Wetland Program Development Grants Case Studies

The EPA wetland program has a primary goal of increasing the quantity and quality of wetlands in the U.S. through a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. State and tribal wetland protection programs play a crucial role in achieving this goal. The Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDGs) are the primary mechanism through which EPA supports state and tribal efforts to build programs that protect valuable wetland resources.

The WPDG program was initiated in 1990 to provide states and tribes an opportunity to carry out projects to develop and refine comprehensive wetland programs. EPA identified six elements of a comprehensive wetland program in 1999:

  1. Regulation
  2. Monitoring and Assessment
  3. Restoration
  4. Water Quality Standards
  5. Public-Private Partnerships
  6. Coordination

Grants are awarded competitively by each EPA Region and Headquarters. Each year, the grant program identifies priority areas within these main elements to encourage proposals to focus on specific program needs. Priorities have included refining the protection of vulnerable waters, improving the effectiveness of compensatory mitigation, and developing monitoring and assessment programs.

Many states and tribes have utilized WPDG funds to develop aspects of their wetland program. Building a comprehensive wetland program is progressive and many WPDG recipients continue to work hard at incorporating the remaining elements of a comprehensive program.

The foundation of any wetland program is an understanding of the location, extent and condition of wetland resources. Many states, tribes, and federal and state workgroups have been exploring and developing assessment methodologies to meet that priority goal. These efforts have emphasized the need for a scientifically sound assessment of the chemical, physical, and biological health of wetlands and the need for standardized approaches to facilitate the development of trend analyses and geographically comparable data. Several WPDG recipients have used the grant program to develop strategies, create and modify assessment tools, and begin forums for sharing information in order to better characterize and manage their wetlands.

EPA selected grant recipients from across the country that utilized the grant program to support wetland program development on a broad scale. The result is a series of case studies that highlights numerous approaches to wetland protection from a diverse group of grantees. The following are 25 individual stories from 11 state agencies; five tribes; three multi-agency work groups; two counties; one state park; one university; and two non-government organizations.

  • Case studies are listed by state (or group):
  • Alabama

    Baldwin County is located in southern Alabama on the shores of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The county encompasses an area around 1600 square miles with wetlands covering over a quarter of that area. The largest threat to wetland resources is development. The county's population has grown over 40% since 1990 and remains on the top-three list of the fastest growing counties in Alabama. Given these challenges, Baldwin County is endeavoring to achieve balance between development needs of the growing population and protection of valuable wetland resources. The Baldwin County Advance Identification Project (ADID) jump-started wetland protection efforts in the county by locating, identifying and assessing wetland resources in an area of southern Baldwin County. This combined effort of the Baldwin County Commission, Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed regulators to make more informed management decisions.

  • Arizona

    The Hualapai Tribe resides on roughly a million acres of land adjacent to the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon and encompassing part of three Arizona counties: Coconino, Mohave and Yavapai. The reservation's landscape is diverse, with forests, rolling hills, mesas, cliffs, gorges and wetlands. There are 956 acres of wetlands within the reservation, and impacts from cattle, feral animals and sediment deposition are constant threats. In order to address these issues most effectively, the Hualapai Tribe began a program to identify and monitor all significant wetlands on the reservation. Oversight, permitting and enforcement in the wetland program are primarily handled by the Hualapai Tribal Council, Hualapai Tribal Environmental Review Resources and the Hualapai Wildlife Conservation Program. The Hualapai Department of Natural Resources (HDNR), which includes Water Resources, Agricultural, and the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Programs, takes the lead in on-the-ground protection measures and monitoring. The tribe also coordinates with several other state and federal agencies that have been active in constructing fences, silt traps and water catchments and removing feral animals to counteract effects on wetland resources.

  • Arkansas

    Arkansas has made numerous advancements in their wetland protection efforts mainly due to the collaboration of the Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team (MAWPT). This group coordinates efforts of several state agencies with natural resource responsibilities to better manage wetland resources. The six agencies of MAWPT include: Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission; Arkansas Game and Fish Commission; Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality; Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission; Arkansas Forestry Commission; and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. This coordination helps maximize state wetland conservation planning efforts using limited agency resources. Wetland Program Development Grant (WPDG) funds helped develop the multi-agency collaboration in 1992, under a grant entitled "Arkansas Wetland Strategy." This project commissioned four agencies to form a steering committee to jointly plan and implement a project in the Cache River/Bayou De View Watershed. Work in this watershed provided a general wetland planning approach that could then be applied to other watersheds. That original steering committee grew to include the six agencies of MAWPT by 1995 and has been entrusted with developing and implementing The Arkansas Wetland Strategy, which articulates the state's plans to manage and protect wetlands.

