Conserving Americas Wetlands 2007:
Three Years of Progress
Implementing the Presidents Goal
Methodology and Definitions
Data Call to the Agencies
The data call for wetlands performance and budget data went to the Departments of Agriculture, Army, Commerce, the Interior, and Transportation and to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Working Group improved interagency guidance based on lessons learned last year. The guidance increased the consistency and accuracy of the estimates developed, and projected estimates in the previous report were adjusted using actual results for FY 2006.
Performance and funding data for programs covered the following time periods:
- FY 2006 enacted budget and performance results
- FY 2007 continuing resolution budget and estimated performance results
- FY 2008 Presidents requested budget and estimated performance results.
To assess progress for the third year since the President's April 2004 announcement, half of the reported achievements for FY 2006 were used and combined with half of the planned accomplishments for FY 2007.
Year Performance and Budget Data Reported
Performance data are reported in the year the project is completed, land acquired, or easement purchased. However, funding is reported in the year it is appropriated. For example, funding for a multi-year wetlands improvement project would be reported in FY 2006 and FY 2007 when funding is appropriated, but the number of acres improved could be reported in FY 2008 and FY 2009 as the accomplishments are realized.
Scope of Funding Included in the Report
Wetlands activities funded by both discretionary and mandatory funds are included. Discretionary funds are controlled by appropriations acts, and mandatory funds are controlled by laws other than appropriations acts (e.g., Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act funds, and funds collected from the sale of Migratory Bird Conservation Stamps ["Duck Stamps"]). All annually appropriated funds are considered to be discretionary funds. The funding amounts identified in this report are estimates that were available at the time the President's FY 2008 Budget Request was presented to Congress. Future reports will capture updated FY 2007 funding amounts that reflect passage of H.J. Resolution 20 (P.L. 110-5) making appropriations for FY 2007.
Programs that perform both wetlands activities and non-wetlands activities reported funding and performance related only to the wetlands component, not their entire program. For example, when land is purchased for waterfowl management it may include both wetlands and associated upland nesting cover. These upland acres were deducted from the acres reported as contributing to the President's wetlands goal, and the cost of these acres was generally deducted from the funds expended for the project. The number of acres of wetlands contributed by a program to the President's wetlands goal will be smaller than the number of habitat acres reported in other budget documents because the habitat acres typically include upland buffer strips, associated upland cover, and nesting islands.
|Native Gulf cordgrass lines the banks of the new channels and will be used to stabilize and enrich the soil, within the Bahia Grande wetland complex, Texas. (Thor Lassen, Ocean Trust)|
Eradication and abatement activities in wetlands
The first year an invasive plant or animal is eradicated or its population abated, the acreage will be reported as a gain under "improve." Additional eradication or abatement work on the same area is considered to be maintenance and is not counted in the improve category.
Winter flooding of agricultural lands
Whether this acreage is counted depends on (1) whether the land is wetland or upland before the flooding and (2) whether the land is being newly flooded or the land is within a footprint that has been flooded in past winters. If the field is upland before being artificially flooded during the winter and upland after the water is removed in the spring, the acres are not counted. If the field is a farmed wetland before the flooding and this is the first year the field has been flooded, the acres are counted. Subsequent years of winter flooding are considered management and are not counted. The acreage will be reported as an improvement in quality through enhancement, because adding winter water results in the heightening, intensification, or improvement of one or more selected functions and associated values. Enhancement is undertaken for a purpose such as water quality improvement, floodwater retention, or wildlife habitat. Farmed wetlands are defined as areas where the soil surface has been mechanically or physically altered for production of crops, but hydrophytes will become established if farming is discontinued.
|Wintering habitat for migratory waterfowl on Jordan Lake, Hamilton Ridge Wetlands Management Area, South Carolina. (FWS)|
Definitions of Accomplishments
In 2000, the White House Wetlands Working Group (WHWWG)-composed of representatives from all major Federal agencies involved in wetlands work-agreed to use wetlands terminology and definitions that had been developed during the mid-1990s. Information was provided by the participating agencies using terminology similar to that previously developed by the WHWWG and the same terminology used in previous Earth Day wetlands reports.
To "restore or create" wetlands results in a gain of wetland acres and includes:
- Creation of wetlands that did not previously exist on an upland or deepwater site. These actions are referred to as "establishment" by the WHWWG.
- Restoration of a former wetland to its natural/historic function and resulting value. Typically, such a former wetland had been drained for some purpose. These actions are known as "re-establishment" by the WHWWG.
To "improve" wetlands results in a gain of wetlands functions or quality, rather than additional acreage, and includes:
- Repair of the natural/historic functions and associated values of a degraded wetland. The WHWWG refers to these actions as "rehabilitation" of wetlands. Rehabilitation results in a gain in wetlands quality.
- Heightening, intensification, or improvement of one or more selected functions and associated values. The WHWWG called these types of actions "enhancement." Enhancement is undertaken for a purpose such as water quality improvement, flood water retention, or wildlife habitat. Enhancement results in the gain of selected wetland functions and associated values but may also lead to a decline in other wetland functions and values.
To "protect" wetlands includes:
- Acquisition of land or easements of at least 30 years duration.
- Activities Excluded from Acreage Counted toward the President's Goal
- Accomplishments outside the United States
Many programs carry out activities in upland areas that are crucial to the health and sustainability of wetlands. These upland acres were not counted toward the President's wetlands goal.
Wetland activities that maintain the Nation's wetland base
Many important wetland activities are not counted toward meeting the President's goal because they are focused on maintaining or managing the Nation's wetlands base and do not add acres, increase wetland quality, or fall within the definition of "protect." Many agencies spend more funds maintaining and managing the existing wetlands base than they do making additions to the base. The base is critically important, because wetland gains can only be built on a stable foundation. The activities that help maintain the wetlands base are briefly described below and are included in Appendix B with further discussion.
Cyclical work: Work carried out to sustain wetlands (e.g., habitat maintenance on a National Wildlife Refuge to maximize wetland habitat values). Cyclic water-level management and other cyclic wetland activities are used to mimic naturally occurring flood regimes for the benefit of wildlife. Only new activities on a footprint of wetlands not previously manipulated for increased value were counted in the "improved" category as rehabilitation or an enhancement.
Management and maintenance activities: Effective management and maintenance activities are critical to sustain wildlife and plant populations. Management activities involve periodic manipulation of the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics critical to maintaining habitat quality. These manipulations mimic natural regimes through periodic flooding, mowing, or prescribed burns. Maintenance activities include the repair of water control structures, fences, or structural protection. Cessation of management and maintenance activities triggers loss in wetland quality. Maintenance activities do not result in an increase in wetlands acreage or quality.
|Moose on Selawink National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Hillebrand, FWS)|
Mitigation: Wetlands created or improved as mitigation for the loss or degradation of other wetland values are not counted. The rehabilitation of wetlands at former hazardous waste sites are considered to be compensatory mitigation. Programs that mitigate for wetland losses are not counted as contributing to the new wetlands goal because they maintain the Nation's wetlands base. Examples of these types of programs are the Federal Highway Administration programs that mitigate the impacts of highways on wetlands, the Clean Water Act provisions that require the mitigation of permitted wetland losses, and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, which restores and improves wetlands at former hazardous waste sites.
Restoring Wetlands Injured by Oil Spills and Contaminant Releases
Because wetlands provide important habitats for many species of fish and wildlife, contaminants entering wetlands can injure fish and wildlife and decrease productivity. As a result of concerns over the influx of contaminants into the environment, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (also known as CERCLA or Superfund); the Clean Water Act as amended in 1977 (CWA); and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). These three laws authorize natural resource trusteessuch as the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)to assess injuries to natural resources from contaminants and to seek restoration from those responsible for the injury.
Restoration projects may focus on either restoring the habitat (e.g., improving hydrology and reducing runoff into wetlands) needed for the injured fish and wildlife, or on actions to increase their populations (e.g., reducing predators and providing nesting substrate and habitat). Where injured habitat cannot be restored, replacement habitat can be restored or purchased. In addition, trustees may seek projects (or funds for projects) to compensate for lost services (e.g., improved access to fishing sites) from the time of injury until recovery. Following are examples of restoration projects conducted in 2006 under CERCLA, OPA, and/or CWA.
Increases in fish and wildlife will also enhance fishing, hunting, and trapping opportunities. Projects completed in 2006 include installation of a dam, and dredging and regrading of outlet channels to improve stream flow and facilitate lake drawdown. When complete, more than 3,000 acres will be restored.
Shoreline stabilization: The preservation of a marsh or channel using shoreline stabilization techniques (e.g., rock revetments, or steel or plastic sheet pile protection) is called armored or hard shoreline stabilization. Partial protection of shoreline erosion using vegetative plantings is called soft shoreline protection. Shoreline stabilization prevents loss of wetland acreage due to subsidence; erosion by tides, wind, and boat traffic; and similar factors. This acreage is not counted toward the President's goal.
|Heavy equipment operators remove excess material to create one of the channels connecting the three basins within the Bahia Grande wetland complex, Texas. (Thor Lassen, Ocean Trust)|
Correcting for Over-Reporting of Acreage
More and more programs are participating in cooperative conservation partnerships. They have proven to be effective and efficient mechanisms to leverage resources and expertise. Many programs work cooperatively with both internal and external Federal partners as well as non-Federal partners. Correcting for over-reporting of acreage is a challenge to accurately reporting accomplishments. One partner may provide materials and equipment, another labor, another technical assistance, and yet another land. For example, a 100-acre project with four partners could be reported by each of the partners, and could appear to be 400 acres when combined. In some cases, one partner may not be aware that a landowner is working with multiple partners.
