The following Questionnaire will assist you in determining what types of stewardship and recovery strategies relating to vegetation are the most applicable for your property.
As discussed above, wetlands are a specific vegetation community that occur between water and dry lands. Generally, wetlands occur on the lower banks of streams where high stream flows and groundwater saturate the soils long enough to support plants adapted to wet conditions. Wetlands can also occur where groundwater seeps from hillsides, as well as in depressions or low spots that hold water. There are many benefits that wetlands provide, including:
Wetlands in floodplains store floodwaters temporarily and release the waters in a controlled manner. This minimizes flood damage downstream.
Wetlands filter out pollutants as the water flows through them. This can include nitrogen and phosphorous from a number of upland sources like fertilizer. Reducing the amount of these in the streams will prevent unhealthy blooms of algae, as well as oxygen-deprived ‘dead zones’ where fish and other aquatic life cannot live.
Although wetlands make up less than 2% of Colorado’s land area, they provide habitat and benefits to more than 75% of the wildlife in the state. Wetlands provide feeding, resting and rearing habitat. They also create important corridors for wildlife to move within. For aquatic wildlife, overhanging willow shrubs and other plants provide shade on the water. This decreases the water temperature and offers important areas of shelter in the stream.
Wetland plants can often have extensive root systems. These roots hold the soil together and stabilize the streambank. Strong wetland root systems will reduce the amount of erosion along the streambank.
In addition to bringing these benefits to the ecosystem and your property, wetlands are highly sensitive areas. As a result, wetlands are protected by various federal, state and local agencies. At a federal level, the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) regulates work or projects that will impact wetlands. State and county agencies also play regulatory roles for wetlands.
In order to know if you will be impacting wetlands, you need to know how to identify them. Some wetlands will be easily identifiable when they have plants such as cattails growing in standing water. However, wetlands also include less obvious areas, such as grassy meadows that only have soil saturated for about a month in the spring. The edge of wetlands can also be difficult to identify. For example, sandbar willows growing along the edge of a stream may be wetlands, but sandbar willows growing on the top of a slope may be uplands. Generally, wetlands are defined by water, type of soils and types of plants present. You can find out more about what legally defines a wetland in the ‘What is a wetland?’ section of Chapter 3.
If you have an area that you are planning on doing construction and you are unsure if it is a wetland, call the Corps Denver Regulatory Office or a wetland specialist to get more information before starting the work. The permitting section of the Corps website provides more detailed information on permitting requirements for wetlands.
Wetlands are very special ecosystems and many professionals dedicate their entire career to studying them. If you are interested in learning more about wetlands in Colorado, there are many great resources available. A few of them are listed below: