January 18 , 2005

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Suppose your school is near a wetland that is surrounded by land slated for development. What could you do to protect this wetland?

Begin by bringing in wetlands experts to delineate and define the wetland. Identify adjacent landowners and other interested people; invite them to tour the site and then meet to discuss a plan.

Establish goals, which will probably include:

  • Establish protection for the wetland.
  • Prevent any further damage from occurring.
  • Repair what damage you can.
  • Educate the public about the presence of the wetland and how they can help.

You can work with private landowners, local governments, and area conservation groups to evaluate and choose from a number of protection options, including:

  • Conservation easement: This legal agreement, usually between a private landowner and an agency or nonprofit organization, restricts the amount and type of development and protects natural features such as wetlands.
  • Lease: Rent the wetland to a government agency or nonprofit organization for a specific period of time. (Lease arrangements are most commonly used to restore or enhance wetlands; see box on page 32.)
  • Donation: The landowner gives the property to a nonprofit organization and receives a generous tax deduction and the assurance that the land will be maintained as a wetland.
  • Sale: Sell the land to a nonprofit organization that will either maintain the land or turn it over to an appropriate government agency.

Effective wetlands preservation includes providing for future use and care. For example, a protected wetland near your school will doubtless draw public interest and also provide an outdoor laboratory for all students at your school.

Plan for these inevitable uses by consulting with wetlands experts who can help you establish low-impact trails and boating access, parking, and any other facilities that might be needed.

Include a public relations or education campaign in your strategy: Let the public know about your work and the presence of this habitat, and at the same time inform them through video, ads, and articles how to use this resource safely and with minimum impact.

Protection Success

On Flat Ranch, on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Idaho, you are as likely to see sandhill cranes as you are cows, plus birders and anglers or cowboys. This 1600 acre ranch keeps cows moving in a grazing rotation that protects the land. The riparian areas are being revegetated with willows and other wetlands plants. And each year more visitors come to enjoy the recreation provided on this ranch, which is owned by the Nature Conservancy.

Nonprofit groups and government agencies formed a partnership to protect one of Idaho's last high-desert, spring-fed wetlands. Chilly Slough, in the Big Lost River Valley, provides habitat for rare plants and more than 134 bird species. Its 1,000-acres are maintained by The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

School group:
Fifth graders from Wendell Elementary, in Wendell, Idaho, have planted marsh grasses to restore an eroded wetland and help a larger wetland mitigation project that will use wetlands to clean irrigation water.

Learn More About What a Wetland is...

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