  • California

    Southern California coastal wetlands have been dramatically altered and, in some cases, destroyed by human activities over the past 150 years. There is an obvious need for preservation and restoration of the remaining wetland habitats. However, limited funding makes it imperative that restoration efforts be shaped by regional planning and priorities that maximize the benefit of expended resources. Establishing these priorities and developing a comprehensive wetland strategy in Southern California was historically hindered by a project-by-project focus and limited coordination of federal and state agencies. Fortunately, 17 agencies formed the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project (WRP) in 1997 to increase the regional coordination of wetland restoration, preservation and management, and develop a regional strategy. WRP also partners with local governments, business and nonprofit organizations, all with the long-term goals of developing the tools and infrastructure necessary to build state capacity and assess the quantity and quality of wetlands and their associated resources. California Partners (PDF) (3 pp, 26K) The Washoe Tribe is located in both California and Nevada. The description for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California is listed below under Nevada

  • Colorado

    Administered by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Colorado Wetland Partnership (CWP) was established in 1997 in response to a need for coordinated wetlands protection in the state. CWP runs a voluntary, incentive-based program for restoring, enhancing, creating, managing, and protecting wetlands, associated uplands, and wetland-dependent wildlife. To date, the CWP has completed over 600 projects that have protected or restored over 215,000 acres of habitat and over 200 stream miles. A diverse group of partners - private landowners, conservation organizations, and natural resource agencies - is responsible for generating over $45 million in total funding.

  • Connecticut

    Connecticut has roughly 450,000 acres of inland wetlands with functions that include providing wildlife habitat, moderating flooding effects, and protecting surface water quality by filtering out pollutants. Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has the primary responsibility of implementing the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Act, which regulates construction and other activities affecting inland wetlands and watercourses. The DEP is responsible for oversight of each town's inland wetland agency and ensures all agency regulations conform to the statutes of the Act and DEP regulations. Given Connecticut's 170 municipal inland wetland agencies, this can be a daunting task.

  • Idaho

    With about 3,200 members, the Nez Perce Tribe is the largest federally-recognized tribe in Idaho. The Nez Perce Tribe owns 86,248 acres of land, and individual tribal members own an additional 37,950 acres. The reservation encompasses prairies, forests, rivers and canyons. The farmland of the Camas Prairie makes up much of the south-central part of the reservation while forests cover mainly the eastern edge and the southwest corner. The Clearwater River runs through the north and east side of the reservation and tributaries to the River form steep canyons, dividing the reservation into six major watersheds, as well as six smaller ones. Though the land is mostly semi-arid, numerous wetlands are found at the headwaters of streams, depressions in the farmland and riparian zones of creeks and the River.

  • Iowa

    Alternatives to the agricultural use of flood plains are steadily increasing in Iowa as state and federal agencies work to engage more landowners and farmers in resource management. Wetland restoration, including the conversion of farm land back to wetland areas, has been a specific area of interest over the past several years. Public initiatives such as the Wetlands Reserve Program, efforts of private conservation organizations, and economic losses suffered from continued flooding have provided the motivation and means to consider and implement such changes in flood plain land use management.

  • Michigan

    Michigan was the first state, and remains one of only two states, to have assumed administration of the Section 404 Program under the provision of Section 404(g) of the Clean Water Act. While Section 404 anchors Michigan's wetland program, the state recognizes that only with a comprehensive approach to wetland protection, restoration and management will the long term goal of a net gain in wetland quantity and quality be achieved. Michigan's wetland program is administered by the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) --- formerly a part of the Department of Natural Resources. Since the inception of EPA's Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDG) program, MDEQ has taken advantage of this opportunity to partner with EPA and other organizations to establish the components of a comprehensive approach to wetlands management. The development of effective techniques for the evaluation of wetland resources is an excellent example of this partnership.

