Why Wetland Restoration?
Wetlands are extraordinary, diverse places that provide critical habitat for countless birds, mammals, fish, plants, and invertebrates. From nesting habitat for wood ducks to spawning grounds for northern pike, wetlands are vitally important to many fish and wildlife species. In addition to wildlife habitat, wetlands provide numerous benefits such as storing and slowly releasing floodwater to lessen floods, removing sediment and pollutants from our lakes and rivers, recharging aquifers, and providing tremendous recreation opportunities among other values.
While these important places account for only about five percent of the state of Vermont, their importance is tremendous. Unfortunately over 35 percent of the wetlands in the state have been lost or degraded by efforts to ditch, drain or fill them in. Because of the many functions and values they provide and the extent of degraded wetlands, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is working with private land owners to restore these vital habitats in priority areas throughout the state.
Our most important partners are private landowners. Since all of our wetland restoration efforts are voluntary, it wouldn’t be possible without willing landowners. Private landowners also provide long-term stewardship of their land, a key component in a successful project.
While we may work exclusively with a private landowner, we often work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS’s administers a wetland easement program that compensates landowners for their willingness to restore wetlands on their property. For more information on NRCS’s programs in Vermont, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/vt/home/ or your local county USDA Service Center. Other partners include the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and local conservation groups.
In order to restore wetlands, we need to try and determine what type of habitat existed on a site before it was altered and how it was changed. This involves reviewing historic records such as work reports, old aerial photographs and topographic maps, and talking with longtime landowners and neighbors. Then we need to visit the site, look for remnants of the plant community that was likely there, look at the current soil and vegetation, and find evidence of how the site was altered. After that, we measure the features on site (ditches, streams, berms, etc.), use a laser level and GPS unit to map the elevations of the site, and start thinking about how we can “undo” what was done. Since degraded wetlands were often ditched, drained, bermed, leveled or cleared, we set out to undo these things. Restoration efforts may include plugging and filling ditches, excavating shallow depressions, restoring microtopography, removing berms, placing woody debris (including simulated snags), and planting trees. Following the completion of a final design, permits are submitted to complete the work and contractors are hired to carry it out. Yearly monitoring is carried out to assess the success of the restoration work.
For more information on restoring wetlands on your property, contact Leah Szafranski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-662-5310.