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Wetlands Program

Nez Perce Tribe
Wetlands Program

Project Manager – Ken Clark, Water Quality Program Coordinator

Key Staff: Rue Hewitt-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

wl3   monitoring well

Past Activities:
The Nez Perce Tribe’s Wetland Program has 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 next step in developing the Tribe’s Wetland Program was monitoring of 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.

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Transporting the monitoring equipment                                    Installing a lysimeter

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.

A five year Wetland Program Plan was submitted to the EPA for approval in February 2012.  This plan will guide the wetland program’s future activities.

ground water                            surface water
Monitoring groundwater                                          Monitoring surface water

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); wildlife  observed
b1   Potential wetland functions and values
b1   Macroinvertebrates and amphibians present
b1   Fluctuations in groundwater levels
b1   Water quality parameters incl. nutrients & bacteria

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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