What is Restoration?

"Wetland restoration" refers to the reestablishment of wetlands on sites where they used to exist. For example, the removal of drainage structures from certain agricultural fields can return water to the surface of the ground, resulting in the restoration of a wetland that was there before the farm.

However, the 60,000 acre wetlands Restoration Initiative involves more than just restoration. It also includes wetland creation and enhancement.

Wetland creation projects establish wetlands on upland sites. In other words, these projects establish new wetlands, where wetlands did not previously exist. In order to create new wetlands, a site usually requires lowering the elevation of the land by grading the soil. This increases the frequency of soil saturation, flooding, and ponding. Wetland creation projects often have a lower rate of success, because they attempt to force new flow patterns for water, and the outcome is less predictable.

Wetland enhancement projects provide additional protection to, or improve the functions of, existing wetlands. Planting wetlands that are farmed or dominated by lawn grass is the most common type of enhancement project. Stream restoration projects, such as stabilizing the banks or restoring the natural meander pattern to a channelized stream, are also examples of projects that can enhance existing wetlands. Enhancement projects have a high rate of success, but they do not add to the total acreage of wetlands in the State.

What sites can be restored?

Lands preferred for restoration usually have one or more of the following physical characteristics:

  • Former wetlands that have been effectively drained for agricultural purposes (prior converted cropland);
  • Former wetlands that may be degraded;
  • Wetlands in agricultural production (farmed wetlands);
  • Areas connected to existing nontidal wetlands, waterways or within the 100-year floodplain;
  • Disturbed areas, such as sand and gravel mines;
  • Areas that are accessible to earthmoving equipment.
  • Forested areas that have been drained.

In addition to physical characteristics of a site, the site location is also considered. Attempts are made to restore wetlands where they will best be able to provide functions such as flood control, wildlife habitat, and water quality.

Local jurisdictions can help others to decide where to focus restoration efforts, by completing watershed management plans.

Example of wetland restoration at Jackson Lane in Caroline County, Maryland  

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