Michigan's Wetlands


Your Local Conservation District

Natural Resource Conservation Service - MI

Informational Resources:

USDA-NRCS Wetland Reserve Easements

Michigan's Wetlands ~ Yours to Protect!

Wetlands are the transitional zone between dry upland sites, such as fields and forests and the open water of our lakes, streams and rivers.  They function as nature's nursery by providing critical habitat to thousands of species of amphibians, birds, fish, insects and mammals.  They act as nature's sponge by storing water to reduce flooding and they act as nature's kidneys by filtering nutrients and sediments as the water percolates into the ground or as slowly flows through the wetland on its way to the open water of our lakes, streams and rivers.  Wetlands also provide people with a wealth of recreational opportunities including bird watching, hiking, hunting, fishing and many other outdoor pursuits.  

Learn more About Wetlands and Protection and Restoration Opportunities available through the Farm Bill below.

About Wetlands

All wetlands in Michigan, regardless of their size and depth are important. They vary greatly depending upon the soil type, water levels, how long the water is present and how the water arrived. There are four basic types of wetlands: 


Areas with saturated soils that may be covered by many feet of slowly moving or standing water during part of the year.  Often swamps are inundated with floodwater from nearby rivers and streams. Swamps are dominated by trees adapted to saturated soil conditions including silver maple, red maple, cottonwood, or tamarack.  Shrubs often grow in swamps, with the common species of buttonbush, willow and red-osier dogwood present.  

Areas that are covered periodically by standing or slowly moving water, fed by surface and in many cases ground water.  Nutrients are plentiful which provides for abundant plant life dominated with grass-like vegetation including cattails, sedges and rushes.

Seasonal Wetlands
Also called ephemeral wetlands, these areas are typically covered in standing water from late winter through early spring.  Even though these areas dry up later in the season, seasonal wetlands provide important habitat for breeding and migrating waterfowl, amphibians and other wildlife.

Bogs and Fens
Unique, nutrient poor wetlands with an accumulation of organic matter called peat.  Often formed from old glacial depressions, bogs are more numerous in the Upper Peninsula. Bogs are fed by rain water and are filled with acid-loving plants including sphagnum moss, blueberries and tamarack. Special plants including the pitcher plant and sundew are found in bogs. Fens are typically more nutrient rich than bogs because they are fed by groundwater that has passed through mineral rich soils. Fens are peat-covered grassy wetlands which support sedges, rushes and some shrubs.

Protection and Restoration Opportunities Through the Farm Bill

Because wetlands are so important, the Farm Bill includes the opportunity to protect wetlands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which includes Wetland Reserve Easements.  ACEP is available through the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and NRCS also provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Indian tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands which are enrolled through ACEP.  

Wetland Reserve Easement Options:

Permanent Easements – Permanent Easements are conservation easements in perpetuity. NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays for restoration costs.

30-year Easements – 30-year easements expire after 30 years. Under 30-year easements, NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

Term Easements - Term easements are easements that are for the maximum duration allowed under applicable State laws. NRCS pays 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the term easement. Additionally, NRCS pays between 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

30-year Contracts – 30-year contracts are only available to enroll acreage owned by Indian tribes, and program payment rates are commensurate with 30-year easements.

Please visit the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program page on the Michigan USDA-NRCS website for further details on eligibility and enrollment. You may also visit your local Conservation District and NRCS field office for further information.  

Wetland Reserve Easements Eligibility

Eligible land for wetland reserve easements includes farmed or converted wetland that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.  Applications are prioritized based upon the easement's potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Additional opportunities are also available to help you restore and protect your wetland.  Please contact your local Conservation District to inquire about other programs and opportunities for wetland protection and restoration.

How Do I Learn More and Apply?

Landowners are encouraged to learn more about wetland reserve easements through the Farm Bill by contacting their local Conservation District and local NRCS field office in Michigan. To enroll land through the wetland reserve easements, landowners may apply at any time at their local NRCS field office.
This material is based upon work supported by the Natural resource Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement # 68-5D21-14-17.  Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.