Wetlands in Colorado are a vital, yet often under-valued resource. While their extent is less than 2% of the land area, wetlands provide a host of essential services, including flood attenuation, groundwater recharge, nutrient cycling, water quality improvement, carbon sequestration, and habitat for a disproportionate share of the state’s biodiversity. Yet due to their limited acreage within the state, there is little state-level protection for wetlands in Colorado and no single state agency coordinates their management.
Starting in 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encouraged states and tribes to formulate strategic plans, called Wetland Program Plans (WPPs), to articulate statewide goals and objectives for wetlands. To guide the structure of WPPs, EPA developed the Core Elements Framework for state and tribal wetland programs, which focuses on four core components of an effective wetland program.
The four core elements of the Core Element Framework are:
In Colorado, there is no official State Wetland Program to carry out the full range of activities defined under EPA’s Core Elements Framework. Instead, multiple agencies and organizations play a role in their protection, regulation and management.
- Monitoring and assessment has been led by CNHP and other researchers at Colorado State University, as well as several land management agencies.
- Wetland regulation is carried out largely by the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA.
- Voluntary restoration and protection is an active goal of many organizations, but state efforts are led by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Wetland Wildlife Conservation Program, along with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and Great Outdoor Colorado (GOCO).
- Water quality standards are the purview of the Water Quality Division within the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Colorado's current Wetland Program Plan was completed in 2020, after three years of meetings, conversations, and review with many state agencies. The intent of this WPP is to tie together the priorities and objectives of existing state plans, along with new wetland management and protection goals, objectives, actions, and activities identified by key statewide wetland partners, into one comprehensive document for the next five years (2020-2024). Within this 5-year plan is a Core Element Matrix, including four core elements that differ slightly from the EPA’s recommended elements. The elements chosen for Colorado reflect the specific priorities of Colorado state agencies and the current regulatory environment.
The four core elements for Colorado are:
- Planning, Conservation, Restoration, and Adaptive Management
- Inventory, Assessment, and Monitoring
- Regulatory Considerations for Wetland Protection
- Partnerships, Education, and Outreach
The Colorado WPP for 2020-2024 is a living document. CNHP plans to coordinate regular check-ins with the state agencies involved with preparing this document. We may adjust timelines or add or remove actions or activities as the state of wetland management changes over the next five years. This plan sets the stage and focuses our actions, but will not limit our efforts if and when new opportunities arise.
List of agencies involved: