Landowner’s Guide to Wetlands

“It is the policy of the State of Vermont to identify and protect significant wetlands and the values and functions which they serve in such a manner that the goal of no net loss of such wetlands and their functions is achieved.” — Vermont Wetland Rules

Wetlands are defined as areas “that are inundated by surface or ground water with a frequency sufficient to support plants and animals that depend on saturated or seasonally saturated soil conditions for growth and reproduction. These areas are commonly known as ponds, bogs, fens, marshes, wet meadows, shrub swamps, and wooded swamps. Wetlands often occur in association with lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams, creating transitional areas between dry land and open water. However, wetlands can also be isolated from any obvious connection to water when they occur where the topography collects surface water, or where ground water surfaces.”

In other words, where things that like it wet can live.

Wetlands provide habitat for fish and wildlife, including many rare and endangered species. They also protect water quality and limit erosion by storing storm and flood waters, as well as providing open space and recreational opportunities.

The presence of wetlands can affect development and other land-use plans of municipalities and individuals alike. In such cases, professional wetland consultants must be brought in to delineate the boundary between wetland and upland, with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Watershed Management Division providing field checks and enforcement.

In most cases, a permit is only needed for projects taking place in or within 50 feet of a wetland. Projects may need to be adjusted to avoid impacting wetlands and to avoid going through the permitting process but, in most cases, a permit is only needed for projects taking place in or within 50 feet of a wetland. Working with a wetland consultant is advised, as violations of the State Wetland Rules can result in fines of up to $42,500 for the initial violation and $17,000 for each day the violation continues.

The Watershed Management Division has published The Vermont Wetlands Program “Landowners Guide to Wetlands: What to Know Before You Purchase Land or Build.” and you can download a copy here: Am I in a Wetland.

The Landowner’s Guide to Wetlands is also available on Wetlands Section of the Department of Environmental Conservation‘s web site, along with everything anyone could ever want to know about these important pieces of a functioning ecosystem.