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Methods for determining prioritization objectives

Wetland Prioritization Study Main Page


Stakeholder feedback

  • Kramer et al. (2012)
  • NOAA Habitat Priority Plan Mississippi-Alabama Habitats Tool
  • North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program
  • TNC-ELI Duck-Pensaukee Watershed Approach Pilot
  • U.S. EPA Recovery Potential Screening


Data analysis

  • Arkansas Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team
  • TNC Aquatic Ecoregional Assessment



Stakeholder feedback


Kramer et al. (2012):1 A technical steering committee led by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GAEPD) and including representatives from state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and forest product industry groups identified nine prioritization objectives to be targeted for compensatory wetland mitigation based on regulatory, planning, and management considerations, including:

  • Water quality and quantity
  • Education
  • Flood control and flow regulation
  • Recreation
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Scenic value
  • Connectivity
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Ease of restoration



NOAA Habitat Priority Plan (HPP) Mississippi-Alabama Habitats Tool:2 A stakeholder group developed and agreed upon ten distinct habitat types to target for prioritization as part of NOAA's HPP tool. These included freshwater wetlands, riparian buffers, longleaf pine, pine savannah, maritime forest, intertidal marshes and flats, beaches and dunes, submerged aquatic vegetation, oyster reefs, and rivers and streams.


North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program (NCEEP):3 In 2003, NCEEP's multi-agency Watershed Needs Assessment Team (WNAT) identified three major functions to serve as the basis of site prioritization efforts: water quality, hydrology, and habitat. As part of the River Basin Restoration Priorities screening method, these functions are applied together with watershed problems, assets, and opportunities to identify priority HUC-14s. Later in NCEEP's process, during the Local Watershed Planning (LWP) stage, NCEEP engages with stakeholders to identify watershed-specific objectives.


TNC-ELI Duck-Pensaukee Watershed Approach Pilot:4 Within the Duck-Pensaukee watershed, the planning team identified seven wetland services to target as part of its prioritization process that were important to humans, wetland-specific, and could be distinguished at a landscape scale using available spatial data. These services included:

  • Water quality protection
  • Carbon storage
  • Flood abatement
  • Fish habitat
  • Surface water supply
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Shoreline protection



U.S. EPA Recovery Potential Screening (RPS):5 The central objective of most RPS users is to learn more about restorability differences and the factors that explain these differences. Most users are driven by the desire to improve functions and values in more places by considering restorability differences more systematically and making strategic investments of limited resources on this basis. As a highly flexible methodology, RPS objectives identified by its users are numerous and varied. RPS generally uses a roundtable facilitation approach to facilitate the identification of initial objectives by stakeholders within workgroups, though a project can also start with a single targeted objective.


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Data analysis


Arkansas Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team (MAWPT):6 The MAWPT begins by assembling watershed-scale geographic datasets that will form the basis of its decision-making. These generally include nationally- or regionally-available GIS data sources that capture basic wetland characteristics (i.e., soils, vegetation, and hydrology) as well as wetland spatial characteristics. However, in Wetland Planning Areas (WPAs) where more specific GIS data relevant to wetland prioritization are available (e.g., hydrogeomorphic (HGM) subclass maps), the MAWPT integrates these sources into its prioritization mapping efforts. Based on an evaluation of these datasets, the team identifies prioritization objectives for meeting specific needs within each WPA. For example, the team may identify restoration of riparian corridors as a priority for addressing sedimentation issues.


TNC Aquatic Ecoregional Assessment:7 For the Aquatic Ecoregional Assessment, TNC first identified a set of "conservation targets" composed of priority ecosystems, communities, and species identified at both fine scales (e.g., rare and endangered species) as well as coarse scales (e.g., large river systems) within each ecological drainage unit (EDU). TNC then evaluated the "viability" of each conservation target by assessing its target size (abundance/density), condition (quality of its biotic/abiotic factors, structures, and processes), and landscape context (quality of biotic/abiotic factors, structures, and processes in its surrounding landscape). TNC drew upon the GIS factors and data sources listed below to evaluate the viability of conservation targets within each EDU. It also held workshops to solicit input from experts familiar with each ecoregion to obtain data for target occurrences that were not readily available. These included data on stocking, channelization, invasive species, non-point source pollution, dam operation, and local water withdrawals.

Factor used in analysis

Data source(s)

Land cover

National Land Cover Dataset

Impervious cover

National Land Cover Dataset


StreetMap USA (Esri & Tele Atlas)



Managed and conservation lands

Multiple state and Federal sources

Point source pollution


Water quality data

VCU INSTAR database, DEQ biological monitoring data, DEQ §303(d) impaired waters list, DGIF threatened and endangered waters

Presence of aquatic species

VDGIF aquatic species inventory, VDCR-VDNH aquatic species inventory

Acronym definitions


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Wetland Prioritization Study Main Page



1Kramer E, Couch C. Carpendo S., Samples K., Reed, J. 2012. A statewide approach for identifying potential areas for wetland restoration and mitigation banking in Georgia: An ecosystem function approach.
2 The Nature Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. 2009. Prioritization guide for coastal habitat protection and restoration in Mobile and Baldwin counties, Alabama. Accessed from: http://habitats.disl.org/HabitatMapperGuide.pdf.
3 NCEEP. October 2005. Report from the Watershed Needs Assessment Team to the Mitigation Coordination Group. Accessible from: http://www.nceep.net/news/reports/WNAT%20Mit%20Group%20Final.pdf.
4 Miller, N., T. Bernthal, J. Wagner, M. Grimm, G. Casper, and J. Kline. 2012. The Duck-Pensaukee Watershed Approach: Mapping Wetland Services, Meeting Watershed Needs. The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Law Institute, Madison, Wisconsin.
5 Feedback received on 4/6/2012 from Doug Norton, USEPA Office of Water.
6 The Multi-Agency Wetland Planning Team. The Standard GIS Methodology for Wetland Analysis. Accessible from: www.mawpt.org/pdfs/Standard_Methodology_of_Analysis.pdf.
7 The Nature Conservancy. 2009. The Nature Conservancy's watershed approach to compensation planning for the Virginia Aquatic Resource Trust Fund.