Department of Environmental Conservation

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Conserving Small Wetlands in the Hudson Valley

A woodland pool
Woodland pools are typically small and
isolated, and are therefore especially vulnerable
to draining, filling, and other disturbances.

Small wetlands are some of the most ecologically and economically valuable habitats in the Hudson Valley-but they are also one of the most threatened. State and Federal laws offer only a patchwork of protection. In New York State, wetlands smaller than 12.4 acres (5 hectares) in size are not protected by the Freshwater Wetlands Act (Article 24 of the Environmental Conservation Law) unless they are determined to be of 'Unusual Local Importance' by DEC. At the federal level, recent Supreme Court decisions have potentially left "isolated" wetlands (those without a permanent surface water connection to larger water bodies) vulnerable to filling, draining, and other impacts.

However, these small and so-called "isolated" wetlands are rarely isolated from an ecosystem perspective, and provide valuable services to human communities. Isolated wetlands contribute to groundwater recharge and floodwater retention, and because they serve as nutrient sinks, they help to maintain water quality. In the Hudson Valley, small wetlands are important habitat for plants and animals, and are key to maintaining the Hudson River's globally important amphibian and reptile diversity.

A photo of Land-use planners identifying a habitat
Land-use planners learn to
identify important habitats like
fens to contribute to their
Some communities in the Hudson Valley are acting to make sure small wetlands aren't "falling through the cracks" of conservation. Local government approaches include mapping wetlands, incorporating wetland maps and policies into comprehensive planning and zoning, adopting wetland protection regulations, acquiring fee or conservation easements for wetlands and their buffers, and adopting local real estate tax incentives.

The Hudson River Estuary Program provides technical assistance and outreach to communities that are interested in conserving important habitats at the local level. Wetlands are a conservation target in the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda's Goal 3, which outlines a strategy for conserving the plants, animals, and habitats of the Hudson Valley. For more information, visit the Hudson River Estuary Program's Watershed Biodiversity Program page.