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Wetlands Program

Nez Perce Tribe
Wetlands Program

Project Manager – Rue Hewett-Hoover, Wetlands Specialist

 

8a panorama, S end of wl

Wetlands Definition 
Generally, wetlands are lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities living in the soil and on its surface (Cowardin, December 1979). Wetlands vary widely because of regional and local differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation, and other factors, including human disturbance. Indeed, wetlands are found from the tundra to the tropics and on every continent except Antarctica.

For regulatory purposes under the Clean Water Act, the term wetlands means “those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal life circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas.” [EPA Regulations listed at 40 CFR 230.3(t)]

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Wetlands Functions and Values 
b1 Improving water quality
b1 Attenuating flooding
b1 Maintaining water tables
b1 Supplementing stream flow
b1 Providing habitat for wildlife (including birds and amphibians)
b1 Supplying cultural plants
b1 Recreational and aesthetic values

Wetlands Improve Water Quality
b1 Sediment settles out in slow-moving water
b1 Suspended pollutants are filtered out by wetland plants
b1 Nutrients are taken up by plants
b1 Phosphorus is adsorbed by wetland soils
b1 BOD and nitrogen are decomposed by bacteria on plant and soil surfaces
b1 Heavy metals and toxic chemicals are buried in sediments and peat

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The goals of the Nez Perce Tribe’s Wetlands Program are to: 
b1  Inventory existing wetlands on Nez Perce Tribal land
b1  Assess the functions and conditions of those wetlands
b1  Characterize water quality and track groundwater level in wetlands
b1  Plan for proper management of the Tribe’s wetland resources

The primary objectives of the  Wetlands Program are to: :
b1   Determine the causes, effects, and extent of wetland degradation
b1   Develop strategies to prevent, reduce, or eliminate negative impacts on wetlands
b1   Identify, evaluate, and prioritize wetlands in need of restoration or mitigation
b1   Identify and prioritize wetland areas to be considered for acquisition

New Activities:

The Nez Perce Tribe’s Wetlands Program has established an educational program called the INTERWET Program which is an Interdisciplinary Natural Resource Management Education Program for Nez Perce Tribal Youth. The Interwet program creates an educational training program for the youth of the Nez Perce Tribe that incorporates wetland science, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK), and natural resource management skills.

Interwet class learning about wetland soils.

The Interwet Program provides students with hands-on resource management skills and an introduction to local, regional, and national scale resource management issues. At the same time students are encouraged to utilize an interdisciplinary approach to natural resource management and problem solving. The natural resource management-based training relating to cultural plants, ecological sustainability, and wetland restoration and design will instill in students the cultural importance of natural resources and wetlands for the Nez Perce people and the valuable ecological services they provide on the Reservation and globally.

Lapwai High Schools Chemistry class planting and learning about the wetlands in Lapwai Nature Trail.

Lapwai Nature Trail is an educational trail located just outside of Lapwai alongside Garden Gulch Road. We plan to further enhance the Lapwai Nature Trail this fall by expanding the trail system, installing interpretive signs, and creating an observation deck that will overlook the reconstructed wetlands just east of Spring Creek. The Trail is now open to the public and we encourage everyone to get out and use this beautiful area.

Past Activities:
The Nez Perce Tribe’s Wetland Program performed inventories and functional assessments of wetlands on the Reservation over a period of seven years. Detailed information on wetland plants, soils, hydrology, land use, wildlife habitat, and more was gathered in 294 wetlands and entered into a database. Wetland condition was documented with photos, and plant specimens were collected for reference. GPS maps of each wetland were incorporated into a GIS coverage and linked to photos.

The Tribe’s Wetland Program also monitored water quality and quantity and biological indicator species (amphibians and aquatic macroinvertebrates) in selected wetlands. Monitoring equipment (piezometers and lysimeters) was installed in 14 wetlands.

Surface water and ground water in these wetlands were monitored monthly during the 2010 and 2011 field seasons. A multiparameter probe was used to measure temperature, pH, disolved oxygen, conductivity, and redox potential. Water samples were analysed for turbidity, nitrate and nitrite, ammonia, and total phosphorus. Surface water was also tested for total coliform bacteria and E. coli. Fluctuations in groundwater levels were tracked in piezometers.

The Nez Perce Tribe’s Wetlands Program has collected the following data:
b1   Location, wetland size, type of water body, hydrology, soils
b1   Wetland classification by Hydrogeomorphic Method (HGM) and Cowardin system
b1   Land use and impacts on wetland
b1   Inventory of noxious and invasive weeds, cultural plants, and wetland plants with estimate of percent cover
b1   Evaluation of wildlife habitat (including suitability for  beaver) and wildlife  observed
b1   Potential wetland functions and values
b1   Macroinvertebrates and amphibians present
b1   Fluctuations in groundwater levels
b1   Water quality parameters incuding nutrients & bacteria

Future Plans for Wetlands Protection and Restoration
b1 Initiate watershed planning efforts that include isolated or vulnerable wetlands
b1 Develop water quality standards for wetlands
b1 Develop and institute wetland regulations
b1 Establish partnerships that support wetland restoration
b1 Encourage or pursue research on effectiveness of wetland restoration methods
b1 Build in-house capacity to provide technical assistance for wetland restoration efforts
b1 Actively pursue wetland restoration on tribally owned lands