Celebrate: World Wetlands Day

February 2, 2016: Watch a Video about Restoration of Wetlands in Vermont!

Vermont has some incredible wetland systems throughout the state, but also some areas where wetlands are missing. It is estimated that less than 5% of Vermont is currently wetland and that over 35% of Vermont’s historic wetland areas have been lost or severely impaired.

The good news is that there is a continued increase in the level of awareness regarding the important role wetlands play in the function and values they provide. There is now strong support in both protecting existing wetlands and in restoring wetlands within priority areas. Approximately 3,500 acres of wetland have been restored to date with new sites being selected for future projects! Vermont has a number of strong partnerships who work together to help restore wetlands, which is truly exciting.

In celebration of World Wetlands Day, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation wants to highlight the restoration work that has taken place and will continue to take place in Vermont.

Wetlands are unique environments that provide a number of functions within our landscape. Many large wetland areas support rivers, streams, lakes and ponds; wetlands help protect our water quality. They are the home of numerous threatened and endangered species, both plant and animal. When wetland areas are restored or protected, some measures for protecting or restoring species can also be carried out, like wood duck boxes and osprey platforms. Wetlands often support bio-diversity and can be a place of high productivity. Plants have evolved and adapted to wet conditions and many species of animals breed, eat, and rest in these areas. Large wetland complexes offer an aesthetic value in and around communities and many people have enjoyed the recreational opportunities these complexes provide; including boating, birding, hunting, and fishing.

The State of Vermont has partnered with Natural Resource Conservation Service, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and others to select appropriate sites for restoration work, often on private land in collaboration with the landowners. There are incentives for land owners to restore wetlands on their property!

This short video introduces some of these partnerships and reiterates the importance of wetland conservation and restoration:

For restoration to be successful, site selection is important and bigger is always better when restoring wetlands. Generally 25 acres is on the low end but closer to 100+ acres is preferred; this can include upland buffer and intact wetland as well. The goal is to be restoring large blocks or corridors rather than postage stamps or scattered sites.

The best wetland restoration sites are ditched wetlands in active floodplains. They have the greatest potential to be restored and provide the greatest wildlife and water quality benefit. Other potential indicators of a potential good restoration site is meander scars, seasonal flooding or simply proximity to intact wetlands or other waterbodies. Looking at aerial photos (particularly the black and white orthos) and ones from different times of years can be helpful to see historic hydrological indicators of where wetlands may have existed and where they may now be supported in a restoration effort.


Here is a before photo of one restoration site in Leicester, VT; previously an agricultural field along the Otter Creek River.

A before photo of a restoration site in Leicester, VT; previously an agricultural field along the Otter Creek River.


Here is an after photo of the restoration site in Leicester, VT; previously an agricultural field along the Otter Creek River.

An after photo of the restoration site in Leicester, VT; previously an agricultural field along the Otter Creek River.

This wetland now supports a variety of plants, those that always need their roots in water, to those that require less moisture near the perimeter. In addition, through the use of a game camera, beaver, deer, otter, cottontail rabbit, raccoon have been identified within the wetland, and osprey have been observed nesting! I am sure there is more happening out there…Now this is something to celebrate!


Lake Champlain Celebrates Wetlands Too! Through the Lake Champlain Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) grant, $1.02 million is available to compensate landowners for permanently retiring land from agricultural use and to restore wetland functions and values. In addition to these funds, the State of Vermont has developed a Wetlands Payment Calculator that will determine incentive payments for landowners that supplement the current rates. These payments are to make the act of taking valuable agricultural lands out of production more financially feasible. There is technical assistance available for landowners in the Lake Champlain Basin to identify wetland restoration projects and assist them through the project scoping, signup, development and implementation process. The State of Vermont has issued a Request for Proposals for a wetlands contractor to assist with this work. For more information contact RCPP Project Coordinator, Alli Compagna: