Our Work

Vermont’s Wetlands Finally Gain Powerful Protection

September 2010

New rules that recently went into effect will help Vermont better protect wetlands – critical natural resources that filter our water, control floods, and provide wildlife habitat among many other things.

Part of the change gives any Vermonter concerned about wetlands (maybe you?) a new ability to ask state regulators to consider protecting these important water resources in your neighborhood.

We also want to thank people for supporting our work, including our advocacy (we were the only environmental group in the negotiations) to help better protect Vermont’s wetlands.

Here’s the background:

Historically, Vermont has regulated wetlands based almost exclusively on the Vermont Significant Wetlands Inventory (VSWI) maps.  If a wetland had been identified on the set of official – but old – maps, then it was considered to be a significant wetland. If it did not appear in the VSWI, then even if it existed on the ground, it was not considered significant and therefore not well protected – if at all.

It was an antiquated and arbitrary approach.

The state protects only those wetlands that are determined to have one significant function or value, such as protecting water quality, providing wildlife habitat or helping control flooding.  Now, thanks in large part to our efforts and your help, almost every wetland that exists in Vermont is presumed to be significant. Also, for the first time ever, all vernal pools that support amphibian breeding habitat are presumed to be significant.

In addition, the actual process to add or remove a wetland from the official Vermont State Wetlands Inventory maps is now simpler, quicker and easier. Notably, citizens can now request that the state evaluate specific wetlands for their significance, with the possibility they would be added to the official maps. Overall, this new state rule should enable many more newly discovered wetlands to receive needed protection from destruction.

Currently, in Vermont 220,000 acres have been identified. However, an estimated 80,000 additional acres of wetlands exist in Vermont that have yet to be identified. The expanding inventory will provide landowners and developers with more information and predictability upfront and will assist them when deciding whether to purchase a parcel of land.

“All in all, the new rules better protect Vermont’s waters and wetlands and help give predictability to property owners,” said Kim Greenwood, VNRC’s staff scientist who worked to get the rules passed.  “It also gives Vermonters who care about these natural resources a clearer and simpler way to help give these wetlands the protection they deserve.”

For more information, or to learn how to find out if wetlands near you should be on the maps, contact Kim Greenwood at VNRC, 802-223-2328 or email kgreenwood@vnrc.org.