- What are the goals and objectives for your project?
- What type of restoration are you hoping to accomplish?
- Is restoration feasible (in terms of cost, land ownership, timing, water rights, etc.) at the site/project area you are evaluating?
- To what extent can you achieve your goals and objectives (e.g., increasing one or more ecological functions) at the site/project area?
- Are site conditions favorable for long-term project success, ideally with minimal human intervention, once the project has been completed?
- Was the site historically wetland?
- Can the site support wetland hydrology, given adjacent groundwater and surface water uses?
- Will mitigating a key stressor, such as plugging a drainage ditch system or restoring the natural flow regime, allow the site to recover with minimal human intervention?
- Is the site surrounded by, or adjacent to an existing natural wetland complex, or riparian area?
- Is the site likely to support characteristic native plant communities and ecological processes, with minimal human intervention, once wetland soil and hydrology are (re) established?
- Some degraded historical wetlands are relatively simple to restore, such as floodplains where beaver can be reintroduced, while others have significant economic, technical, policy, and/or land ownership barriers for restoration (like sites with extensive historical mining and associated tailings piles and water quality concerns). Often, restoration planners and practitioners must weigh the potential increase, or lift, in ecological functions from a proposed restoration project against the cost and technical feasibility of restoration activities.
- Is there sufficient water available from natural sources (e.g., groundwater, overbank flooding from an adjacent stream or river) to support your proposed project?
- Do you have water rights to protect natural sources of water?
- Is your site influenced by irrigation; groundwater depletion; altered timing, duration, frequency, and magnitude of peak or low stream flows (due to dams and diversions); or other upslope or upstream flow alteration?
- How might your site be impacted by future hydrologic changes (e.g., reduced late summer stream flow or earlier snowmelt) associated with the different climate change scenarios for Colorado?
Soil is a key component of a successful wetland restoration project, and the foundation for plant growth, nutrient cycling, and other fundamental wetland processes. Current and relic hydric, or poorly drained, soils can help us find areas that were once wetlands prior to being drained or disconnected from natural water sources. Soil alteration through past tilling, mining, or other human disturbance can influence the ability of a site to support native wetland plant communities. The Web Soil Survey allows you to view a map of the soils in your area, including hydric soils. You can also view and download SSURGO soil data by subbasin, and the latest state Hydric Soils Rating by Map Unit here. Once you know which soils are present in your area, the NRCS Official Soil Series Descriptions allow you to search by soil series for detailed soil information.
For soil evaluation in the field, you can view the latest versions of Field Indicators of Hydric Soils and the Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils here. The Regional Supplements to the Corps of Engineers Delineation Manual also provide a wealth of regional wetland soil information.
- Reference, or least-altered, sites provide examples of ecological processes and groups of plants and other organisms that may have once existed on a nearby degraded site. While reference sites are helpful, it is important to keep in mind that factors like soil and hydrology may be different within your project area, and wetland-forming processes such as flooding may have changed in recent years or decades. Planning for current and future site conditions may be equally or more important than trying to replicate a nearby least-altered system.
The best restoration plans emphasize simplicity, natural processes, long-term project sustainability (including minimal human intervention), and adaptive management. Often, creating a restoration plan involves working with one or more agencies, a local conservation or watershed group, and/or a private consultant to achieve project objectives. We've provided a list of general wetland restoration resources, as well as a growing list of resources by wetland type. Please check back for new, or updated resources!
- The Association of State Wetland Managers Wetland Restoration site provides regularly updated links for the latest science and technical guidance.
- The NRCS Wetland Restoration, Enhancement, Creation & Construction site provides a variety of wetland restoration technical resources.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Wetlands Protection and Restoration site
- The Environmental Law Institute’s Good Projects Checklist, which contains valuable information to help members of the public evaluate proposed restoration projects. The checklist was developed for the Gulf of Mexico, but provides a good template for other areas.
Beaver-influenced systems (current and historical):
Fens and Other Groundwater Dependent Wetlands:
- Special guidance for managing groundwater dependent ecosystems
- Mountain Studies Institute fen restoration efforts
- USFS Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests fen inventory and restoration work
Kettle Ponds and Playas:
- RiversEdge West (formerly the Tamarisk Coalition) maintains a resource center specific to stream and riparian area restoration for western Colorado.
- The NOAA Fisheries River RAT Tool provides links for stream restoration and floodplain reconnection science and technical guidance.
- Once you have a list of potential plants to use on a restoration site, you can evaluate which plants meet your restoration goals, and provide a plant list to a nursery or seed vendor to determine plant material availability and whether you want or need to collect seeds and other plant materials on or near your restoration site.
- When selecting plant materials from a vendor, consider time required for establishment, cost, and probability of plant success when determining the size and type of plant materials (seeds, plugs, potted plants, or bare root plants). Plant materials should be carefully inspected, sometimes at the nursery for larger projects, to ensure the health, vigor, and degree of establishment for potted plants and the purity (lack of non-native or noxious weed seed) of seed mixes.
- Timing: early spring and fall are generally the best planting windows for much of Colorado. Consult with local restoration practicioners, or the resources we've provided for plants, to know when to plant at your elevation, and part of the state. Freeze-thaw is also a challenge for getting plants established in many parts of the state, and you may need to use mulch or a certain type of plant material to ensure that your plants aren't pushed out of the ground in the spring.
- Permits: do you have a green light to go forward with earthwork, temporary or permanent wetland impacts, and all other restoration activities? Have you consulted with local and regional biologists to ensure that you are not adversely impacting breeding birds or other sensitive wildlife in your area?
- Erosion control: are you ready for the rain/snow/wind/high water? Colorado is known for its weather extremes, and bare/disturbed soil or sediment are prime for erosion by wind and water. Plant materials such as staked wetland sod or deeper-rooted potted plants or stakes may be more resistant to washing away in erosion-prone areas.
- Weeds: are you starting with a clean slate, or planting native wetland plants in an area with steep competition from weeds?
- Wildlife: are you planting species that are on the menu for deer, elk, geese, beaver, and other wildlife? If so, you may want to consider planting enough to share, or wildlife-friendly fencing and protection.
- The Functional Assessment of Colorado Wetlands (FACWet) Method is often used to evaluate wetland ecological functions before and after restoration for compensatory mitigation
- For projects with a plant community focus, or long-term ecological monitoring, CNHP has developed wetland assessment methods, including the Ecological Integrity Assessment method for site-scale assessments.
- The EPA’s National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) methods are some of the more detailed wetland assessment methods currently being applied across the U.S., and include water and soil chemical analyses along with vegetation monitoring. NWCA has many elements in common with CNHP’s EIA methods, including plot layout and vegetation sampling design.
- CNHP is currently collaborating with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to develop lentic monitoring protocols focusing on wetlands in rangeland environments. Stay tuned for the future field manual and other supporting documents!
- For streams restoration projects, the Functional Assessment of Colorado Streams (FACStream) method was developed for Colorado, and is suitable for pre- and post-restoration monitoring.
- The U.S. EPA and Stream Mechanics are currently developing a stream assessment method for Colorado as well, which may be used to support future stream mitigation activities. The Colorado tool will be similar to the recently released Wyoming Stream Quantification Tool.
- For sites impacted by oil spills or other hazardous waste (including mining areas), NatureServe has developed a User Guide for Wetland Assessment and Monitoring in Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration.