Protecting Vermont’s Wetlands
Wetlands are where groundwater and surface water come together. They help control flooding, minimize erosion, purify water, and offer habitat for Vermont’s flora and fauna. Wetlands include bogs, marshes, fens, swamps and other areas where water influences plant and animal communities. In Vermont, wetlands are often associated with lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
According to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, nearly 50 percent of Vermont’s historic wetland area has been lost or severely impaired due to draining, dredging, filling, or excavation activities associated with industrial, residential, and agricultural activities. It is estimated that since 1995, the rate of regulated wetland loss in Vermont has been 20 acres annually. In addition, there is likely a similar amount of unregulated wetlands that are lost each year.
Vermonters recognize wetlands as valuable natural resources that provide many important direct and indirect benefits. In recent years, VNRC has helped advance legislation and regulatory changes that add protections for wetlands and we continue our vigilance in protecting these important natural features.
Spotlight on LaPlatte River Marsh Wetlands
In 2017, VNRC submitted a petition to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to designate Class I protections for the LaPlatte River Marsh Wetlands in Shelburne. The following year, this 270-acre biodiversity hotspot received the state’s highest class of wetlands protection, making it one of just six wetlands in Vermont to gain this designation.
The LaPlatte River Marsh is an oasis in Chittenden County, providing habitat to at least 60 species of birds, 20 species of mammals such as otters, mink and muskrat, and 50 species of reptiles, amphibians, and fish – including at least 22 rare, threatened, or endangered plant and animal populations. Moreover, the LaPlatte’s wetland ecosystem is essential to helping filter and clean the water that empties into Lake Champlain and is part of nature-based solutions for maintaining water quality.
Under Vermont law, anyone can petition for Class I “enhanced protection” for particular wetlands by demonstrating that the wetland is exceptional or irreplaceable in its contribution to Vermont’s natural heritage. VNRC hired scientists to prepare a report on the area’s ecology to support our petition; the petition then underwent an extensive review process, including multiple public meetings.
We are honored to have played a major role in securing the highest class of protection for the beloved LaPlatte natural area.