  • Minnesota

    The Grand Portage Band Reservation is located in the extreme northeastern tip of Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior. The Reservation is bounded on the north by the Canadian province of Ontario. The western boundary is State and Federal Land. Lake Superior forms the rocky, wave-swept boundary on the south and the east. According to the "Circle of Flight Tribal Wetland and Waterfowl Enhancement Initiative," it was estimated that approximately one-fifth of the 56,000-acre Reservation consists of wetlands.

  • Missouri

    Missouri has lost over 87 % of its wetlands and the state is especially concerned with protecting the remaining 458,000 acres and restoring other priority areas. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) was designated by the Governor in 1990 to be the agency to coordinate wetland protection activities. The Water Resources Program and the Water Pollution Control Program, both within MDNR, coordinate the majority of wetland protection activities in the state.

  • Montana

    The Grand Portage Band Reservation is located in the extreme northeastern tip of Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior. The Reservation is bounded on the north by the Canadian province of Ontario. The western boundary is State and Federal Land. Lake Superior forms the rocky, wave-swept boundary on the south and the east. According to the "Circle of Flight Tribal Wetland and Waterfowl Enhancement Initiative," it was estimated that approximately one-fifth of the 56,000-acre Reservation consists of wetlands.

  • Nebraska

    The Santee Sioux Nation is a federally recognized Tribe with Reservation lands encompassing approximately 184 square miles in northeast Nebraska. There are four major watersheds (Bazile, Howe, Lost and the Missouri River) located within the boundaries of the Reservation. Howe Creek is tributary to Bazile Creek, while Lost and Bazile Creeks empty into the Missouri River. The Tribe created the Office of Environmental Protection in 1990 to administer environmental activities for the protection of the health and welfare of Tribal and non-Tribal members, the environment and other Tribal resources within the exterior boundaries of the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation.

  • Nevada

    The importance of wetlands has long been known to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and consequently, their beliefs and practices developed to protect the health of wetlands have been transmitted from generation to generation over thousands of years. Plants found only in certain wetland areas within their aboriginal homelands continue to provide food and medicine to the Washoe People. Today, Washoe People remain staunch in their beliefs that the few remaining wetlands must be protected from further degradation and the wetlands that have been destroyed or degraded must be restored. The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California has made significant strides in defining its wetland systems through the supportive funding of Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDGs). The Washoe Tribe's Trust Lands are scattered throughout two states which creates many challenges for identifying and protecting wetland resources. The tribe has received three EPA grants that have advanced Washoe Environmental Protection Department's (WEPD) protection of tribal wetlands and education of the Washoe community about these important resources.

  • New Jersey

    New Jersey's State Legislature has taken numerous steps to protect wetlands through the regulation of nearly all activity within and adjacent to freshwater wetlands. In 1994, New Jersey assumed Clean Water Act Section 404 authority from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through implementation of the freshwater wetlands protection program. Jurisdiction over freshwater wetlands, upland buffers and transition areas is authorized by New Jersey's Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act (1987), while The New Jersey Wetlands Act of 1970 regulates activities on mapped coastal wetlands. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) has primary oversight of the state's wetland regulatory program. The Division of Land Use Regulation oversees freshwater wetlands, stream encroachment, coastal permitting and tidelands. The Division also reviews and oversees applications for permits to build or develop within these lands.

  • New York

    The Adirondack Park Agency (APA), established in 1971, is entrusted with the very large task of overseeing private and public land use practices within New York's Adirondack Park. This task can be daunting given the shear size of the park. Adirondack Park covers nearly 6 million acres of land and is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States. Roughly 40% of the park area is constitutionally protected to "be forever kept as wild forest lands", while the remaining 3.6 million acres is privately owned with a variety of recreational, residential and farming uses. Wetlands cover nearly 900,000 acres of the park and are a special feature worth preserving. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan was developed in 1987 and revised in 2001 by APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation to provide a classification system and guidelines to direct land-use practices and preservation and management activities within the park. APA has utilized EPA Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDG) to aid in the long-term goals of the State Land Master Plan, in part by supporting efforts to inventory, classify and restore specific wetland areas within the park.

