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Check for Wetlands BEFORE YOU BUY or BUILD

In Vermont, wetlands and their buffers are state regulated because they provide many benefits to our environment, such as flood damage prevention.

There are many types of wetlands in Vermont, not all of which are easy to identify. A permit is required to develop property on or near a wetland. However, not all projects can receive a permit. Before you start planning, it’s essential to check for wetlands on or near your property. Checking first may help protect you from project delays, costly site re-work, funding eligibility loss, infrastructure removal, property investment loss from devaluation, and even fines.

How Landowners and Land Buyers Can Check for Wetlands

  • Step 1: Check to identify if there is a wetland on property you are looking to purchase and develop. There are several ways that you can check for wetlands:
    • Wetland Screening Tool: use this tool for the easiest and recommended way to see if a property has wetlands or to know if your plan may be affected by wetland laws. 
    • Identify wetlands on the ground: refer to our What is a Wetland? page with information on how to identify a wetland. Our Landowner’s Guide to Wetlands is a handy guide that includes a checklist to help spot a potential wetland or buffer zone on the ground.
  • Step 2: Understand what you can and cannot do with wetlands on a property. Most projects proposed within a wetland or 50 feet surrounding the wetland will require a permit. Not all projects can receive a permit. To receive a permit, you must be able to demonstrate that the project has a valid purpose that is appropriate for the size of the property, and be able to show that you have minimized impacts to the wetland and its buffer. Where avoidance is not possible, minimization of the project’s proposed impacts is necessary, often requiring a redesign of size, location, or configuration before a permit can be considered. Some properties are not suitable for development.
  • Step 3: If a property you are considering is determined to have wetlands, and your project might impact the wetland or it’s 50ft buffer, you must contact your District Wetland Ecologist to determine your next steps.
    • Contact Wetlands Staff: to confirm if your project is impacted by wetlands and the next steps available to you. A permit may be required.
    • Contact a Wetlands Consultant: If you are proposing a project near the wetland or it’s 50ft buffer, you will likely need to have the wetland boundary delineated by a qualified wetland scientist. 

About The Wetland Screening Tool

Over 230,000 acres of land in Vermont have been identified and mapped as wetlands, but studies have shown that up to 39% of Vermont wetlands may not be mapped at all. The easiest way to see if your plan may be affected is to use the Wetland Screening Tool. The screening tool offers an initial check for nearby hydric soils, wetland projects, wetland permits, wetland natural community types, and wetland advisory layers. The results explain each layer and recommend action steps. You can also produce a map of the results. 

Vermont Wetland Inventory Maps should not be considered a complete source in verifying the status of your property. The most up-to-date tool available is our Wetland Screening Tool, which includes a screen of the inventory maps.

How To Search

To get started, type the 911 address or the SPAN number for a property.

Are you working with someone on a land purchase or build project?

If you are working with someone on a land purchase or build project—whether as a homebuilder, Realtor or Real Estate Agent, Town Zoning staff, Wastewater Designer or other—it’s important to confirm whether Vermont state wetlands regulations impact the property. Property owners may face costly fines and fees, or seek civil damages from others involved in the purchase and build process.

Wetlands Guide & Checklist

While only a District Wetlands Ecologist can verify whether land may be subject to state wetlands regulations, there are a variety of wetland characteristics you can look for when considering a property purchase or building project. Download our Landowners Guide to Wetlands and use the included checklist to help spot a potential wetland or buffer zone. You can also learn the benefits that wetlands provide to Vermonters.

The Vermont Wetlands Program

As part of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Watershed Management Division Wetlands Program is here to:                

  • provide screening tools to assist with your purchase or build plans
  • conduct site visits
  • review proposed project plans and assist with next steps 
  • educate and help you identify wetlands and their value to our environment; and
  • enforce the Vermont Wetland Rules as required by Vermont state wetland regulations