Wetlands: Biological Assessment Methods and Criteria Development Workshop - Proceedings, September 18-20, 1996, Boulder, Colorado
The Clinton Administration's Wetlands Plan calls for the interim goal of no overall net loss of the Nation's wetlands, and the long-term goal of increasing the quantity and quality of the Nation's wetlands resource base. In addition to the Administration's Plan, the main objective of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters" including wetlands. To track our progress towards achieving these goals, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wetlands Division is working cooperatively with federal, state, and tribal agencies to improve wetlands biological assessment and monitoring techniques. Biological assessment techniques are necessary to monitor the biological integrity of wetlands and track the quality of the Nation's wetlands. Based on the CWA, each state establishes water quality standards that consist of (1) designated uses (including aquatic life use), (2) narrative and numeric criteria for supporting each designated use, and (3) an antidegradation statement. By developing biological assessment techniques, states will be able to establish narrative and numeric biological criteria. Based on these criteria, states can determine if waters are meeting their designated uses (e.g., aquatic life use support) and report in CWA Section 305(b) Water Quality Inventory reports to Congress. With biological assessment methods and biological criteria in place, states can more effectively apply CWA Section 401 certification to address potential cumulative impacts to watersheds. Biological assessment techniques will also provide data necessary to more effectively target wetland protection and restoration efforts. States and tribes can use biological assessments to identify wetlands impacted by human activities. Based on periodic assessments, states and tribes can evaluate the success of pollution abatement and habitat protection programs at maintaining and improving wetland conditions. States and tribes can also use biological assessment methods to establish performance standards for wetland restoration and mitigation. Wetland biological assessments will also provide data necessary to include wetlands in watershed protection approaches. In an effort to address the need for the development of wetland biological assessment and monitoring techniques, U.S. EPA's Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds and Office of Science and Technology sponsored this workshop to discuss (1) new ideas and strategies related to wetland biological assessment techniques and criteria development, (2) the potential incorporation of current functional assessment methodologies, including the Hydrogeomorphic Approach (HGM), into EPA policies and state and tribal programs, and (3) whether we are ready to take the next steps of developing biological assessment protocols and biocriteria guidance. The workshop was designed to bring together interested individuals in federal, state, tribal, and academic programs, who are currently involved in, or are planning to be involved in, developing biological assessment methods or criteria for wetlands. Wetland managers and scientists must develop the appropriate methods and techniques necessary to measure the integrity of wetland resources if the goals of the Administration's Wetlands Plan and the CWA are to be successfully achieved.