in the Rocky Mountains and Northern Great Plains

     Wetlands are'being lost at an alarming rate. Today,
less than half of our original wetlands remain. Some of the
major causes of wetlands loss and degradation include
agricultural drainage, urban development, chemical contami-
nation and other pollution. Once considered wastelands,
wetlands are important ecosystems that deserve protection
because of their unique ftinctions and values.
     Wetlands in the Rocky Mountain Region and North-
ern Great  Plains are as varied as the "states where they are
                       found.  Wetlands in Colorado, "
                         Montana; Utah and Wyoming
                          consist of wet meadows, small
                           vegetate^ .ponds in .the alpine'
                            tundra,' and riparian  areas
                            along rivers .and streams-,  In
                            North and South Dakota, the
                           landscape is (Jotted with • .  v
                          weriands known as'-"prairie
                      potholes."  Urban wetlands.,, found in
both regions, consist of cattail marshes, riparian wetlands and
some wet  meadows.
            WHAT ARE WETLANDS?
      The conditions that set wetlands 'apart from other
ecosystems include: land that is inundated or saturated with
water for part of the growing season, soils that contain little,
or no oxygen, and areas that grow hydrophytes-phmts
adapted to these conditions.  Cattails, grasses, sedges, rushes,
willows, marsh marigolds and cottonwpods are examples of
wetland plants.  The variety of wetlands-found in this region
result from differences in topography, soil*, climate, vegeta-
tion, water chemistry and other factors".


      Wetlands are dynamic. an4 serve many purposes, some
                   •J   •                 J  7 .  *v     -  ,
 of which are'not always obvious td'phe casual observer.  For
• instance, 'wetlands help maintain and improve water quality.
 They filter excess nutrients and chemical contaminants.
 Wetlands can also store water during floods. Not only does
 diis,s.low.tne speed of Jfloodwaters, but it "reduces erosion as
 well. Wetlands are sources of ground
 arid surface water, .providing
 for domestic and agricul-  .•.•jg
.'ture heeds.  Many species
 of wildlife, depend on
 wetlands for their survival.
•Ttese biologically diverse areas are also recognized for their
 scientific and educational opportunities. They provide open
 space for photography, nature, walks, fishing and hunting.

     Cdttonwoods, wiHows and shrubs
are typical riparian plants found along
rivers, and streams .of the foothills,
interrnoumain basins and the'plains.
Riparian ajeas are natural corridors used
by wildlife for shelter and food. Wet-
lands associated with  riparian .corridors
Help controt floods and assist in keeping
streams and rivers clear by reducing
sediment loads.

     Beaver ponds, small glacial ponds,
wet meadows and fens (bog-like areas) can
be found in the mountain valleys of the
Rockies.  Many mountain lakes have
wetlands along their shorelines. Streams in
mountain valleys generally have narrow
flood plains, and wetlands occur as thin
bands adjacent to their banks.  These
montane wedands are critical .for wildlife
and can provide important water supply,
water" quality and flood control benefits.

               URBAN WETLANDS

     Urban.wetlands are rapidly disappearing from around
our growing cities and towns, "In areas'surrounded by
development, these wetlands provide a.haven for a variety 06
wildlife. Urban wetlands are important in reducing pollution
from nearby lawns, streets .and parking lots, and are used by.
schools to teach environmental education. These wetlands
can also be critical iti minimizing urban flood damage.

              PRAIRIE POTHOLES
      When the glaciers-retreated thousands of years ago,
 they left portions of North and South Dakota covered with
"depressions, creating the prairie pothole region. Although
 ihey comprise only about-10 percent of the nation's inland
•Wetlands, these small depressions, ponds and lakes provide
•habitat fpr over half of the waterfowl in: North America.
 Prairie wetlands range in size from less than one acre to
 hundreds of acres.
      The image of ducks swimming on a pond
 surrounded by. cattails is easily mistaken as a. representation
'of all wetlands.  Not so.. Some not look like
    lands because their vegetation is so different. For
 example,-wild irises, frequently grow in wet meadows early
 .m the slimmer. Late in the season,  however, these sites
                        appear 4ry. Such areas may be
                         classified as wetlands because
                                  of their hydrology
                                  . -            •
                                    or water cycle,
                                    characteristic soils
                                    and vegetation.

                BECOME INVOLVED
        The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in
  . partnership with othe.r government dgentj^s,' nonprofit
   organ-izatrons and total citizens, shares responsibility for
  . protecting our wetland resources. EPA recognizes that an
   effective wetland protection program requires
   citizen involvement. You can
   become involved by
   learning about EPA's
  'program which
   encourages local
   groups to. act as
   guardians pfthese
   valuable resources.
        You can also familiarize
   yourself with the permit
   process established under
   Section 4i34 of the Clean Water  •
   Act,  Once a completed
   application for dredging or
   filling is submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers office,,
  . a public notice is issued, and a 30 to 90 day•public com-
   ment period follows.  Let your voice be heard. You should
•:  also ask your state and.local agencies what they are doing
   to manage- and protect wetlands.
        For agricultural activities related to wetlands, contact
   your loca]'Soil Conservation Service office regarding the
   1990 Farm Bill.
                                  I""*""* f"""^k  Jfc  f^
        For more information      t»* LJ i\ ^y
   call the EPA Region 8 toll        *— '    *  ^^*
   free number: 1-800-75.9-4372.  Or call EPA's Wetlands
   Hotline in Washington, D.C. at 1-800-832-7828;-
                  ^Lfc^ Printed on Recycled Paper