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  Wetlands

DELINEATIONS
As discussed in the Regulations section of the webpage, certain activities require a permit from a state or federal agency if they are going to occur in a wetland. Landowners may therefore find it very helpful to know if they have wetlands on their property, prior to participating in any practice that may result in land disturbance. Landowners may also wish to identify the location of any wetlands on their property if they plan to manage their land for wildlife benefits. Individuals concerned about the location of wetlands on their property should seek to have a formal wetland determination and/or delineation conducted..

Because the federal government bases the jurisdictions of the wetland regulatory agencies upon the relationship of a wetland with agricultural and non-agricultural land, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the USDA, USEPA, the Department of the Interior (of which the USF&WS is a division), and the Department of Defense (of which the USACE is a division) was adopted which defines agricultural and non-agricultural lands and dictates which agency has the lead for wetland determinations and or delineations under specific circumstances. This MOA defines agricultural lands as those lands, "that are intensively used and managed for food or fiber production to the extent that the natural vegetation has been removed and cannot be used to determine whether the area meets applicable hydrophytic vegetation criteria in making a wetland delineation." All other lands are considered non-agricultural lands.

In most situations, at a landowner's request, the USDA/NRCS may make wetland determinations and/or delineations on both agricultural and non-agricultural lands. The USACE and the USEPA usually only make determinations and/or delineations on agricultural lands in situations when they are pursuing potential CWA violations or when the land is being developed for non-agricultural purposes. The USACE may also perform determinations and/or delineations on non-agricultural lands when special situations such as linear projects (i.e., utility lines, railroads, and highways) are involved.

All wetland delineations are made with either the National Food Securities Act Manual (NFSAM) or the 1987 USACE Wetlands Delineation Manual. There is very little variation between the two manuals. To eliminate any possible discrepancies, however, the MOA establishes that at no time will both manuals be used to evaluate the same piece of property. The NFSAM will be used for all agricultural lands. The 1987 USACE Wetlands Delineation Manual will be used for all non-agricultural lands.

All certified wetland delineations must be made with an on-site evaluation. For an on-site evaluation, the NRCS, USACE, or USEPA will visit the site in question and make an assessment based upon the manual most appropriate to the surrounding land use, circumstances, and property history. Certified wetland delineations may also be performed on-site by trained and authorized private environmental consultants.

The NRCS may make a wetland determination based upon an off-site review providing that review is accompanied with a visit to the site. An off-site review is performed by interpreting the best available base map according to a set of prescribed practices and procedures. There are a multitude of maps which may contain the appropriate wetlands data. It is possible that either National Wetland Inventory (NWI) maps, local wetland maps, soil survey maps, aerial photography, or NFSA slides could be used for a particular site. The chosen map must, however, be made from rectified photography; provide a clear, quality representation of the area; enable future digitization; and provide a basis for updating.

If individuals want to know if wetlands are present on their property; if an activity in which they are involved will potentially impact a wetland; or if an activity is exempt under the NFSA they should contact their local USDA/NRCS District Office even if the activity is not on agricultural land. If the USDA/NRCS has jurisdiction, either through the NFSA or the MOA, they will perform the determination or delineation. If they do not have jurisdiction, they will refer the individual to the appropriate USACE or USEPA District Office.

[Introduction | Delineations | Hydric Soils|Wetland Hydrology| Hydrophytic Vegetation| Wetland Classification |Summary]

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