Western New York Land Conservancy
21 South Grove Street
East Aurora, New York 14052
Phone & Fax (716) 687-1225
WHAT ARE WETLANDS?
WHY ARE THEY SO VALUABLE?
Wetlands occur where land and water meet for extended periods of time. They occur along water bodies, lakes, rivers, streams, etc., in low lying areas where water ponds, and even on hillsides where groundwater seeps to the surface. Almost 60% of the wetlands that were originally here in Western New York have been destroyed. Our environment is showing the effects of this destruction. We cannot afford any more significant wetland losses.
Wetlands are unique and irreplaceable and have values and functions that contribute to our community's social, economic and environmental health. Once a wetland is destroyed it is very difficult, if not impossible, to restore all these original functions.
Wetlands provide natural open space, filter pollutants from water, provide flood protection, recharge aquifers, maintain dry season stream flows, stabilize shorelines from erosion, provide habitat for fish and wildlife--and like other undeveloped land, generate more taxes than they use.
By the 1980's the New York State and Federal Governments responded to wetland losses by creating wetland conservation programs to preserve what wetlands we had left. Now we have laws protecting wetlands. But we also have a local responsibility to know where the wetlands are in our communities so that they can be protected.
For local wetlands preservation options contact the Western New York Land Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, or other local or regional conservation organizations or agencies.
WHERE ARE THE WETLANDS IN MY COMMUNITY?
By reviewing the following information sources you can determine if land is likely to be a wetland or is close enough to one to also be regulated.
WETLAND INFORMATION SOURCES
Note: These sources do not identify all wetland areas. They do give approximate boundaries of identified wetlands and areas with soils that can support wetlands. Only field investigation will determine wetland presence on property in your community.
NEW YORK STATE FRESHWATER WETLAND MAPS
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has mapped the approximate boundaries of freshwater wetlands regulated by state law. Mapping includes wetlands of 12.4 acres (5 hectares) or more and certain smaller wetlands of unusual local importance. Wetland maps are used to determine the presence of state regulated freshwater wetlands on particular properties. Copies are available at local town clerk's offices, NYSDEC, USDA, NRCS, and most County Soil and Water Conservation District offices. NYSDEC has order forms for purchasing maps from the Syracuse Blueprint Co., Inc., or you may order them by calling 1-800-962-1458.
COUNTY SOIL SURVEYS
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has published soil surveys maps for most counties in Western New York. They are available for review at NRCS/SWCD offices, or through your town planning department and in most libraries. Hydric soil lists are also available at NRCS offices. Poorly drained and very poorly drained or "hydric soils" are often characteristic of wetland areas.
NATIONAL WETLAND INVENTORY MAPPING
These NWI maps show some of the locations and types of wetlands in the United States. The information from these maps, together with information about wetland soil types reported in the County Soil Survey maps, provides good indications of the presence of wetlands. Please note the NWI maps are not a substitute for NYSDEC Wetland maps and do not represent all federal jurisdiction wetlands under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The NWI maps can overlay US Geological Survey (USGS) topographic mapping. Both can be purchased from the USGS by calling 1-800-USA-MAPS. NWI maps can also be purchased from the Institute for Resource Systems at Cornell University by calling (607) 255-6529.
JOINT NYSDEC AND US ARMY CORPS
OF ENGINEERS (USACE) PERMIT APPLICATION PROCESS
Before building can occur in or near wetlands a permit is generally required. Whenever possible it is best to avoid or minimize building impacts on wetlands, to protect the wetland to avoid costly construction and building management problems. If you are building or reviewing plans for building that are near possible wetland areas, please contact the agencies listed under WHO TO CALL for permit requirements and applications. When a complete wetland application permit is received by the NYSDEC, a copy is automatically forwarded to the USACE. They begin their processing. If the NYSDEC does not have jurisdiction, application directly to the regional USACE office is required.
WHO TO CALL
In Erie and Niagara Counties:
Erie County Dept. of Environment and Planning
Erie County Environmental Management Council
Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Niagara County Planning Department
Niagara County Environmental Management Council
Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Center
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Compliance Services, Region 9
US Army Corps of Engineers, (USACE)
US Department of the Interior
Fish and Wildlife Service, Cortland NY Office
US Environmental Protection Agency
Wetlands Protection Branch, Region 2, NYC
Reproduced with permission.