasive Species Information System                    
USFWS Invasive Species Program                                 
The Nature Conservancy: Invasive Species                 
Invasive Plant Council of NYS                                        
Great Lakes Information Network                                   


Stormwater is water from rain or melting snow that doesn't soak into the ground but runs off into waterways. It flows from rooftops, over paved areas and bare soil, and through sloped lawns while picking up a variety of materials on its way. As it flows, stormwater runoff collects and transports soil, animal waste, salt, pesticides, fertilizers, oil and grease, debris and other potential pollutants. Stormwater gathers a variety of pollutants that are mobilized during runoff events. Polluted runoff degrades our lakes, rivers, wetland and other waterways.  Sometimes, employing best management practices [BMPs] can make significant improvements.  Any land management, moving or clearing activity can result in polluted stormwater.  A few good links have been selected for additional information addressing stormwater in general as well as its importance in wetland and watershed management.



  • Natural Wetlands and Urban Stormwater: Potential Impacts and Management. EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds, 1993.
  • Protecting Natural Wetlands: A Guide to Stormwater Best Management Practices. EPA Office of Water, 1996.
  • Better Water through Better Site Design.” [PDF] Publication of the Saratoga Lake Watershed  Plan project, 2001.

Relevant Web Sites:

NYS DEC Stormwater Homepage www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/mainpage.htm
NYS Guidelines for Urban Erosion and Sediment Control  www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/mainpage.htm
Stormwater Managers Resource Center                               
EPA – Best Nonpoint Source Documents www.epa.gov/owow/nps/bestnpsdocs.html
EPA - Model Stormwater Ordinances www.epa.gov/owow/nps/ordinance/preface.htm
Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials                       
National Stormwater BMP Database                                    


In voluntary partnership with local governments, the Coastal Management Program seeks to meet the needs of coastal residents and visitors, while striving to advance economic development opportunities and protect the Nation’s natural coastal resources.  More than 600 local governments are eligible to participate in New York's coastal program. The coastal area extends over 5,000 miles along the shorelines of Long Island; New York City; the Hudson, St. Lawrence, and Niagara Rivers; Lakes Erie and Ontario. Major inland waterways, including the Finger Lakes, Lake Champlain, and the Barge Canal System are included when communities prepare local Waterfront Revitalization Plans (LWRPs). The Division of Coastal Resources in the New York State Department of State is responsible for administering the State's Coastal Management Program, adopted in 1982 under the Waterfront Revitalization of Coastal Area and Inland Waterways. The Division of Coastal Resources provides financial and technical assistance to local governments and works with local governments, residents, and coastal resource users to promote the beneficial use of New York's coast.  Current Division programs involve the Long Island Sound and South Shore Estuary Reserve, comprehensive management planning, and managing the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act grants.  In addition, the NYS Canal Corporation has an effort underway to revitalize the New York State Canal area. The Hudson River Estuary Program is also involved in grants to conserve, restore, and enhance the estuary.


Relevant Web Sites:

NYS Division of Coastal Resources www.dos.state.ny.us/cstl/cstlwww.html
NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management 
NYS Canal Corporation                                                                 
Hudson River Estuary Program  www.dec.state.ny.us/website/hudson/hrep.html


The NYS DEC Division of Water is in the process of developing TMDLs for watersheds within New York State.  Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the amount of a particular pollutant that a particular stream, lake, estuary or other waterbody can 'handle' without violating state water quality standards.  States have been directed to identify and prioritize polluted waterbodies, establish TMDLs, develop strategies to improve water quality, and assess improvements.  Partnerships that include local governments are often developed to address pollution issues.  More precise definitions and explanations may be found within the following resources.


Relevant Web Sites:

EPA - TMDL Program                                                           
EPA – Information on NYS TMDL Program  http://oaspub.epa.gov/waters/state_rept.control?p_state=NY
NYS DEC Division of Water – TMDL www.dec.state.ny.us/website/dow/tmdl.html


APPENDIX A. Directory of Agencies/Organizations/Individuals

To view Appendix A, click here. [829 kB PDF file]


APPENDIX B: Additional References



Braddock, T. 1995. Wetlands: An Introduction to Ecology, the Law, and Permitting. Government Institutes, Inc., Rockville, MD

Brooks, R. P., D. A. Devlin, and J. Hassinger. 1993. Wetlands and Wildlife. The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA

Dahl, T.E. 2000. Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coterminous United States 1986 to 1997. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, DC.

Dahl, T.E. 1990. Wetlands Losses in the United States 1780’s to 1980’s. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC

Day, John W. et al. 1989. Estuarine Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York, NY

Dennison, Mark S. and James F. Berry. 1993. Wetlands Guide to Science, Law, and Technology. Noyes Publications. Park Ridge, NJ

Huffman and Associates, Inc. 1999. Wetlands Status and Trend Analysis of New York State – Mid-1980’s to Mid-1990’s. Prepared for New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. August 1999. Larkspur, CA. 18pp. plus attachments.

Mitsch, W. J. and J. G. Gosselink. 2001. Wetlands, Third Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY

Niering, William A. 1997. National Audubon Society Nature Guides: Wetlands. Alfred A. Knopf Publishers. New York, NY

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological Communities of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York Natural Heritage Program. Latham, NY.

Tiner, Ralph W. 1987. A Field Guide to Coastal Wetland Plants of the Northeastern United States. University of Massachusetts Press. Amherst, MA.

Tiner, Ralph W. 1988. Field Guide to Nontidal Wetland Identification. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Newton Corners, MA. Cooperative Publication.

Tiner, Ralph W. 1998. In Search of Swampland: A Wetland Sourcebook and Field Guide. Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, NJ

Tiner, Ralph W. 1999. Wetland Indicators: A Guide to Wetland Identification, Delineation, Classification, and Mapping. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

Tiner, Ralph W. 1997. Winter Guide to Woody Plants of Wetlands and Their Borders: Northeastern U.S. Institute for Wetland and Environmental Education and Research. Leverett, MA

Trettin, Carl C. 1996. Northern Forested Wetlands: Ecology and Management. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

Vileisis, Ann. 1997. Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America’s Wetlands. Island Press. Washington, DC



Porter, Dougals R. and David A. Salvesen (Eds.). 1995. Collaborative Planning for Wetlands and Wildlife: Issues and Examples. Island Press. Washington, DC

River Federation. 1994. Institutional Frameworks For Watershed Management Programs: Profiles and Analysis of Selected Programs. Silver Spring, MD

Simon, Thomas P. 1998. Assessing the Sustainability and Biological Integrity of Water Resources. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

Terrene Institute. 1993. Clean Water in Your Watershed: A Citizens Guide to Watershed Protection. Washington, DC

U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, 1996. Watershed and Regionally-Based Wetlands Planning and Management Institutions For The Future. Discussion Draft. Washington, DC

U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1992. Clean Water...A Community Commitment to Protecting New York’s Watersheds. Soil Conservation Service.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. Watershed Protection: A Project Focus. Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. Watershed Protection: A Statewide Approach. Washington, DC

U.S Environmental Protection Agency. 1995. Watershed Tools Directory. Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1994. NPDES Watershed Strategy. Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1994. Section 319 Success Stories. Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. Washington, DC



Braddock, Theda. 1995. Wetlands: An Introduction to Ecology, the Law and Permitting. Government Institutes. Rockville, MD

Scodari, Paul F. 1997. Measuring the Benefits of Federal Wetland Programs. Environmental Law Institute. Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2. 1993. Wetlands Regulation Guidebook for New York State. Marine and Wetlands Protection Branch, New York, NY



Arendt, Randall, Michael Clarke, et al.2001. Growing Greener Ordinance Language: Visually Enhanced Zoning and Subdivision Models. Natural Lands Trust. Media, PA

Arendt, Randall. 1999. Growing Greener: Putting Conservation into Local Plans and Ordinances. Island Press.  Washington, DC

Honachefsky, William B. 1999. Ecologically Based Municipal Land Use Planning. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

Kusler, J. and T. Opheim. 1996. Our National Wetland Heritage: A Protection Guide. Second Edition. Environmental Law Institute, Washington, DC

U.S. Department of Transportation. Wetlands and Highways: A Natural Approach. Federal Highway Administration. Pub. No. FHWA-PD-94-004HEP-40/11-93(30M)E

Wiebe, K., A. Tegene, and B. Kuhn. 1996. Partial Interests in Land: Policy Tools for Resource Use and Conservation. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC



Daniels, Tom and Deborah Bowers.  1997. Holding Our Ground: Protecting America's Farms and Farmland. Island Press.  Washington, DC

Endicott, Eve, Editor. 1993. Land Conservation Through Public/Private Partnerships. Island Press.  Washington, DC

Gustanski, Julie A. and Roderick H. Squires (Eds.). 2000. Protecting the Land: Conservation Easements Past Present and Future. Island Press. Washington, DC

Knight, Richard L. and Peter B. Landres (Eds.). 1998. Stewardship Across Boundaries. Island Press. Washington, DC



Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. 1993. National Symposium: Improving Wetland Public Outreach, Training, Education, and Interpretation. Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. Berne, NY

Crane, S., J. Goldman-Carter, H. Sherk, and M. Senatore. 1995. Wetlands Conservation: Tools for State and Local Action. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC

Cwikiel, W. (Ed.). 1995. Citizen Wetland Initiatives: Stories from the Great Lakes. Tipp of the Mitt Watershed Council, Conway, MI

Environmental Concern, Inc. and The Watercourse. 1995. WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands. St. Michaels, Maryland and Bozeman, MT

Environmental Concern, Inc. and The Watercourse. 2000. POW! The Planning of Wetlands. St. Michaels, Maryland and Bozeman, MT

Goldman-Carter, J. 1989. A Citizens’ Guide to Protecting Wetlands. The National Wildlife Federation, Washington, DC

Kusler, Jon. 1994. A Guidebook for Creating Wetland Interpretation Sites Including Wetlands and Ecotourism. Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. Berne, NY

Missouri Department of Conservation. 1991. Landscaping for Backyard Wildlife. Urban Wildlife Series No. 3. Jefferson City, MO

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1997. Protecting Wetlands: Tools for Local Governments in the Chesapeake Bay Region. Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Annapolis, MD

Wells, J.V. 1998. Important Bird Areas of New York State. National Audubon Society. Albany, NY.

Wilson, S. and T. Moritz. 1996. The Sierra Club Wetlands Reader: A Literary Companion. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA



American Farmland Trust. Private and Public Options for Protecting Agricultural Land. Washington, DC

Coastal America. 1996. Coastal Restoration and Protection: Lessons Learned. Coastal America Technology Transfer Report. Silver Spring, MD

Coastal American. 1993. Building Alliances To Restore Coastal Environments. Washington, DC

Dennison, Mark and James A. Schmid. 1997. Wetland Mitigation: Mitigation Banking and Other Strategies for Development and Compliance. Government Institutes, Inc. Rockville. MD

Hammer, Donald A. 1992. Creating Freshwater Wetlands. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

Hey, Donald L. and Nancy S, Philippi. 1999. A Case for Wetland Restoration. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York, NY

Kenny, Leo P. and Burne, Mattew R. 2000. A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and Vernal Pool Association. Reading, MA

Kusler, J.A. and M.E. Kentula. (Eds.). 1990. Wetland Creation and Restoration The Status of the Science. Island Press, Washington, DC

Marsh, L., D. R. Porter, and D. A. Salvesen. (Eds.). 1996. Mitigation Banking Theory and Practice. Island Press, Washington, DC

Moshiri, Gerald (Ed.). 1994. Constructed Wetlands for Water Quality Improvement. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

South Carolina Water Resources Commission. 1993. Toward No Net Loss: A Methodology For Identifying Potential Wetland Mitigation Sites Using a Geographic Information System. Columbia, SC

U.S. Department of the Interior. 1992. Wetlands Stewardship. Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1994. Innovations In Coastal Protection: Searching For Uncommon Solutions To Common Problems. Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 1992. Private Landowner’s Wetlands Assistance Guide: Voluntary Options for Wetlands Stewardship in Maryland. Wetlands Protection Hotline, Washington, DC

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Protecting Natural Wetlands: A Guide to Stormwater Best Management Practices. Office of Water, Washington, DC

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. National List of Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands. U.S. Department of the Interior.

Zedler, Joy B. 2000. Handbook for Restoring Tidal Wetlands. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL



Association of State Floodplain Managers. 1994. A Primer for Hosting Buyout Workshops. The Mitigation Assistance Corporation, Boulder, CO

Association of State Floodplain Managers. 1987. Reducing Losses in High Risk Flood Hazard Areas: A Guidebook for Local Officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Association of State Floodplain Managers, Inc. 1996. Using Multi-Objective Management to Reduce Flood Losses In Your Watershed. Madison, WI

Beatley, Timothy, David J. Brower, et al. 2002.  Introduction to Coastal Zone Management: Second Edition. Island Press. Washington, DC

Cushing, C.E., K.W. Cummins, and G.W. Minshall. 1995. River and Stream Ecosystems. Elsevier Science, New York, NY

Clark, John R. 1995. Coastal Zone Management Handbook. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL

Diamant, R., J.G. Eugster, and C.J. Duerksen. 1984. A Citizen’s Guide to River Conservation. The Conservation Foundation, Washington, DC

Erwin, K. L. 1996. A Bibliography of Wetland Creation and Restoration. The Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc. Berne, NY

Eveland, Thomas. Living With Beavers. The Fund for Animals. Silver Spring, MD. 12 pp.

Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force. 1995. Protecting Floodplain Resources: A Guidebook for Communities. Washington, DC

Horner, R. R., J. Skupien, E. H. Livingston, and H. E. Shaver. 1994. Fundamentals of Urban Runoff Management: Technical and Institutional Issues. Terrene Institute, Washington, DC

Jensen, Paul G. and Paul D. Curtis. 1999. Managing Nuisance Beavers Along Roadsides: A Guide for Highway Departments. Cornell Cooperative Extension. Ithaca, NY

Kusler, J.A. 1982. Innovation In Local Floodplain Management A Summary of Community Experience. Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center Special Publication 4. University of Colorado, Institute of Behavioral Science.

Ministry of Natural Resources. 1994. Natural Channel Systems: An Approach to Management and Design. Ontario, Canada.

National Parks Service. 1996. Floods, Floodplains and Folks. Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.

Pinkham, Richard. 2000. Daylighting: New Life for Buried Streams. Rocky Mountain Institute. Snowmass, CO

Schueler, T. 1995. Site Planning for Urban Stream Protection. Center for Watershed Protection, Silver Spring, MD

Strand, Margaret N. 1997. Wetlands Deskbook, 2nd Edition. Environmental Law Institute, Washington, DC


Wetlands - The Journal of the Society of Wetland Scientists. Available from: The Society of Wetland Scientists, P.O. Box 296, Wilmington, NC 28402.

Wetland Journal. Available from: Environmental Concern, Inc., P.O. Box P, St. Michaels, MD 21663, (410) 745-9620.

National Wetlands Newsletter. Available from: Environmental Law Institute, 1616 P Street N.W., Suite 200, Washington, DC 20036.

The Forum.The Newsletter of the New York State Wetlands Forum, Inc. Available from NYSWF, P.O. Box 1351, Latham, NY 12110; 518-783-1322; or online at www.wetlandsforum.org.

Association of State Wetland Managers Newsletter. Available from: Association of State Wetland Managers, Box 2463, Berne, NY 12023.

Wetland Breaking News (latest in up-to-date wetland issues and publications). Produced by the Association of State Wetland Managers. Electronic mailings. To get on the mailing list, email .


Common Acronyms

Wetland Regulatory Definitions



Common Acronyms within Wetland and Watershed Management Resources 


Army Corps of Engineers (also ACOE)

Association of State Wetland Managers, Inc.

Best Management Practice

Critical Environmental Assessment (New York State)

Codified Federal Register

Conservation Reserve Program (USDA)

Clean Water Act 1972

Coastal Zone Management

Department of Environmental Conservation (New York State)

Department of Environmental Protection (New York City)

Department of Health

Ducks Unlimited


Environmental Conservation Law (ECL New York State)

Environmental Impact Statement

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Endangered Species Act

Farm Services Agency

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Forest Stewardship Program

Freshwater Wetlands Act (New York State)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Associations of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Know Your Watershed

Land Trust Alliance, New York

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan

North American Wetland Conservation Act

North American Waterfowl Management Plan

National Flood Insurance Program

Natural Heritage Program (New York State)

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System

Nonpoint Source

Natural Resources Conservation Service

National Wildlife Federation

National Wetlands Inventory

National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan

New York State Code of Rules and Regulations

New York Planning Federation

New York State Conservation Committee

New York State Wetlands Forum, Inc.

Partners for Wildlife

Planning of Wetlands Workshops

Resources Conservation and Development Council Program

State Environmental Quality Review Act (New York)

Stewardship Incentives Program

State Pollution Dicharge Elimination System (permits)

Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County; refers to US Supreme Court case involving isolated wetlands

Soil and Water Conservation Districts (County)

Society of Wetland Scientists

Total Maximum Daily Load

Trout Unlimited

Uniform Procedure Act

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Department of the Interior

U.S. Geologic Survey

Water Education for Teachers

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program

Wonders of Wetlands Workshops

Water Quality Committee

Wetlands Reserve Program

Wetland Definitions

Wetlands can be generally defined as land that is periodically flooded, whether by the tide, river flows, rain, or groundwater. More precise definitions have been developed for purposes of state and federal regulation.

NYS Freshwater Wetlands Act [Environmental Conservation Law Article 24 S 24-0107]

1. "Freshwater wetlands” means lands and waters of the state asshown on the freshwater wetlands map which contain any or all of thefollowing:

(a) Lands and submerged lands commonly called marshes, swamps,sloughs, bogs, and flats supporting aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetationof the following types:

(1) wetland trees, which depend upon seasonal or permanent flooding or sufficiently water-logged soils to give them a competitive advantage over other trees; including, among others, red maple (Acer rubrum), willows (Salix spp.), black spruce (Picea mariana); swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), red ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), silver maple (Acer saccharinum), American elm (Ulmus americana), and Larch (Larix laricina);

(2) wetland shrubs, which depend upon seasonal or permanent flooding or sufficiently water-logged soils to give them a competitive advantage over other shrubs; including, among others, alder (Alnus spp.), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), and leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata);

(3) emergent vegetation, including, among others, cattails (Typhaspp.), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), bulrushes (Scirpus spp.),arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), arrowheads (Sagittaria spp.), reed(Phragmites communis), wildrice (Zizania acquatica), bur-reeds(Sparganium spp.), purple loosetrife (Lythrum salicaria), swamploosestrife (Decodon verticillatus); and water plantain (Alismaplantago-aquatica);

(4) rooted, floating-leaved vegetation; including, among others, water-lily (Nymphaea odorata), water shield (Brasenia schreberi), and spatterdock (Nuphar spp.);

(5) free-floating vegetation; including, among others, duckweed (Lemna spp.), big duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza), and watermeal (Wolffia spp.);

(6) wet meadow vegetation, which depends upon seasonal or permanentflooding or sufficiently water-logged soils to give it a competitiveadvantage over other open land vegetation; including, among others,sedges (Carex spp.), rushes (Juncus spp.), cattails (Typha spp.), ricecut-grass (Leersia oryzoides), reed canary grass (Phalarisarundinacea), swamp loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus), and spikerush(Eleocharis spp.);

(7) bog mat vegetation; including, among others, sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.), bog rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), and cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos);

(8) submergent vegetation; including, among others, pondweeds(Potamogeton spp.), naiads (Najas spp.), bladderworts (Utriculariaspp.), wild celery (Vallisneria americana), coontail (Ceratophyllumdemersum), water milfoils (Myriophyllum spp.), muskgrass (Chara spp.),stonewort (Nitella spp.), water weeds (Elodea spp.), and watersmartweed (Polygonum amphibium);

(b) lands and submerged lands containing remnants of any vegetation that is not aquatic or semi-aquatic that has died because of wet conditions over a sufficiently long period, provided that such wet conditions do not exceed a maximum seasonal water depth of six feet and provided further that such conditions can be expected to persist indefinitely, barring human intervention;

(c) lands and waters substantially enclosed by aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation as set forth in paragraph (a) or by dead vegetation as set forth in paragraph (b), the regulation of which is necessary to protect and preserve the aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation; and

(d) the waters overlying the areas set forth in (a) and (b) and the lands underlying (c).

NYS Tidal Wetlands Act [Environmental Conservation Law Article 25 S 25-0103]

1. "Tidal wetlands" shall mean and include the following:

(a) those areas which border on or lie beneath tidal waters, such as, but not limited to, banks, bogs, salt marsh, swamps, meadows, flats or other low lands subject to tidal action, including those areas now or formerly connected to tidal waters;

(b) all banks, bogs, meadows, flats and tidal marsh subject to such tides, and upon which grow or may grow some or any of the following: salt hay (Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata), black grass (Juncus gerardi), saltworts (Salicornia ssp.), sea lavender (Limonium carolinianum), tall cordgrass (Spartina pectinata and Spartina cynosuroides), hightide bush (Iva frutescens), cattails (Typha angustifolia and Typha latifolia), groundsel (Baccharis halmilifolia), marsh mallow (Hybiscus palustris) and the intertidal zone including low marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora).

USACOE / USEPA Wetlands Definition [42 Fed. Reg. 37, 125-26, 37128-29; July 19, 1977]

Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.

Waters of the United State [33 C.F.R. § 328(a)(3)]

A subset of "waters of the United States" is described as: "All other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation, or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce . . .”

Glossary of General Wetland and Watershed Terms


Acid – pH of water less than 5.5; pH modifier used in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland classification system

Acidic – has a pH of less than 7

Acre – a measure of land, 43,560 square feet

Acre-Foot (acre–ft.) – the volume of water needed to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot; equivalent to 43,560 cubic feet or 325,851 gallons

Adaptation – evolutionary process by which an organism becomes better suited to live in a particular environment; how a species changes over time to better live in a particular environment

Adventitious – buds or roots that develop in unusual areas; many wetland plants exhibit adventitious roots
Aerate – to supply air to water, soil, or other media

Areal Cover - a measure of dominance that defines the degree to which aboveground portions of plants (not limited to those rooted in a sample plot) cover the ground surface; it is possible for the total areal cover in a community to exceed 100 percent because (a) most plant communities consist of two or more vegetative strata; (b) areal cover is estimated by vegetative layer; and (c) foliage within a single layer may overlap
Aerobic – (of an organism or tissue) requiring air for life; pertaining to or caused by the presence of oxygen

Aesthetic – of beauty or the study of beauty
Algae – simple plants that are very small and live in water through photosynthesis, algae are the main producers of food and oxygen in water environments

Algal Bloom – the rapid proliferation of passively floating, simple plant life, such as blue–green algae, in and on a body of water

Alkaline – has a pH greater than 7; pH modifier in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland classification system; in common usage, a pH of water greater than 7.4

Alluvium, Alluvial Soil – soil composed primarily of eroded material such as sand, silt, or clay, that has been deposited on land or on the bottom of water bodies by rivers and streams overflowing their banks
Alpine Snow Glade – a marshy clearing between slopes above the timberline in mountains

Altered Wetland – area affected by anthropogenic or natural events, such that one or more indicators of relative wetland character is absent, obscured, or provides information no longer representative of original condition
Ambient Monitoring – monitoring within natural systems (e.g., lakes, rivers, estuaries, wetlands) to determine existing conditions

Amphibian – an animal that may begin its life in water, but as an adult is at home in both water and land; frogs, salamanders and caecilians (which are found in the tropics only)

Anadromous Fish – migratory species that are born in freshwater, live mostly in estuaries and ocean water, and return to freshwater to spawn

Anaerobic – living in the absence of air or free oxygen; pertaining to or caused by the absence of oxygen

Annual – a plant whose life cycle is completed in one year or one season

Anoxic – without oxygen

Anthropogenic – having to do with or caused by humans

Aerenchymous Tissue - a type of plant tissue in which cells are unusually large and arranged in a manner that results in air spaces in the plant organ; such tissues are often referred to as spongy and usually provide increased buoyancy
Aquatic –taking place in or being in water; consisting of, relating to, or being in water; living or growing in, on, or near the water; aquatic wetlands are those in which the plants, such as lily pads, grow in or on top of the water, but do not emerge above

Aquaculture – the science of farming organisms that live in water, such as fish, shellfish, and algae

Aquifer – a geological formation, such as fractured bedrock, glacial sands or gravels, which contains water and yields significant quantities of water to springs and wells; also known as ground water

Artificial Drainage – removal of free water from soil by surface mounding, ditches, or subsurface tiles to the extent that water table levels are changed significantly in connection with specific land uses

Artificial Wetland – wetland constructed where one did not exist before Aspect – the predominant compass direction in which a site is sloping downward

Assemblage – an association of interacting populations of organisms in a wetland or other habitat; examples of assemblages used for biological assessments include algae, amphibians, birds, macroinvertebrates (insects, crayfish, clams, snails, etc.), and vascular plants

Assessment – evaluation of the condition of an area
Attribute – a measurable component of a biological system

Atypical situation - as used herein, this term refers to areas in which one or more parameters (vegetation, soil, and/or hydrology) have been sufficiently altered by recent human activities or natural events to preclude the presence of wetland indicators of the parameter


Backwater – a body of water in which the flow is slowed or turned back by an obstruction such as a bridge or dam, an opposing current, or the movement of the tide

Bank – the rising ground that borders a stream, pond or other body of water

Bank storage – the change in the amount of water stored in an aquifer resulting from a change in stage of an adjacent surface–water body

Barrier Bar – an elongate offshore ridge submerged at least at high tide, built up by the action of waves or currents

Barrier Beach – a narrow, elongate sandy ridge rising slightly above the high–tide level and extending generally parallel with the mainland shore, but separated from it by a lagoon

Base Flow – the sustained low flow of a stream, usually resulting from groundwater inflow to the stream channel

Basic – the opposite of acidic; has a pH of greater than 7

Bed – the ground under a river, pond or other body of water

Bed Material – sediment composing the streambed

Bedrock – a general term used for solid rock that underlies soils or other unconsolidated material

Benthic Organism – a form of aquatic life that lives on the bottom or near the bottom of streams, lakes, or oceans

Biennial - an event that occurs at 2-year intervals

Biochemical–Oxygen Demand (BOD) – the amount of oxygen, in milligrams per liter, that is removed from aquatic environments by the life processes of microorganisms

Biochemical Process – a process characterized by, produced by, or involving chemical reactions in living organisms

Biodiversity – the sum of all species of plants and animals. An ecosystem is considered healthy when it supports the most diverse numbers and types of species it is capable of supporting
Biological Assessment (Bioassessment) – using biomonitoring data of samples of living organisms to evaluate the condition or health of a place (e.g., a stream, wetland, or woodlot)

Biological Criteria (Biocriteria) – numerical values or narrative expressions that describe the condition of aquatic, biological assemblages of reference sites of a given aquatic life use designation

Biological Integrity – "...the ability of an aquatic ecosystem to support and maintain a balanced, adaptive community of organisms having a species composition, diversity, and functional organization comparable to that of natural habitats within a region." (Karr, J. R. and D. R. Dudley. 1981. Ecological perspective on water quality goals. Environmental Management 5:55–68)
Biological Monitoring (Biomonitoring) – sampling the biota of a place (e.g., a stream, a woodlot, or a wetland) repetitively to monitor change over time

Biomass – the amount of living matter, in the form of organisms, present in a particular habitat, usually expressed as weight-per-unit area

Biota – the plants and animals living in a habitat
Blackwater Streams – streams that do not carry sediment, are tannic in nature and flow through peat-based areas

Bog –wetlands characterized by a waterlogged, spongy mat of sphagnum moss, ultimately producing a thickness of acid peat; bogs are highly acid and tend to be nutrient poor; they are typically dominated by sedges, evergreen trees and shrubs

Bottom–Land Forest – low-lying forested wetland found along streams and rivers, usually on alluvial flood plains

Brackish – water that contains some salt, but less than seawater; a mixture of fresh and saltwater typically found in estuarine areas

Brownwater Streams – streams that carry sediment and generally originate from the piedmont or mountains

Buffer Zone – the area of land next to a body of water or wetland, where activities such as construction are restricted in order to protect water or water quality

Buttress– broadened bottom of a tree trunk that helps to stabilize a tree growing in wet soil or water


Calcareous – formed of calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate by biological deposition or inorganic precipitation in sufficient quantities to effervesce when treated with cold hydrochloric acid

Canopy Layer –the uppermost layer of vegetation in a plant community; in forested areas, mature trees comprise the canopy layer, while the tallest herbaceous species constitute the canopy layer in a marsh

Capillary Fringe – a zone immediately above the water table (zero gauge pressure) in which water is drawn upward from the water table by capillary action

Cfs - cubic feet per second - a measurement of water flow

Channel Scour – erosion by flowing water and sediment on a stream channel; results in removal of mud, silt, and sand on the outside curve of a stream bend and the bed material of a stream channel

Channelization – the straightening and deepening of a stream channel to permit the water to move faster or to drain a wet area for farming

Chemical Reduction – any process by which one compound or ion acts as an electron donor; in such cases, the valence state of the electron donor is decreased

Chroma – the relative purity or saturation of a color; intensity of distinctive hue as related to grayness; one of the three variables of color

Cienaga – a marshy area where the ground is wet due to the presence of seepage or springs

Circumneutral – pH of water between 5.5 and 7.4; pH modifier used in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland classification system

Clay - a sedimentary material with grains smaller than 0.002 millimeters in diameter

cm – centimeter; one inch equals 2.5 cm

Colonial – a group of plants of the same species, spreading by rhizome or rootstock

Composition (Structure) – the composition of the taxonomic grouping such as fish, algae, or macroinvertebrates relating primarily to the kinds and number of organisms in the group

Community – all the groups of organisms living together in the same area, usually interacting or depending on each other for existence; all the living organisms present in an ecosystem
Comprehensive Wetland Determination – a type of wetland determination that is based on the strongest possible evidence, requiring the collection of quantitative data

Coniferous – any tree or shrub that has cones (pine trees)
Confined River – a river or stream that has banks (typically of bedrock) that do not move rapidly over time and are unlikely to erode

Confining Layer – a body of impermeable or distinctly less permeable material stratigraphically adjacent to one or more aquifers that restricts the movement of water into and out of the aquifers
Conservation – careful preservation and protection of natural resources from loss, harm, or waste, planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction or neglect

Constructed or Created Wetlands – former terrestrial environments that have been designed or engineered to establish the necessary conditions (soils, hydrology, and flora/fauna) for a wetland
Contributing Area – the area in a drainage basin that contributes water to streamflow or recharge to an aquifer

Core Sample – a sample of rock, soil, or other material obtained by driving a hollow tube into the undisturbed medium and withdrawing it with its contained sample

Criteria – standards, rules, or tests on which a judgment or decision may be based

Crustacean – the group of animals having a hard shell and joint body parts; crabs or shrimp

Cypress Dome – small, isolated, circular, depressional, forested wetlands, in which cypress predominates, that have convex silhouettes when viewed from a distance


Dam – a barrier built across a body of water

Decay – to rot; the breakdown of disintegration of matter

Deciduous – plants that lose their leaves once a year, usually in winter

Decomposer – an organism that consumes organic waste, reducing it to simple nutrients that can be used again by living things; decomposers include: moulds, insects, worms, and fungi

Deepwater Habitat – permanently flooded lands lying below the deepwater boundary of wetlands

Degraded – condition of the quality of water that has been made unfit for some specified purpose

Delineation – identification and documentation of the boundary between wetlands and uplands
Delta – the low, nearly flat tract of land at or near the mouth of a river, resulting from the accumulation of sediment supplied by the river in such quantities that it is not removed by tides, waves, or currents

Depressional Wetland – a wetland that lay within a depression in the landscape, generally draining a small surface area
Designated Use – classification designated in water quality standards for each waterbody or segment that defines the optimal purpose for that waterbody (examples are drinking water use and aquatic life use)

Detritus – decaying organic matter found in the top layer of soil or mixed with wetland waters; a food source for many small wetland organisms

Dike – a wall or mound built around a low–lying area to prevent flooding; sometimes called a berm or levee

Direct Runoff – the runoff entering stream channels promptly after rainfall or snowmelt

Discharge – the volume of fluid passing a point per unit of time, commonly expressed in cubic feet per second, million gallons per day, gallons per minute, or seconds per minute per day

Discharge Area (ground water) – area where subsurface water is discharged to the land surface, to surface water, or to the atmosphere

Dissolved Oxygen - oxygen dissolved in water and available to aquatic organisms; one of the most important indicators of the condition of a water body; concentrations below 5 mg/l are stressful and may be lethal to many fish and other species

Dissolved Solids – minerals and organic matter dissolved in water

Disturbance – any change in an ecosystem

Diurnal – of or pertaining to a day; occurring over a 24–hour period

Diversity – a combination of the number of taxa (see taxa richness) and the relative abundance of those taxa; a variety of diversity indexes has been developed to calculate diversity

Dominant species – a plant species that exerts a controlling influence on or defines the character of a community

Dormant – period when a plant is not actively growing, but is still alive (i.e., for most wetland plants in NY in the winter)

Drainage Basin – the land area drained by a river or stream; also known as “watershed”; the area is determined by topography that divides drainages between watersheds

Drained – a condition in which ground or surface water has been reduced or eliminated from an area by artificial means

Dredge – to remove the mud and sediment from a wetland area or waterbody

Drought – a prolonged period of less–than–normal precipitation such that the lack of water causes a serious hydrologic imbalance; a period of very dry weather 


Ecological – refers to the relationship between living things and their environment

Ecological Assessment – an evaluation of the status of a water resource system; can be used to detect degradation and if possible, to identify causes of that degradation
Ecological Integrity – the condition of an unimpaired ecosystem when it is both healthy (that is when it can maintain essential ecological processes such as waste assimilation and micro–climate control) and can support evolutionary and co-evolutionary changes over time

Ecology – the branch of biology that studies the interaction of living organisms with each other and their environment

Economic –having to do with the management of finances or with the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth

Ecoregion – a region defined by similarity of climate, landform, soil, potential natural vegetation, hydrology, and other ecologically relevant variables
Ecosystem – an organic community of plants and animals viewed within its physical environment (habitat); the ecosystem results from the interaction between soil, climate, vegetation and animal life

Emergent Plants – water plants with roots and part of the stem submerged below water level, but the rest of the plant is above water; cattails and bulrushes

Emergent Wetland – a wetland class dominated by emergent plants; include marshes and wet meadows. (abbreviated EM)

Emersed – rising above the surface of water

Endangered Species – any species of plant or animal that is having trouble surviving and reproducing; often caused by loss of habitat, not enough food, or pollution; protected by governments in an effort to keep them from becoming extinct

Enhance (wetland) – to improve existing wetlands to benefit a particular function or value, sometimes at the expense of other functions and values

Environment – the sum of all conditions and influences affecting the life of organisms

Ephemeral Stream – a stream or part of a stream that flows only in direct response to precipitation; it receives little or no water from springs, melting snow, or other sources; its channel is at all times above the water table

Erosion – the process whereby materials of the Earth's crust are loosened, dissolved, or worn away and simultaneously moved from one place to another

Estuaries – the part of the wide lower course of a river where its current is met by ocean tides; an arm of the sea that extends inland to meet the mouth of a river; has somewhat salty water and tidal activity

Estuarine Wetlands – tidal wetlands in low–wave–energy environments where the salinity of the water is greater than 0.5 part per thousand and is variable owing to evaporation and the mixing of seawater and freshwater; tidal wetlands of coastal rivers and embayments, salty tidal marshes, mangrove swamps, and tidal flats

Eutrophication – a natural process, that can be accelerated by human activities, whereby the concentration of nutrients in rivers, estuaries, and other bodies of water increases; over time this can result in anaerobic (lack of oxygen) conditions in the water column; the increase of nutrients stimulates algae "blooms" as the algae decays and dies, the availability of dissolved oxygen is reduced; as a result, creatures living in the water accustomed to aerobic conditions perish

Evaporation – the process by which water is changed to gas or vapor; occurs directly from water surfaces and from the soil

Evapotranspiration – a term that includes water discharged to the atmosphere as a result of evaporation from the soil and surface-water bodies and by plant transpiration

Evergreen – plants that retain their leaves throughout the year

Exoskeleton – the hard outer covering that supports or protects the soft tissue of an organism such as the shells on turtles, snails and lobsters

Exotic Species – plants or animals not native to the area

Extirpated – a local population of a species that no longer exists but populations exist elsewhere


Facultative Plant (FAC) – plants which are equally likely to occur in wetlands or non–wetlands (estimated probability 34 to 66 percent)

Facultative Upland Plant (FACU) – plants which usually occur in non– wetlands but are occasionally found in wetlands (estimated probability 1 to 33 percent)

Facultative Wetland Plant (FACW) – plants which usually occur in wetlands (estimated probability 67 to 99 percent)

Fen – peat-accumulating wetland that generally receives water from surface runoff and (or) seepage from mineral soils in addition to direct precipitation; generally alkaline; or slightly acid

Field Indicator – a characteristic observed in the field that indicates the presence of wetland vegetation, hydric soils, and wetland hydrology as defined by the 1987 COE Wetland Delineation Manual

Fill – the process where low-lying, wet land is filled with materials in an attempt to make it arable or suitable for construction, any material that raises the ground elevation of a wetland or waterbody

Fix – to make more stable; plant roots fix soil making it more resistant to erosion

Floating Plants – water plants with floating leaves; may be free-floating, such as duckweed, or attached to the bottom by a root system as in the case with pond lilies

Flooded - a condition in which the soil surface is temporarily covered with flowing water from any source, such as streams overflowing their banks, runoff from adjacent or surrounding slopes, inflow from high tides, or any combination of sources

Flood Attenuation – a weakening or reduction in the force or intensity of a flood

Flood Plain – a strip of relatively flat land bordering a stream channel that may be overflowed at times of high water; the amount of land inundated during a flood is relative to the severity of a flood event

Floodplain Wetlands – wetlands that are influenced by and associated with floodplains, where the overflowing water of rivers and streams is the dominant hydrologic input
Fluvial – pertaining to a river or stream

Flyway – a specific air route taken by birds during migration

Food Chain – interrelations of organisms that feed upon each other, transferring energy and nutrients; typically solar energy is processed by plants who are eaten by herbivores which in turn are eaten by carnivores: sun –> grass –> mouse –> owl

Food Web – the combined food chains of a community or ecosystem

Frequently Flooded - a flooding class in which flooding is likely to occur often under normal weather conditions (more than 50-percent chance of flooding in any year or more than 50 times in 100 years)

Forested Wetland – a wetland class where the soil is saturated and often inundated, and woody plants taller than 20 feet form the dominant cover, e.g. red maple, American elm, and tamarack; water tolerant shrubs often form a second layer beneath the forest canopy, with a layer of herbaceous plants growing beneath the shrubs (abbreviated FO)

Freshwater – water without salt in it, like ponds and streams

Friable – descriptive of a rock or mineral that crumbles naturally or is easily broken, pulverized, or reduced to powder
Fringe Wetland – wetland near a large body of water that receives significant and regular two-way flow

Function – refers to how wetlands and riparian areas work – the physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in these settings, which are a result of their physical and biological structure
Functions – the roles that wetlands serve, which are of value to society or environment

Functional Groups – a means of dividing organisms into groups, often based on their method of feeding (e.g., shredder, scraper, filterer, predator), type of food (e.g., fruit, seeds, nectar, insects), or habits (e.g., burrower, climber, clinger)


Geomorphic – pertaining to the form of the Earth or of its surface features

Geomorphology – the science that treats the general configuration of the Earth's surface; the description of landforms

Gleyed – soil condition resulting from prolonged soil saturation, evidenced by the presence of bluish or greenish colors through the soil or in mottles (spots or streaks) among other colors; occurs under reducing soil conditions resulting from soil saturation, by which iron is reduced predominantly to the ferrous state

Ground Water – in the broadest sense, all subsurface water; more commonly that part of the subsurface water in the saturated zone; a layer of underground water that forms when precipitation soaks into the soil and becomes trapped between the soil above and a rock or clay layer below

Ground Water Discharge – ground water that emerges at the land surface, in the form of springs or seepage areas; ground water can also discharge into rivers (via bank seepage) and sustain flow during the drier months

Groundwater Flow System – the underground pathway by which groundwater moves from areas of recharge to areas of discharge

Groundwater Recharge – the process whereby infiltrating rain, snowmelt or surface water enters and replenishes the groundwater stores

Growing Season – the period of the year when the soil temperature at 19.7 inches below the soil surface is above biological zero; for ease of determination this period can be approximated by the number of frost-free days

Gully Erosion – a form of erosion that can occur on riverbanks which is related to overland drainage down the bank and not to river processes


Habitat – the sum total of all the living and non-living factors that surround and potentially influence an organism; a particular organism's environment

Halophyte – a plant that is adapted to grow in salty soils

Hardpan – a relatively hard, impervious, and usually clayey layer of soil lying at or just below land surface-produced as a result of cementation by precipitation of insoluble minerals

Herbs – succulent, non-woody plants that die down at the end of the growing season

Histic Epipedon – an 8- to 16-in. soil layer at or near the surface that is saturated for 30 consecutive days or more during the growing season in most years and contains a minimum of 20 percent organic matter when no clay is present or a minimum of 30 percent organic matter when 60 percent or greater clay is present

Histosol – soil that has organic materials in more than half of the upper 32 inches or of any thickness overlying bedrock; formed almost exclusively in wetlands (except for folists, which are formed in forests)

Hydraulic Head – the height of the free surface of a body of water above a given point beneath the surface

Hydraulic Gradient – the change of hydraulic head per unit of distance in a given direction

Hydric – relating to, marked by, or requiring considerable moisture

Hydric Soil – a soil that is saturated, flooded, or ponded long enough during the growing season to develop anaerobic conditions that favor the growth and regeneration of hydrophytic vegetation; field indicators of hydric soils can include: a thick layer of decomposing plant material on the surface; the odor of rotten eggs; and colors of bluish–gray, gray, black, or sometimes gray with contrasting brighter spots of color

Hydrogeomorphic – of or pertaining to a synthesis of the geomorphic setting, the water source and its transport, and hydrodynamics

Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) Classification – a wetland classification system based on the position of a wetland in the landscape (geomorphic setting), dominant sources of water, and the flow and fluctuation of water once in the wetland; hydrogeomorphic classes include riverine, depressional, slope, mineral soil flats, organic soil flats, estuarine fringe, and lacustrine fringe

Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) Approach – a method that compares a wetland's functions (e.g., water retention, nutrient cycling) to similar wetlands of the same type (as defined by HGM classification) that are relatively unaltered; HGM functions normally fall into one of three major categories: (1) hydrologic (e.g., storage of surface water), (2) biogeochemical (e.g., removal of elements and compounds), and (3) habitat (e.g., maintenance of plant and animal communities)

Hydrologic Cycle – the circulation of water from the sea, through the atmosphere, to the land, and thence back to the sea by overland and subterranean routes

Hydrology – the study of the cycle of water movement on, over and through the earth's surface; the science dealing with the properties, distribution, and circulation of water
Hydroperiod – depth, duration, seasonality, and frequency of flooding

Hydrophyte – plants that have adapted mechanisms for survival in saturated or inundated soils with anaerobic conditions; examples include cattails, bulrushes, willows; a plant that can, and often must, live in water


Immersed – covered completely in a liquid; submerged

Impact – a change in the chemical, physical (including habitat), or biological quality or condition of a waterbody caused by external forces
Impaired – condition of the quality of water that has been adversely affected for a specific use by contamination or pollution.

Impairment – a detrimental effect on the biological integrity of a waterbody caused by an impact that prevents attainment of the designated use
Index of Biological Integrity – an integrative expression of site condition across multiple metrics; often composed of at least seven metrics; plural form is either indices or indexes; similar to economic indexes used for expressing the condition of the economy

Indicator – organism, ecological community, or structural feature so strictly associated with a particular environmental condition that its presence indicates the existence of the condition

Infiltration – the downward movement of water from the atmosphere into soil or porous rock

Inorganic – containing no carbon; matter other than plant or animal

Inorganic Soil – soil with less than 20 percent organic matter in the upper 16 inches

Interdependent – mutually dependent

Interface – in hydrology, the contact zone between two fluids of different chemical or physical makeup

Intermittent Stream – streams that flow primarily during the wet seasons when the water table is high, and remain dry for a portion of the year; most intermittent streams flow for a good portion of the year

Intertidal – alternately flooded and exposed by tides

Intertidal Habitat – the tidal area between the mean lower low water and mean higher high water which is alternately exposed and covered by water twice daily

Inundation – a condition in which water from any source temporarily or permanently covers a land surface.

Invertebrate – an animal with no backbone or spinal column; invertebrates include 95% of the animal kingdom

Ion – a positively or negatively charged atom or group of atoms

Irrigation – controlled application of water to arable land to supply requirements of crops not satisfied by rainfall

Isolated Wetland – wetland not regulated by the COE because it does not have an interstate commerce connection; typically does not have surface water connection to other waters or wetlands


Jurisdictional Wetlands – wetlands which are under the jurisdiction of the COE and the EPA pursuant to Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act because they meet the COE and EPA definition of wetlands; those areas which "...are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions"; identified in the field based on the 1987 Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual which requires indicators of the following three parameters:

A) a dominance of wetland plants;

B) hydric soils; and

C) wetlands hydrology


Karst – a type of topography that results from dissolution and collapse of carbonate rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum, and that is characterized by closed depressions or sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage

Kettle – a steep-sided hole or depression, commonly without surface drainage, formed by the melting of a large detached block of stagnant ice that had been buried in the glacial drift

Kettle Lake – a body of water occupying a kettle, as in a pitted outwash plain or in a kettle moraine

Knee– A part of the root of a wetland tree that emerges from the water in which the tree is growing; common on bald cypress (see “pneumatophore”)


Lacustrine – pertaining to, produced by, or formed in a lake

Lacustrine Wetlands – wetlands within a lake or reservoir greater than 20 acres or within a lake or reservoir less than 20 acres if the water is greater than 2 meters deep in the deepest part of the basin; ocean-derived salinity must be less than 0.5 part per thousand

Lagoon – a shallow stretch of seawater (or lake water) near or communicating with the sea (or lake) and partly or completely separated from it by a low, narrow, elongate strip of land

Landscape – a heterogeneous mix of properties that encompass more than one ownership or management unit
Landscape Ecology – specialty that deals with the patterns and processes of biological systems at the scale of hundreds to thousands of acres

Landscape Perspective – method of viewing the interactive parts of a geographic areas that are not necessarily in the same watershed

Leachate – a liquid that has percolated through soil containing soluble substances and that contains certain amounts of these substances in solution

Life Zone – major area of plant and animal life; region characterized by particular plants and animals and distinguished by temperature differences

Limnetic – the deepwater zone (greater than 2 meters deep); a subsystem of the Lacustrine System in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland classification system

Littoral – the shallow–water zone (less than 2 meters deep) at the edge of a lake or pond; a subsystem in the Lacustrine System of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetland classification system

Load – material that is moved or carried by streams, reported as weight of material transported during a specified time period, such as tons per year

Lotic – pertaining to or living in flowing water


m – meter; there are approximately 39 inches in a meter

Macroinvertebrates – animals without backbones that can be seen with the naked eye (caught with a 1-mm2 mesh net); includes insects, crayfish, snails, mussels, clams, fairy shrimp, etc.

Macrophyte – any plant species that can be readily observed without the aid of optical magnification; this includes all vascular plant species and mosses (e.g., Sphagnum spp.), as well as large algae (e.g. Chara spp., kelp)

Macrophytic – a term referring to a plant species that is a macrophyte

Main Stem – the principal trunk of a river or a stream

Man-Induced Wetland – any area that develops wetland characteristics due to some activity (e.g., irrigation) of man

Mangroves – tropical evergreen trees found in swamps

Mangrove Forest – wetland in tropical areas, such as the coasts of Florida, Africa, Mexico, Australia, that has mangrove trees and either fresh or salt water

Marine Wetland – wetlands that are exposed to waves and currents of the open ocean and to water having a salinity greater than 30 parts per thousand; present along the coastlines of the open ocean

Marsh – an area of soft, wet, low–lying land, characterized by grassy vegetation and often forming a transition zone between water and land; marshes are dominated by non-woody vegetation and they tend to develop in zones progressing from terrestrial habitat to open water
Maturity – a stage in the evolutionary erosion of land areas where the flat uplands have been widely dissected by deep river valleys

Maturity (stream) – the stage in the development of a stream at which it has reached its maximum efficiency, when velocity is just sufficient to carry the sediment delivered to it by tributaries; characterized by a broad, open, flat–floored valley having a moderate gradient and gentle slope

Mean Low Tide – the average altitude of all low tides recorded at a given place over a 19–year period

Mean High Tide – the average altitude of all high tides recorded at a given place over a 19–year period

Mesophyte – any plant growing where moisture and aeration conditions lie between the extremes of "wet" and "dry"

Method – a particular procedure or set of procedures to be followed

mg/l – milligrams per liter; a unit of concentration

Migratory – a creature that moves from one region to another when the seasons change

Mineral soil – soil composed predominantly of mineral rather than organic materials; less than 20 percent organic material

Mitigation – a process of minimizing or compensating for damages to natural habitats, caused by human developments; these activities are designed to decrease the degree of damage to an ecosystem and may include restoration, enhancement, or creation; according to the Clean Water Act, mitigation is a sequential process that includes avoiding impacts, then minimizing impacts, and lastly, compensating for impacts
Monitoring – the regular measurement of an area or quantity/quality over time (generally of things that can change)

Mottle – contrasting spots of bright colors in a soil; an indication of some oxidation or ground water level fluctuation

Muck – dark, finely divided, well–decomposed, organic matter forming a surface deposit in some poorly drained areas

Mudflat – bare, flat bottoms of lakes, rivers and ponds, or coastal waters, largely filled with organic deposits, freshly exposed by a lowering of the water level; a broad expanse of muddy substrate commonly occurring in estuaries and bays

Muskeg – large expanses of peatlands or bogs that occur in sub arctic zones


Native – an animal or plant that lives or grows naturally in a certain region

Natural Levee – a long, broad, low ridge built by a stream on its flood plain along one or both banks of its channel in time of flood

Naturalist – a person who appreciates, studies and interprets the natural environment

Navigable Water – a water that has in the past, currently is or can be used for interstate commerce (i.e., movement of logs downstate); term is defined differently by the COE under the different regulatory programs

Niche – the way of life of an organism; how it get its food, its behavior and impact on other organisms and habitat; the location and function of a living organism in its environment

Nonpersistent Emergent Plants – emergent plants whose leaves and stems break down at the end of the growing season from decay or by the physical forces of waves and ice; at certain seasons, there are no visible traces of the plants above the surface of the water

Nonpoint Source – a source (of any water–carried material) from a broad area, rather than from discrete points

Nonrenewable – something that is limited in supply and cannot be replenished by natural processes, at least for thousands of years; fossil fuels are a nonrenewable resource

Nuisance Species – undesirable plants and animals, commonly exotic species

Nutrient – any inorganic or organic compound that provides the nourishment needed for the survival of an organism


Obligate Upland Plant (UPL) – plants which almost always occur in uplands (estimated probability greater than 99 percent)

Obligate Wetland Plant (OBL) – plants which almost always occur in wetlands (estimated probability greater than 99 percent)

Off-site Determination Method – a method of assessing, from an office, the probability and estimated size/location of wetlands on a site

Oligotrophic – poor in nutrients; said of lakes and ponds

One–Hundred–Year Flood – refers to the floodwater levels that would occur once in 100 years, or as a 1.0 percent probability per year

On-site Determination Method – a method for identifying the location and extent of wetlands from the field

Open Water – a wetland class consisting of areas of open water less than 6.6 feet deep; there are often submerged or floating–leaved plants in the shallower portions along the edges of the waterbody (abbreviated OW)

Ordinary High Water Mark – that line on the shore established by the fluctuations of water and indicated by physical characteristics such as clear, natural line impressed on the bank, shelving, changes in the character of soil, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter and debris, or other appropriate means that consider the characteristics of the surrounding areas

Organic – containing carbon, but possibly also containing hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine, nitrogen, and other elements

Organic Material – anything that is living or was living; in soil it is usually made up of nuts, leaves, twigs, bark, etc.

Organic Soil – soil that contains more than 20 percent organic matter in the upper 16 inches

Organic Waste – the decaying or decayed matter from once living organisms

Organism – a living thing

Overland Flow – the flow of rainwater or snowmelt over the land surface toward stream channels

Oxbow – a bow–shaped lake formed in an abandoned meander of a river

Oxidized Rhizosphere – precipitation of orange-ish ferric compounds around the roots and rhizomes of plants growing in frequently saturated soils; caused by oxidation of the soil immediately surrounding the root from the discharge of oxygen by the roots or rhizomes of a plant


Palustrine Wetlands – freshwater wetlands including open water bodies of less than 20 acres in which water is less than 2 meters deep; includes marshes, wet meadows, fens, playas, potholes, pocosins, bogs, swamps, and shallow ponds; most wetlands are classified as Palustrine

Parameter– a characteristic component of a unit that can be defined; vegetation, soil, and hydrology are three parameters that may be used to define wetlands

Peat – organic material (leaves, bark, nuts) that has decayed partially; it is dark brown with identifiable plant parts, and can be found in peatlands and bogs

Perched Groundwater – unconfined ground water separated from an underlying main body of ground water by an unsaturated zone, typically by an impermeable clay layer

Percolation – the movement, under hydrostatic pressure, of water through interstices of a rock or soil (except the movement through large openings such as caves)

Perennial – a plant that grows year after year

Perennial Stream – a stream that normally has water in its channel at all times because it is sustained by groundwater discharge as well as by surface runoff

Periphyton – micro–organisms that coat rocks, plants, and other surfaces on lake bottoms

Permeability – the capacity of a rock for transmitting a fluid; a measure of the relative ease with which a porous medium can transmit a liquid

Persistent Emergent Plant – species of plants whose stems show above the water and do not deteriorate when the plant goes dormant (e.g. cattails)

pH – a measure of the acidity (less than 7) or alkalinity (greater than 7) of a solution; a pH of 7 is considered neutral

Physiographic Province – a region in which the landforms differ significantly from those of adjacent regions

Physiography – a description of the surface features of the Earth, with an emphasis on the mode or origin

Photosynthesis – process by which green plants (chlorophyll containing) make food by combining carbon dioxide and water using energy from sunlight

Phytoplankton – microscopic, free–floating plants that drift in the water

Pioneer Plant – herbaceous annual and perennial seedling plants that colonize bare areas as a first stage in secondary succession
Piping – erosion by percolating water in a layer of subsoil, resulting in caving and in the formation of narrow conduits, tunnels, or "pipes" through which soluble or granular soil material is removed

Playa – a dry, flat area at the lowest part of an undrained desert basin in which water accumulates and is quickly evaporated; underlain by stratified clay, silt, or sand and commonly by soluble salts; term used in Southwestern United States

Playa Lake – a shallow, temporary lake in an arid or semiarid region, covering or occupying a playa in the wet season but drying up in summer; temporary lake that upon evaporation leaves or forms a playa
Pneumatophore – specialized roots formed on several species of plants occurring frequently in inundated habitats; root is erect and protrudes above the soil surface

Pocosin – a local term along the Atlantic coastal plain, from Virginia south, for a shrub-scrub wetland located on a relatively flat terrain, often between streams

Point Source – originating at any discrete source (i.e., a discharge pipe)

Pollution – The Clean Water Act (Section 502.19) defines pollution as "the [hu]man-made or [hu]man-induced alteration of chemical, physical, biological, and radiological integrity of water."
Pond – a relatively small body of standing, fresh water; usually shallow enough for sunlight to reach the bed

Ponded – a condition in which water stands in a closed depression; water may be removed only by percolation, evaporation, and/or transpiration

Poorly Drained – water is removed from the soil so slowly that the soil is saturated periodically during the growing season or remains wet for long periods

Population – a collection of individuals of one species or mixed species making up the residents of a prescribed area

Porosity – the ratio of the volume of voids in a rock or soil to the total volume

Positive Wetland Indicator – any evidence of the presence of hydrophytic vegetation, hydric soil, and/or wetland hydrology in an area

Potential Evapotranspiration – the amount of moisture which, if available, would be removed from a given land area by evapotranspiration, expressed in units of water depth

Pothole or Prairie Pothole – a term often used to describe the small, shallow ponds and marshes formed by Pleistocene glaciation in the grasslands of the northern United States and southern Canada; "kettlehole" was the original term used
ppt – parts per thousand. The salinity of ocean water is approximately 35 ppt

Precipitation – the process by which condensed water builds up in clouds and falls to the ground as rain, sleet, snow, or hail

Preservation – the protection and maintenance of organisms or ecosystems for personal or special use

Prevalence Index – weighted average; a single number that summarizes quantitative data about a large number of species within a community and gives weight to each species’ contribution to the final number in terms of an assigned value

Prey – an animal that is eaten by other animals

Prior Converted Wetland – wetland converted to farmable land before December 23, 1985

Pristine – the earliest condition of the quality of a water body; unaffected by human activities

Public Participation – involvement by citizens in the community, especially in decision-making


Quadrat – an area of a certain size (generally from 1 to 20 square meters) within which biodiversity is assessed/ monitored

Quantitative – a precise measurement or determination expressed numerically


Ramsar Convention – an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation of wetlands

Rapid Assessment – an assessment methodology that can be able to be completed in a short time (i.e., a few hours)

Reach – a continuous part of a stream between two specified points

Reaeration – the replenishment of oxygen in water from which oxygen has been removed

Recharge (groundwater) – the process whereby infiltrating rain, snowmelt or surface water enters and replenishes the ground water stores

Recharge Area (groundwater) – an area in which water infiltrates the ground and reaches the zone of saturation

Recurrence Interval – the average interval of time within which the magnitude of a given event, such as a storm or flood, will be equaled or exceeded once

Redox Potential – oxygen-reduction potential; often used to quantify the degree of electrochemical reduction of wetland soils under anoxic conditions

Reference Condition – set of selected measurements or conditions of minimally impaired waterbodies characteristic of a waterbody type in a region

Reference Site – a minimally impaired site that is representative of the expected ecological conditions and integrity of other sites of the same type and region

Regulation (of a stream) – artificial manipulation of the flow of a stream

Renewable – something that can be replaced through natural processes if not overused or contaminated

Reserve – land put aside by the government with the intent to protect a habitat

Resilience – the ability of land to return to a relatively stable and functioning state following a disturbance Resource – something that is available that can be used to take care of a need

Restore – to return a wetland (or other natural habitat) to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance by modifying conditions responsible for the loss or change

Return Flow – that part of irrigation water that is not consumed by evapotranspiration and that returns to its source or another body of water

Riparian – pertaining to or situated on the bank of a natural body of flowing water

Riparian Area – an area of streamside vegetation including the stream bank and adjoining floodplain, which is distinguishable from upland areas in terms of vegetation, soils, and topography
Riparian Forest – a swamp that is narrow in width and runs along the shore of and affects a river or stream

Riverine Wetlands – wetlands within river and stream channels; ocean–derived salinity is less than 0.5 part per thousand

Rhizome – an elongated, underground root, which usually grows horizontally and from which may sprout new plants

Rhizosphere– the zone of soil in which interactions between living plant roots and microorganisms occur

Root zone– the portion of a soil profile in which plant roots occur

Routine Wetland Determination– a type of wetland determination in which office data and/or relatively simple, rapidly applied onsite methods are employed to determine whether or not an area is a wetland; most wetland determinations are of this type, which usually does not require collection of quantitative data

Runoff – rainwater that flows over the land and into streams and lakes; it often picks up soil particles along the way and transports it into streams and lakes

Rush – grass–like plant that forms dense clumps, mostly in wet areas; needle-like stems are cylindrical or flattened, hollow and green; “rushes are round, sedges have edges”


Salina – an area where deposits of crystalline salt are formed, such as a salt flat; a body of saline water, such as a saline playa or salt marsh

Saline Water – water that is considered generally unsuitable for human consumption or for irrigation because of its high content of dissolved solids; generally expressed as milligrams per liter (mg/L) of dissolved solids; seawater is generally considered to contain more than 35,000 mg/L of dissolved solids

Salinity – the concentration of dissolved salts in a body of water; commonly expressed as parts per thousand

Sample Plot– an area of land used for measuring or observing existing conditions.

Salt Flat – the level, salt-encrusted bottom of a dried up lake or pond

Salt Marsh – flat land dominated by non-woody vegetation that is flooded by salt water brought in by tides; it is found along saltwater rivers, bays, and oceans

Salt Meadow – a meadow subject to overflow by salt water

Saltwater – water with a high concentration of salt; sometimes used synonymously with seawater or saline water

Sand – a sedimentary material, finer than a granule and coarser than silt, with grains between 0.06 and 2.0 millimeters in diameter

Saturated Zone – generally the zone within sediment and rock formations where all voids are filled with water under pressure greater than atmospheric

Saturation – a condition in which all easily drained voids (pores) between soil particles are temporarily or permanently filled with water; soil has as much water in it as it can hold

SAV – see submerged aquatic vegetation

Scrub – a straggly, stunted tree or shrub; a growth or tract of stunted vegetation

Scrub–Shrub Wetland – a wetland class dominated by shrubs and woody plants that are less than 20 feet tall, e.g. dogwoods, alders, red maple saplings, etc.; water levels in shrub swamps can range from permanent to intermittent flooding (abbr. SS)

Sea Level – the long–term average position of the sea surface; in this volume, it refers to the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929

Secondary Succession – an association of plants that develops after the destruction of all or part of the original plant community

Sediment – fine–grained mineral and organic material in suspension, in transit, or deposited by air, water, or ice on the earth's surface

Sedimentation – the act or process of forming or accumulating sediment in layers; the process of deposition of sediment

Sedge – grass–like plant, usually with solid triangular stems; “rushes are round, sedges have edges”

Seep – a wetland that forms in areas where groundwater discharges to the land surface, often at the base of steep slopes, but where water volume is too small to create a stream or creek; these wetlands have a perpetually saturated soil but may have little or no standing water

Shallows – a term applied to a shallow place or area in a body of water; a shoal

Shrub – a woody plant generally less than 7 meters in height, having several stems arising from the base and lacking a single trunk; a bush

Shrubland – land covered predominantly with shrubs

Shoal – a relatively shallow place in a stream, lake, or sea

Silt – one of three main parts of soil (sand, silt, and clay); silt is small rock particles that are between .05 mm and .002 mm in diameter

Siltation – the deposition or accumulation of silt (or small–grained material) in a body of water

Silviculture – the cultivation of forest trees

Sinkhole – a depression in an area underlain by limestone; its drainage is subterranean

Site – the portion of land chosen as the basis for an activity or ecological assessment

Slough – a swamp or swamp-like region; a marshy or reedy pool, pond, inlet, backwater or the like; a small marshy tract lying in a swale or other local shallow undrained depression; a sluggish creek or channel in a wetland

Slump – a common form of riverbank erosion; can be caused by floodwaters saturating the soil then falling quickly and carrying the bank sediments with them, or by undercutting at the base of the bank causing the section of bank above to topple; usually semi–circular in shape and can vary from a few meters across up to 30m across

Soil– unconsolidated mineral and organic material that supports, or is capable of supporting, plants, and which has recognizable properties due to the integrated effect of climate and living matter acting upon parent material, as conditioned by relief over time

Soil Horizon – a layer of soil that is distinguishable from adjacent layers by characteristic physical and chemical properties

Soil Matrix – the portion of a given soil that has the dominant color; in most cases the portion of the soil that has more than 50% of the same color

Soil Moisture – water occurring in the pore spaces between the soil particles in the unsaturated zone from which water is discharged by the transpiration of plants or by evaporation from the soil

Soil Profile – a vertical section of a soil through all its horizons and extending into the parent material

Soil Types – soils are commonly said to be sandy, loamy or clayey; sandy soils are dominated by sand and fall apart easily and do not have good water retention; loamy soils are where organic matter makes the soil dark and friable, with good moisture retention; clayey soils are dominated by clay to such an extent that you can squeeze a 'ribbon' out of the moist soil

Somewhat Poorly Drained– soils that are wet near enough to the surface or long enough that planting or harvesting operations or crop growth is markedly restricted unless artificial drainage is provided; commonly have a layer with low hydraulic conductivity, wet conditions high in the profile, additions of water through seepage, or a combination of these conditions

Spoil – overburden or other waste material removed in mining, quarrying, dredging, or excavating

Spring – area where there is a concentrated discharge of ground water that flows at the ground surface

Stage – height of the water surface above an established datum plane, such as in a river above a predetermined point that may (or may not) be near the channel floor

Staining – dark brown marks left on trees and on the ground made by water

Stakeholder – any person or organization with an interest in a site, project or issue

Storm Surge – an abnormal and sudden rise of the sea along a shore as a result of the winds of a storm

Stratigraphy – features of geology dealing with the origin, composition, distribution, and succession of geologic strata (layers)

Streamflow – the discharge of water in a natural channel

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation – plants that live entirely under water

Submergent – plants that grow and reproduce while completely submerged by water, e.g. coontail and bladderworts

Submersed Plant – a plant that lies entirely beneath the water surface, except for flowering parts in some species

Subsidence – the gradual downward settling or sinking of the Earth's surface with little or no horizontal motion

Substrate – the base or material on which an organism lives; subsoil

Subtidal – continuously submerged; an area affected by ocean tides

Surface Runoff – water that flows over the surface of the land as a result of rainfall or snowmelt; surface runoff enters streams and rivers to become channelized stream flow

Surface Water – water present above the substrate or soil surface; an open body of water such as a lake, river, or stream

Survey – to examine the condition of an area or quality; to measure, record and map the locations at particular points or boundaries on a site

Suspended Sediment – sediment that is transported in suspension by a stream

Swale – a slight depression, sometimes filled with water, in the midst of generally level land

Swamp – a wetland where the soil is saturated and often inundated and dominated by shrubs (e.g., alder) or trees (e.g., red maple); contrasting with a marsh that has non–woody plants

Systems – a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole


Tarn – a relatively small and deep, steep–sided lake or pool occupying an ice–gouged basin amid glaciated mountains

Taxa – a grouping of organisms given a formal taxonomic name such as species, genus, family, etc. (singular form is taxon)

Taxa Richness – the number of distinct species or taxa that are found in an assemblage, community, or sample

Terrestrial – pertaining to, consisting of, or representing the Earth; refers to anything that is land based

Terrain – physical features of a tract of land

Tidal Flat – an extensive, nearly horizontal, tract of land that is alternately covered and uncovered by the tide and consists of unconsolidated sediment

Tidal Prism – the total volume of water passing in and out of a particular area, such as a lagoon or salt marsh, during a tidal cycle

Tidal Wetland – a wetland that is subject to the periodic rising and falling of sea level generated by the gravitational forces of the moon and the sun.

