The State of Vermont protects wetlands which provide significant functions and values and also protects a buffer zone directly adjacent to significant wetlands. Wetlands in Vermont are classified as Class I, II, or III based on the significance of the functions and values they provide. Class I and Class II wetlands provide significant functions and values and are protected by the Vermont Wetland Rules. Any activity within a Class I or II wetland or buffer zone which is not exempt or considered an "allowed use" under the Vermont Wetland Rules requires a permit.
The following documents provide acceptable protocol and data forms for wetland consultants to follow while conducting wetland investigations to independently determine which wetlands are considered protected under the Vermont Wetland Rules (VWR).
- Guidance for Determining Wetland Classification (NEW April 2018)
- Classification Form (NEW April 2018)
- Wetlands Evaluation Form
Class I Wetlands
Class I wetlands have been determined to be, based on their functions and values, exceptional or irreplaceable in its contribution to Vermont's natural heritage and, therefore, merits the highest level of protection. All Class I wetlands are mapped on the Vermont Significant Wetland Inventory (VSWI) maps and listed in the Vermont Wetland Rules. To learn more please visit our Class I wetlands page.
Class II Wetlands
All wetlands contiguous to wetlands shown on the Vermont Significant Wetland Inventory (VSWI) maps are presumed to be Class II wetlands, unless identified as Class I or III wetlands, or unless determined otherwise by the Secretary or Panel pursuant to Section 8 of the Vermont Wetland Rules. In addition, any wetland with one or more of the following characteristics is Class II (See General Determination 2020-263 and Section 4.6 of the Vermont Wetland Rules):
- The wetland is of the same type and threshold size as those mapped on the VSWI maps: i.e., open water (pond); emergent marsh; shrub swamp; forested swamp; wet meadow; beaver pond or beaver meadow; bog or fen; and is greater than 0.5 acres in size.
- The wetland contains dense, persistent non-woody vegetation or a prevalence of woody vegetation; is adjacent to a stream, river, or open body of water; and is over 2,500 square feet in size.
- The wetland is a vernal pool that provides amphibian breeding habitat.
- The wetland is a headwater wetland.
- The wetland contains a species that appears in the Vermont Natural Heritage Inventory (VNHI) database as rare, threatened, endangered or uncommon; or is an exemplary natural community as mapped by VNHI.
Vegetated wetlands adjacent to streams, rivers, or any open body of water that do not meet the 2,500 square foot size threshold in subparagraph b above are often significant, and should be evaluated for significance by a wetland ecologist before work is done that would impact the wetland.
Class III Wetlands
Class III wetlands are neither Class I or Class II wetlands. They are not protected under the Vermont Wetland Rules. Other regulations may apply. Please contact the Army Corps of Engineers for more information
What Class is My Wetland?
If your wetland is mapped as a Class I wetland, it is Class I. If the wetland is mapped as a Class II wetland or meets one of the characteristics listed under "Class II Wetlands", it is Class II. If you are unsure of the status or would like the Wetlands Program to consider a different classification, you may either invite your District Wetlands Ecologist to your site during the growing season (often late April - October) to review or request a formal wetland determination. The wetland determination process is described in Section 8 of the Vermont Wetland Rules. For the Wetlands Program's procedure, see the Vermont Wetlands Section Class II and Class III Determination Procedure.
Vernal Pools That Provides Amphibian Breeding Habitat
The Vermont Wetland Rules protect pool-breeding amphibian habitat. Pooling forested wetlands with no permanent inlets or outlets are presumed to be vernal pools and Class II unless an adequate breeding season survey indicates no amphibian breeding activity. When activities are proposed within 50 feet of a pooling wetland, wetland permitting requires the evaluation of the extent to which the wetland (aka vernal pool) supports or provides habitat to support the reproduction of uncommon pool-breeding Vermont amphibian species* and how the project may affect that habitat. An evaluation cannot take place if the application lacks spring breeding and habitat condition information. It is therefore important that adequate evidence is collected during the spring breeding season. The document, Recommendations for Pool-breeding Amphibian Surveys and Habitat Assessments recommends appropriate ways to collect adequate data for the purposes of determining wetland significance (classification) and applying for a wetlands permit.
To officially submit your vernal pool data for the State mapping project, use the Vernal Pool Evaluation form from Vermont Fish and Wildlife.
Links of Interest
- VT Wetlands Program 101: This fact sheet provides an overview of wetlands and their protection in Vermont.
- Landowner's Guide to Wetlands: This pamphlet provides guidance and considerations for anyone looking to purchase land or build.
- Vermont Wetlands Section Class II and Class III Determination Procedure: This document describes the process of classifying wetlands in Vermont, and determining whether or not they are protected by the Vermont Wetland Rules.
- Function and Values Evaluation Form: This checklist is used to determine whether a particular wetland provides any of the functions and values listed above, and is a Class I or II wetland.
- Search Wetland Permits: This searchable wetland permit database is available through the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Environmental Research Tool.
- Wetland Consultant List: Class I and II wetlands must be identified and delineated by a qualified wetland scientist prior to any activity that requires a wetland permit. The environmental consultants on this list regularly delineate wetlands in Vermont. The list is not all-inclusive, and does not represent an endorsement by the State of Vermont.
- Wetlands Inventory Map: This web-based mapping tool is designed to help the public locate potential wetlands, based on Vermont Significant Wetlands Inventory (VSWI) data, and other features such as hydric soils and flood hazard zones.
- Allowed Uses and Best Management Practices (BMPs): This page provides information about activities that are allowed in Class I and II wetlands under the Vermont Wetland Rules, provided they comply with specified guidelines and Best Management Practices (BMPs).
- Permit Information: Vermont wetland permit applications, fees, and instructions are available on this page.
- The Bountiful benefits of Wetland Buffers: Why wetlands need upland buffers to help them function and how you can create or improve wetland buffers.