Lands where saturation with water is the dominant factor determining the nature of soil development and the types of plant and animal communities living therein or on.

Related resource topics for county planning include the following:


Map of Data

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Resource Information

Wetlands have been defined in different ways by numerous entities and agencies. However, the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly define wetlands as: “Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that do under normal circumstances support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.” This definition of wetlands is perhaps the most relevant to local land planners because the Corps and the EPA are the agencies that have legal jurisdiction over wetlands, including those wetlands on private property. Wetlands provide numerous benefits to society but a few of the most important of these include wildlife habitat, hydrologic recharge, and water quality improvements. Wetlands provide recreational values (e.g., hunting, fishing, or bird watching). Wetlands can have ecological, social or economic values [1].

According to the Utah Wetland Information Center, 1% of Utah’s landscape is wetlands [2]. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforests and coral reefs [3]. They provide habitat for a wide variety species of mammals, birds, fish, and herptiles. Wetlands have the ability to improve water quality by acting as filters. In addition, wetlands can lessen the effects of flooding by storing stormwater and releasing it slowly with the potential to help replenish aquifers.

“Wetland” is a generic term used to describe a diverse array of aquatic habitats [4]. To assist in management and inventory purposes, the Cowardin hierarchical classification system is most commonly used. This method classifies wetlands into systems, subsystems, and classes. Systems are divided into marine, estuarine, riverine, lacustrine, and palustrine. Marine and estuarine systems consist of open ocean and tidal areas, respectively. Riverine and lacustrine systems include wetlands adjacent to rivers and lakes, respectively. Lastly, palustrine systems include vegetated wetlands like marshes, swamps, bogs, and small ponds [5]. Forested wetlands can occur in the estuarine and palustrine systems only. The Cowardin system is used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for their National Wetlands Inventory (NWI). The NWI Wetland data can be used to identify wetlands by type within the county.

NWI spatial data covers the entire MAG region, though wetland delineations vary both in methodology and timeframe. The majority of the area was delineated using color infrared (CIR) imagery acquired in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The three county region has just over 194,000 acres of wetlands.

Acreage based on analysis of NWI data published from USFWS NWI dated October 15, 2015.
Wetland TypeSummitUtahWasatchTotal
Fringe Mudflat34768.2415.7830.8
Mudflat Fringe0.5000.5
Open Water9,565.097,863.28,564.511,5992.8
Scrub Shrub12,782.91,380.62,346.716,510.2

From a regulatory standpoint, certain bodies of water and associated wetlands are regulated by the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Activities that involve excavation or placement of fill in jurisdictional waters or wetlands require a permit issued by the Corps and may be reviewed by EPA. The extent of jurisdiction is determined on a project-by-project basis in consultation with the Corps.

Best Management Practices

As discussed previously, wetlands provide numerous benefits to society. Proper management and protection of wetlands can improve the quality of life for local communities.

BMPs can include but are not limited to:

  • Protection of existing wetlands through zoning and other land-use designations, such as restricting development on environmentally sensitive lands.
  • Restoration of historic wetlands that have been eliminated or degraded.
  • Proper management of wetlands.
  • Creation of additional wetlands in appropriate areas.
  • Establishment of designated in-stream water rights for wetlands and riparian areas in compliance with state water laws of appropriation [6].

Additional BMPs for wetlands include educating the public on the importance of wetlands, educating farmers and developers on the property value improvements provided by managed open spaces (including wetlands), developing assessment tools to monitor the condition of existing wetlands, and developing land management partnerships that include landowners.

The EPA provides information on wetland protection and restoration. This information includes potential funding sources for eligible applicants.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides landowners financial and technical assistance to restore, enhance, and protect wetlands through their Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

The North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) provides matching grants to support bird populations and wetland habitat.

Economic Considerations

Possibly the most significant economic and social benefit of wetlands is flood control, but wetlands also provide essential functions in filtering water/improving water quality and providing habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife [7]. Furthermore, wetlands recharge aquifers and thereby secure future water supplies.

Impact Considerations

Mechanisms for wetland protection include acquisition, planning, mitigation, and disincentives for converting wetlands to other land uses. Restoration and creation of wetlands can help maintain the benefits of wetlands while accommodating the need for development [8].

Noxious weeds and pest control are other factors to be considered in wetland management, especially when close to residential areas.

In addition, other resources like agriculture, water rights, and hydrology may cause changes to wetlands and should be considered when managing them. For example, groundwater development can reduce the amount of water that a wetland receives [9]. Changes in stormwater, diversions, and water uses by adjacent farms can create or destroy wetlands.

Data Download
  GIS Data Map Service Web Map Document  Tabular Data  Website
Data NameData ExplanationPublication DateSpatial AccuracyContact
National Wetlands Inventory (NWI)
Use to identify location and type of wetlands

USFWS data download
USGS web mapper is live data;
Map Service date is 10/2015.
1:50,000Primary Source: Utah Geological Survey or US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetland Inventory



  1. Novitzki, R., D. Smith, and J. Fretwell. 1996. Wetland Functions, Values, And Assessment. National Water Summary On Wetland Resources. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
  2. Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Geological Survey. 2015. “Wetland Outreach and Education.” Accessed: 1/6/16.
  3. US Environmental Protection Agency. 2015. “What Are Wetland Functions?” Accessed: 1/6/16.
  4. Tiner, R. 1996. Wetland Definitions and Classifications in the United States. National Water Summary On Wetland Resources. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
  5. Cowardin, L., V. Carter, F. Golet, and E. LaRoe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
  6. Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 2015. Utah Wildlife Action Plan, Draft Version 6-4-2015.
  7. World Wildlife Fund. 2004. The Economic Values of the World’s Wetlands, January.
  8. Kentula, M. 1996. Wetland Restoration and Creation. National Water Summary On Wetland Resources. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.
  9. Bishop, C.E., M. Lowe, J. Wallace, R.L. Emerson and J.S. Horn. 2009. Wetlands in the Farmington Bay area, Davis County, Utah-An evaluation of threats posed by ground-water development and drought. Utah Geological Survey, Report of Investigation 264.