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Wetlands within the shoreland zone have special protection. Without them, hundreds of Wisconsin's plant and animal species would not survive. Wetland soils and plants have the capacity to trap and hold pollutants, thereby protecting water quality in lakes, streams, and rivers. Spongy wetland soils hold water from heavy rains, dramatically reducing storm and flood damage. Wetland plants slow the flow of water, thereby delaying the time it takes storm waters to reach major tributaries. Acting as a buffer between moving water and the shore, wetlands help prevent erosion and stabilize shorelines.

Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Many animals spend their whole lives in wetlands. For others, wetlands are critical habitat for feeding, breeding, resting, nesting, escape cover, or travel corridors. Wisconsin wetlands provide important spawning grounds for fish, nurseries for mammals and waterfowl, and critical habitat for shorebirds, marsh birds and songbirds. In addition, they provide lifelong habitat for some frogs and turtles. Wetlands are also essential habitat for smaller aquatic organisms in the food chain, including crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and planktonic and similar microscopic organisms.

Water Quality Protection
Wetland plants and soils have the capacity to store and filter pollutants ranging from pesticides to animal wastes. Calm wetland waters, with their flat surface and flow characteristics, allow particles of toxins and nutrients to settle out of the water. Plants take up certain nutrients from the water. Other substances can be stored or transformed to a less toxic state within wetlands.

Flood Protection
Due to dense vegetation and location within the landscape, wetlands are important for retaining stormwater from rain and melting snow and floodwater from rising streams. Wetlands slow the movement of stormwater runoff and can provide storage areas, minimizing adverse impacts downstream.

Groundwater Recharge and Discharge
Some wetlands can provide a valuable service of replenishing groundwater supplies. The filtering capacity of wetland plants and substances may also help protect groundwater quality.

Shoreline Protection
Shoreland wetlands may act as buffers between land and water. They protect against erosion by absorbing the force of waves and currents and by anchoring sediments. Roots of wetland plants bind lakeshores and stream banks, providing futher protection. Benefits include the protection of habitat and structures, as well as land that might otherwise be lost to erosion. This function is especially important in waterways where boat traffic, water current, and wave action cause substantial damage to the shore.

Contact the Land Information Department to find out if an area is mapped as a wetland.

  • A permit is required to fill any wetland or portion thereof.