National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan

660 FW 4
FWM Number
Originating Office
Division of Environmental Review

4.1 Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to provide guidance for the preparation, maintenance and implementation of the National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan (NWPCP).

4.2 Objectives. The objective of the NWPCP is to assist agencies in focusing their acquisition efforts on the more important, scarce and vulnerable wetlands in the Nation. The NWPCP may also be used to establish priorities for wetlands protection that do not involve acquisition.
4.3 Background.

A. The NWPCP was prepared by the Secretary of the Interior in consultation with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the chief executive officer of each State in accordance with Section 301 of the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act. The NWPCP provides a planning framework, criteria, and guidance intended to meet the requirements of Section 301.

B. The "National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan" was printed by the Service in 1989 and was updated and reprinted in 1991. Copies are available from the Service Publications Unit (Region 8) located in Arlington, Virginia.

4.4 Scope. The NWPCP is an ongoing program and continues to provide guidance for making decisions regarding wetland acquisition. The NWPCP applies only to wetlands that would be acquired by Federal agencies and States using Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) appropriations.

4.5 Authority. Authority is derived from the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986 (EWRA).

A. Section 301: National Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan. Mandates that the Secretary of the Interior establish, and periodically review and revise, a national wetlands priority conservation plan which shall specify, on a region-by-region basis or other basis considered appropriate by the Secretary, the types of wetlands and interests in wetlands which should be given priority with respect to Federal and State acquisition.

(1) "Region-by-region" refers to natural provinces rather than political jurisdictions. These regions are described according to the ecoregions classification by Bailey - "Ecoregions of the United States" R.G. Bailey (1978) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 77pp.

(2) "Interests in wetlands" as used in Section 301 refers to the financial interest; e.g., fee title acquisition or less than fee interests, such as conservation easements.

B. Section 303: Inclusion of Wetlands in Comprehensive Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plans. Requires that for fiscal year 1988 and thereafter each Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) shall specifically address wetlands within that State as an important outdoor recreation resource as a prerequisite to approval, and requires the production of a wetlands priority plan developed in consultation with the State agency with responsibility for fish and wildlife resources and consistent with the national wetlands priority conservation plan developed under Section 301. Section 303 also amends the LWCF Act to authorize wetlands specifically as suitable replacement for LWCF lands slated for conversion to other uses.

C. Section 304: Federal Acquisition. The Secretary is authorized to purchase wetlands or interests in wetlands, which are not acquired under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929, consistent with the wetlands priority conservation plan established under Section 301.

4.6 Wetland Definition.

A. For purposes of the NWPCP, types of wetlands are based on the Service's standard for wetland classification entitled "Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States" by L.M. Cowardin, V. Carter, F.C. Golet, E.T. LaRoe (1979) FWS/OBS-79/31, 131pp. Under this standard, wetlands 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 (see 660 FW 2, Wetlands Classification System.)

B. 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 (plants specifically adapted to live in wetlands);

(2) The substrate is predominantly undrained hydric (wetland) 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.

4.7 Responsibility.

A. Regional Offices.

(1) Each Regional Office is responsible for maintaining a Regional Wetlands Concept Plan, in coordination with State fish and wildlife agencies and other State and Federal agencies, that includes lists of wetland sites warranting priority for acquisition. Regional Offices are responsible for evaluating prospective wetlands using specific threshold criteria to provide national consistency. The Regional Offices are responsible for updating the Regional Wetland Concept Plans as needed, and as new high priority wetlands are identified.

(2) Regional Offices are also responsible for continuing to assist the National Park Service to ensure that priorities for wetland acquisition are included during the preparation of each SCORP. In this regard Regional Offices are responsible for assisting the States and the National Park Service in formulating and revising the SCORP wetlands components required within Section 303 of the EWRA. Full participation by the Service in SCORP revisions will facilitate comparability of State and national wetlands acquisition planning, and reduce duplication of effort.

B. Headquarters.

(1) The Division of Habitat Conservation is responsible for updating, maintaining, and reprinting the NWPCP as necessary.

(2) The Division of Realty is responsible for implementing the NWPCP through the Service's Land Acquisition Priority System.

4.8 Procedures.

A. In general, wetlands given priority consideration for acquisition will be those that provide a high degree of public benefits, that are representative of rare or declining wetland types within an ecoregion, and that are subject to identifiable threats of loss or degradation. Threshold criteria to be considered in determining acquisition priorities include functions and values of wetlands, historic wetland losses, and threat of future wetland losses.

B. The NWPCP considers the following:

(1) Estimated proportion remaining of the respective types of wetlands which existed at the time of European settlement;

(2) Estimated current rate of loss and threat of future losses of the respective types of wetlands;

(3) Contributions of the respective types of wetlands to:

     (a) Wildlife, including endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, and resident species;

     (b) Commercial and sport fisheries;

     (c) Surface and groundwater quality and quantity, and flood control;

     (d) Outdoor recreation; and

     (e) Other areas or concerns which are considered appropriate. These areas include natural areas, education, research, scenic, archaeological, historical and open space.

C. When a wetland site is added to the list of wetland sites warranting priority consideration for acquisition, it does not mean that the wetland necessarily will be acquired; rather, that the site qualifies for acquisition consideration. Any subsequent decision to purchase property must rely on additional data, funding availability, policies, and conditions that are not a part of the NWPCP. Any listing of wetlands for acquisition consideration has no direct bearing on Federal regulatory programs or the evaluation of wetlands for regulatory purposes.