  • North Carolina

    With approximately five million acres of wetland area, North Carolina contains an abundance of wetland resources. However, historical data indicates that about 34 percent of the state's wetland areas have been lost over the past century by rapid urban and agricultural development, with the most extensive losses occurring in the last 30 years. Today, the rapidly growing state has adopted numerous regulatory controls to protect wetlands. The state relies primarily on the §401 water quality certification program under the Clean Water Act for wetlands regulation, which is administered by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality (DWQ). DWQ has also implemented similar protections for isolated wetlands and waters, as well as stream buffers in selected river basins. Approximately 40 full-time employees work in the DWQ's wetland programs, with about half in the Raleigh headquarters and half in seven regional offices located throughout the state. The NC Division of Coastal Management additionally administers wetland programs in the state's coastal counties.

  • Oklahoma

    The Oklahoma Office of the Secretary of the Environment (OSE) (formerly the Oklahoma Department of Pollution Control) and Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), play integral roles in managing and protecting Oklahoma's natural resources. These two offices work in a collaborative capacity, along with several other state and federal agencies, to "conserve, enhance and restore the quantity, quality and biological diversity of all wetlands in the state."

  • Rhode Island

    The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) share responsibilities for protection, restoration and management of the State's freshwater and coastal wetlands. For the majority of the State, RIDEM serves as the point of contact for freshwater wetland regulation and policy development. Wetland program development in Rhode Island is primarily guided by the EPA recommendations for building a comprehensive wetland program, the RIDEM led Wetland Task Force Final Report (2001) and the Coastal Resource Management Program (1996). RIDEM has completed regulatory and non-regulatory Wetland Program Development Grant (WPDG) projects with partners including the University of Rhode Island-Department of Natural Resource Science (URI NRS) and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPC).

  • Virginia

    The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) is a graduate school of the College of William and Mary and one of the largest marine research and education centers in the United States. VIMS mission, mandated by the Code of Virginia, is to conduct interdisciplinary research, educate students and citizens and provide advisory service. VIMS is written in the state laws as a major scientific advisor to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Within VIMS, the Center for Coastal Resources Management Wetlands Program works with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and supports informed management of tidal and non-tidal wetlands and riparian areas through resource inventory and monitoring, conducting applied research, providing council to regulatory programs and offering diverse training tools for managers.

  • Washington

    The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) was created in 1970 as the principal environmental management agency in Washington with the primary goals "to prevent pollution, clean up pollution and support sustainable communities and natural resources." The agency's Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program plays the lead role in protecting wetlands in accordance with the State Water Pollution Control Act. Given these shared responsibilities, Ecology relies on partnerships with other government agencies and communities to facilitate the effective management of these resources.

  • Wisconsin

    Wetland acreage in Wisconsin has decreased nearly 50% since its founding as a state, and land-use practices associated with urban development and agricultural activity threaten the remaining 5.3 million acres. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has worked hard to counter these threats by fostering better land management practices, developing monitoring tools to assess the remaining wetland resources, initiating restoration activities and educating stakeholders and the general public on the importance of wetlands to the ecosystem. Much of this work has been supported by Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDGs).

  • Mid-Atlantic Wetlands Work Group

    Several states have joined together to form the Mid-Atlantic Wetland Workgroup (MAWWG), a forum to facilitate the development and implementation of wetland monitoring strategies that meet the needs of the mid-Atlantic states (i.e., wetland monitoring programs to be implemented at the state level). The workgroup is administered by staff from the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Wetland Center (CWC) and serves as a forum (run by the states, for the states) for sharing information concerning a wide range of wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring issues among the nine member states (DE, MD, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV). Additionally, a recent meeting with the New England Biological Assessment Work Group added the six states of EPA Region I to the dialogue. This information forum has led to the sharing and trading of successful approaches and techniques and, equally important, the identification of less productive efforts with limited utility.

  • Environmental Law Institute

    The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) was incorporated in 1969 as a nonprofit organization to provide training, advice, seminars, publications, research, analysis, policy recommendations and other information to professionals in multiple sectors of environmental stewardship. ELI's Wetlands Program in particular provides information relating to wetlands law, science, policy, and management. ELI partners with several federal agencies in administering the National Wetlands Award Program, initiated in 1989, as a means of honoring individuals who demonstrate outstanding innovation or dedication in advancing one or more activities relating to improved wetland protection or restoration.

  • NatureServe

    NatureServe is a non-profit organization working to provide scientific information and tools to help guide effective conservation actions. NatureServe works through a network of international natural heritage programs to provide information on species and ecosystems of special concern. Government agencies, states, tribes, conservation groups, landowners and resource managers can then make informed decisions about how to effectively protect these valuable resources.