Tide – the rhythmic, alternate rise and fall of the surface (or water level) of the ocean, and connected bodies of water, occurring twice a day over most of the Earth, resulting from the gravitational attraction of the Moon, and to a lesser degree, the Sun

Toe – the base of the riverbank, streambank, or slope

Top Soil – the top layer of soil; it is full of organic material and can be good for growing crops

Topography – the general configuration of a land surface or any part of the Earth's surface, including its relief and the position of its natural and man–made features

Transect – a straight line of certain length marked out through a wetland or upland, along which biodiversity is assessed or monitored

Transitional Habitat – areas where communities shift from one type (i.e. wetland) to another (i.e. upland), where boundaries between the two can be unclear; also used to describe a particular piece of ground that is in transition because of responding to changed conditions, for example an area where vegetation is becoming re–established after having been graded

Transpiration – the process by which water passes through living organisms, primarily plants, into the atmosphere

Trees – woody plants greater than 7 meters tall, and usually with one main trunk

Tundra – a vast, nearly level, treeless plain of the arctic and sub arctic regions. It usually has a marshy surface that supports mosses, lichens, and low shrubs, underlain by mucky soils and permafrost

Turbidity – the state, condition, or quality of opaqueness or reduced clarity of a fluid due to the presence of suspended matter

Turbid – cloudy or opaque water due to the suspension of sediment


Unconfined Aquifer – an aquifer whose upper surface is a water table free to fluctuate under atmospheric pressure

Unconfined River – a river or stream that flows through soft sediments, capable of being eroded; typically these rivers move across a floodplain with time and have a high bank erosion risk

Under Normal Circumstances - as used in the definition of wetlands, this term refers to situations in which the vegetation has not been substantially altered by man's activities

Undercutting – a process of riverbank erosion whereby the base or 'toe' of the riverbank is 'eaten away' as a result of river flow or wave action. It results in the section of bank above becoming unstable and prone to collapse

Understory – a foliage layer lying beneath and shaded by the main canopy of a forest often formed by shrub vegetation

Unsaturated Zone – a subsurface zone above the water table where the pore spaces may contain a combination of air and water

Upland – a general term for nonwetland; elevated land above low areas along streams or between hills; any elevated region from which rivers gather drainage


Values – the goods and services that come from a biological system, including wetlands and riparian areas, that benefit humans or human society
Vascular Plant – a plant composed of or provided with vessels or ducts that convey water or sap; a fern is an example of this type of plant

Vegetation Structure – the structure of the vegetation in terms of layers, heights and spacing between trees

Vernal Pond – temporary ponds that fill with water in the spring as a result of snowmelt, spring rains, and/or elevated ground water tables and dry up later in the year

Vernal Pool – a small lake or pond that is filled with water for only a short time during the spring; many species of reptiles, amphibians, insects and invertebrates rely on vernal pools for breeding

Very Poorly Drained – water is removed from the soil so slowly that water remains at or on the surface during most of the growing season

Vulnerable – a species that is at risk because of low or declining numbers


Water Budget – an accounting of the inflow to, outflow from, and storage changes of water in a hydrologic unit

Water Column – an imaginary column extending through a water body from its floor to its surface

Water Cycle – the process by which water evaporates into water vapor, condenses into liquid form in the clouds, and precipitates as rain or snow back to Earth

Water Gap – a deep, narrow pass in a mountain ridge, through which a stream flows

Watermark– a line on a tree or other upright structure that represents the maximum static water level reached during an inundation event

Water Quality Standard – a legally established state regulation consisting of three parts: (1) designated uses, (2) criteria, and (3) antidegradation policy

Water Table – the upper level of the portion of the ground (rock) in which all spaces are wholly saturated with water; the water table may be located at or near the land surface or at a depth below the land surface and usually fluctuates from season to season; springs, seepages, marshes or lakes may occur where the water table intersects the land surface

Water Vapor – tiny drops of water floating in the air

Watershed – all the water from precipitation (snow, rain, etc.) that drains into a particular body of water (stream, pond, river, bay, etc.); surface drainage area that contributes water to a lake, river, or other body of water; the area drained by a watercourse; different watersheds are separated by divides or water partings

Wet Meadow – emergent wetlands that are generally seasonally flooded and have saturated soil for much of the growing season. Wet meadows are dominated by grasses, sedges and rushes and are very often cultivated or pastured
Wet Prairie – herbaceous wetland dominated by grasses rather than sedges and with waterlogged soil near the surface but without standing water for most of the year

Wetland – a vegetated ecosystem where water is a dominant factor in its development and existence

Wetlands (Cowardin et al.) – are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. For purposes of this classification wetlands must have one or more of the following three attributes: (1) at least periodically, the land supports predominantly hydrophytes (2) the substrate is predominantly undrained hydric soil and (3) the substrate is nonsoil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of each year. Wetland Boundary– the point on the ground at which a shift from wetlands to nonwetlands or aquatic habitats occurs; these boundaries usually follow contours

Wetland Determination– the process or procedure by which an area is adjudged a wetland or nonwetland

Wetland Function – a process or series of processes that take place within a wetland that are beneficial to the wetland itself, the surrounding ecosystems, and people

Wetland Control Length – the length (feet) of the crest of the restrictive feature that would be overtopped if the water level in the wetland was raised by one foot

Wetland Soil– a soil that has characteristics developed in a reducing atmosphere, which exists when periods of prolonged soil saturation result in anaerobic conditions; hydric soils that are sufficiently wet to support hydrophytic vegetation are wetland soils

Wetland vegetation– the sum total of macrophytic plant life that occurs in areas where the frequency and duration of inundation or soil saturation produce permanently or periodically saturated soils of sufficient duration to exert a controlling influence on the plant species present; hydrophytic vegetation occurring in areas that also have hydric soils and wetland hydrology may be properly referred to as wetland vegetation

Willow Carr – a pool, or wetland dominated by willow trees or shrubs


Zonation – state or condition of being marked with bands, as of color or texture; wetland vegetation often exhibits distinct zones characterized by plant communities composed of different species

Zooplankton – free-floating animals that drift in the water, range from microscopic organisms to larger animals such as jellyfish


A Community Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Manual: Glossary.  A Community Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Manual, 2000. http://www.zip.com.au/~aabr/cram/glossary.html

A Glossary of Wetland Terminology. Ballona Lagoon Marine Preserve, 1997. http://blmp.org/education/glossary.htm

Appendix A: Wetland Terms Glossary. Litchfield, NH Wetland Survey Home Page, 1996-1998.  http://www.litchfield.mv.com/LCCWetlandWeb/index.htm

Appendix F: Glossary. Iowa Wetlands and Riparian Areas Conservation Plan, 1998. http://www.ag.iastate.edu/centers/iawetlands/Glossary.html

Cool Tour of the Environment Glossary. National Wildlife Federation “Ranger Rick’s Kid Zone,” year unknown.

Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual. ACOE Wetlands Research Program Technical Report Y-87-1 (on-line edition) 1987

Corps of Engineers Wetland Delineation Manual Appendix A: Glossary. ACOE Wetlands Research Program Technical Report Y-87-1 (on-line edition) 1987 http://www.wetlands.com/coe/87manglo.htm

Glossary of Commonly Encountered Wetland-Related Terms and Units. The California Environmental Resources Evaluation System, 1998. http://ceres.ca.gov/wetlands/geo_info/so_cal/terms_definitions.html

Learning About Wetlands Glossary. The Wetland Writing Team, Athena Earth and Space Science for K-12 1998. http://inspire.ospi.wednet.edu:8001/curric/land/wetland/gloss.html

National Water Summary on Wetland Resources Supplemental Information: Glossary. United States Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2425, 1998. http://water.usgs.gov/nwsum/WSP2425/glossary.html

Topic E: Wetland Ecosystems Glossary. Muriel Martin Elementary School, year unknown. http://mmem.spschools.org/grade5science/wetland/wetlandglossary.html

Wetland Bioassessment Glossary. EPA Office of Water Biological Assessment Wetland Workgroup, 2001. http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/bawwg/glossary.html

Wetlands: Characteristics and Boundaries. National Academy Press, 1995.

Wetland Plants Glossary. North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Water Quality, year unknown. http://www.esb.enr.state.nc.us/Wetplant/glossary.htm

Wetland Words. Environmental Concern, Inc. Wetland Education Department, year unknown. http://www.wetland.org/educ_kids.htm