These partnerships may result in over-reporting of performance. To correct for this "double-counting," partnership worksheets were used. Programs were asked to identify partnership groups separately on the worksheets. More than 60 percent of the reported acreage was accounted for on the partnership worksheets. Some agencies do not collect partnership data, and of those that do, most do not collect this data to the level of detail necessary to make refined adjustments for double-counting. Although more of the performance data was accounted for on the partnership worksheets, the quantity and quality was not sufficient to make adjustments to individual program accomplishments. Therefore, an overarching correction was necessary to avoid over-reporting the acres created or restored, improved, and protected.
To calculate this double-counting adjustment, all the acreage reported as accomplished through Federal partnerships was summed by category. The calculation assumed two Federal partners were involved in situations where at least one additional Federal partner was reported by the reporting agency. Half of the total acreage accomplished through multiple Federal partnerships by category was subtracted from the raw total, by category.
National protocols to measure wetlands acreage have advanced in the past two decades through the USDA National Resources Inventory and the DOI National Wetlands Inventory. To further quantify the environmental benefits of conservation practices and Farm Bill programs, USDA developed the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). The wetlands component of this project (CEAP-Wetlands) is engaged in the following interrelated activities:
The CEAP-Wetlands Approach
A CEAP-Wetlands conceptual design model was developed to guide the regional investigations and predictive condition models. Of prime interest is the comparison of ecosystem service estimates before and after implementation of conservation practices, and interpretation of the
results to better inform national agricultural wetland policy and programs.
Regional investigations involve sampling wetlands and associated lands across an alteration gradient, focusing on wetland classes that historically have been altered and where USDA conservation efforts are focused. Ecosystem services and measures for them are identified during a scoping meeting involving scientists, resource managers, USDA conservation practitioners, and other conservation stakeholders. Existing data that could be of use are identified, as well as any gaps in the data. Collaborations with USDA and non-USDA scientists are formed to conduct the regional investigations, including development of the predictive wetland condition indicator models.
The models, developed using multivariate tools, describe the relationship between variables used to calculate an ecosystem service estimate and multiple-scale factors that influence the condition of those variables. Relationships between field-collected data that are incorporated in the model and remote data are investigated to identify potential surrogates for the model while maintaining its integrity. The inclusion of model factors measured via remote data complement existing USDA National Resources Inventory protocols to produce national wetlands status and trends information.
Contribution to the Presidents Wetlands Goal
CEAP-Wetlands regional investigations will produce quantitative ecosystem service estimates for wetlands and associated lands on agricultural landscapes and produce associated models of wetland quality. Ongoing investigations to address temporal and spatial variability in ecosystem service estimates and in wetland condition will improve the accuracy of these estimates and models. A national wetlands adaptive management approach, using CEAP-Wetlands as the catalyst, will ensure that objective, quantitative information on wetland ecosystem services and condition on private land is available for national decision makers.
Moving Toward a Performance Measurement and Tracking System
This document reflects the lessons learned in developing the 2006 report. The estimates reported last year were adjusted as actual results became available. Over-reporting due to partnerships remains a significant concern. The agencies will continue to work on the double-counting problem during the next year, particularly to determine whether the problem can be solved through the use of geographic information system (GIS) technology or other geoenabled technologies.
The use of GIS technology to track wetland programs and their contribution toward the national goal would simplify the problem of adjusting for double-counting. The digital project boundaries could be entered into a GIS and analyzed for multiple overlaps. This approach would have the additional advantage of allowing the information to be overlaid on a digital map of the United States. The map would facilitate the development of monitoring programs to ensure wetlands are restored, improved, and protected and that they provide the intended functions and values.
Tracking systems require agreement on common performance measures and definitions. They assess whether the restoration and enhancement projects quantitatively and qualitatively meet national goals. The President noted this need in his 2004 Earth Day announcement by committing the Federal Government to "gain further experience and develop useful protocols for measuring wetland outcomes." The Federal agencies continue to make progress in developing a procedure to track wetland accomplishments.
|Exotic plant species were removed from the banks of a stream in the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia. (NPS)|