Nebraska Game and Parks Commission


Date of this Version



2005-2010 State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), September 2004.


For additional information please contact: Ted LaGrange, Wetland Program Manager Nebraska Game and Parks Commission P.O. Box 30370 Lincoln, NE 68503 Phone: (402) 471-5436, Fax: (402) 471-5528 e-mail: or visit the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's wetland web site at:


Wetlands — a source of great interest, and at times conflict. Wetlands represent different things to different people. At times they’re viewed as shallow, muddy nuisances while at other times they’re viewed as wonderful, varied and productive assets. This is because wetlands take on many roles as part of a complex and dynamic system. Understanding wetlands and wetland issues requires understanding the complex and varying roles that wetlands can play. To aid in this understanding, this guide defines wetlands, discusses their importance and dynamics, identifies threats and losses, describes conservation programs, and takes an in-depth look at Nebraska’s regional wetland complexes.


Nebraska’s wetland resources are as diverse and dynamic as those of any state in the nation. They include marshes, lakes, river and stream backwaters, oxbows, wet meadows, fens, forested swamps, and seep areas. These wetlands vary greatly in nature and appearance due to physical features such as geographic location, water source and permanence, and chemical properties. Some wetlands hold water for only a few weeks or less during the spring while others never go completely dry. Many wetlands receive their water from groundwater aquifers while others are totally dependent on precipitation and runoff. And finally, the water chemistry of wetlands ranges from fresh to saline, and from acidic to basic. These descriptions identify the extremes of wetland characteristics. Nebraska’s wetland resources possess these extremes and virtually every combination in between.

What Is a Wetland?

There has been a tremendous amount of controversy about how to define wetlands. Much of this controversy is related to the fact that wetlands are regulated by several laws, and to apply these laws, the wetland boundary needs to be determined (a process termed wetland delineation). Delineation of wetlands is difficult because they occupy a transitional zone on the landscape, and frequently become dry. The State of Nebraska has adopted the federal definition that wetlands are “Those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas” (USACE 1987).