Written on: March 22nd, 2021 in Wetland Assessments
By Alison Rogerson, Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program (WMAP)
What is a state wetland program plan?
Delaware creates five-year wetland program plans to serve as a guide that identifies and prioritizes areas where information or action is needed to advance wetland management statewide. It is created using the goals of many different wetland players across the state.
We use action plans, strategies, and communications with many conservation partners to drive the action items in each five-year plan. The 2021 plan follows similar versions from 2010 to 2016.
What kind of wetland work does the plan include?
We have seen seven focused goals in each wetland program plan; mapping, monitoring, climate change, restoration, collaboration, education, and regulation. These goals line up nicely with wetland priorities listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This alignment makes it easier for an organization or agency proposing projects or applying for funding assistance to receive support.
How do we measure past success?
The 2016-2020 Wetland Program Plan included 45 action items (under the same seven goals) and were derived from state needs in 2015. By the close of 2020, 30 of those actions items were either complete or in progress. Some action items are finite and can be checked off. Others are constantly evolving and will never really be “done” but we continue to make progress.
Looking back at the strengths and weaknesses of the Delaware wetland program between 2016 and 2020, we made strong advancements in mapping, monitoring, climate change, and education but left “points on the table” when it came to restoration and regulations. Delaware still lacks a freshwater wetland conservation program and there are opportunities to protect Delaware’s rarest and unique wetlands on a state and county level.
What’s new in the 2021 Program Plan?
Our main goal to increase the amount of wetlands we have and improve the health and function of wetlands across the state has not changed. We are always looking to find the best mapping resources available, use the best science to rate our wetland function, and push ourselves to educate and communicate better. Climate change continues to be a priority as we witness coastal wetland erosion and inland flooding.
New in this version is the need to clearly identify and secure coastal areas where critical wetland migration is likely to occur with sea level rise. Also, establishing a program that encourages wetland mitigation through a banking system that saves up to pay for large restoration projects. Lastly, making sure that we are reaching underserved communities with events and information.
The updated Delaware Wetland Program Plan will hopefully serve us for the next five years as we continue to improve and strengthen Delaware’s wetland conservation and management programs.