Wetland restoration has historically been the primary focal point for the Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program). Of 221 million acres of wetlands that once existed across the U.S. in the late 1700s, less than half remain today.
In West Virginia, about 102,000 acres of wetland remain today, representing a 25 percent loss of historic wetland habitat. About 75 percent of remaining wetlands, more than 76,000 acres, are located on privately owned lands. The collaborative efforts of the Partners Program are and will continue to be crucial in protecting and restoring vital wetland habitats on privately owned lands.
Wetlands are defined in many ways; however, from a restoration perspective, a wetland must exhibit certain criteria. The presence of or the potential for water (hydrology), the presence of hydric (water-loving) soils and the presence of wetland (aquatic) plants are all criteria that must be met.
Partners biologists use these criteria when evaluating potential wetland restoration sites. The most productive wetlands are those that have an average depth of about 18 inches and have an approximate ratio of 1:1 open water to vegetation. The program cannot construct deep, open-water ponds such as those utilized for swimming or non-wildlife related activities.