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What is a Wetland?
The term "wetland" is used to describe a variety of wet environments. Wetlands are defined differently by individuals and agencies responsible for their inventory and regulation. Some common terms are marshes, sloughs, swamps, potholes, lowlands, oxbows, river bottoms, wet spots, seeps, fens, and others depending on location in the United States.

Wetlands have many distinguishing features, the most notable of which are the presence of the following three characteristics: 
 
  • Hydrology - standing water or the land is wet for some period during the growing season but not necessarily permanently wet.
  • Hydric soils – soils that at some time were saturated, flooded, or ponded during the growing season.
  • Hydrophytic vegetation – vegetation adapted to or tolerant of saturated soils.

 Organization Reference  Definition
 State of Minnesota
(Waters Of The State
Minn. Stat. §103G.005, Subdivision 19
Wetlands)
 “”Wetlands” means lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. For purposes of this definition, wetlands must have the following three attributes:

(1) have a predominance of hydric soils;

(2) are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions; and

(3) under normal circumstances support a prevalence of such vegetation.”

 State of Minnesota (Public Waters Wetlands Minn. Stat. § 103G.005, subd. 15a  "Public waters wetlands" means all types 3, 4, and 5 wetlands, as defined in United States Fish and Wildlife Service Circular No. 39 (1971 edition), not included within the definition of public waters, that are ten or more acres in size in unincorporated areas or 2-1/2 or more acres in incorporated areas.
 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(Cowardin and others, 1979)
 "Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. For the purposes of this classification wetlands must have one or more of the following three attributes: (1) at least periodically, the land supports predominantly hydrophytes; (2) the substrate is predominantly undrained hydric soil; and (3) the substrate is nonsoil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some time during the growing season of each year."
 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
(33 CFR 328.3)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (40 CFR 230.3)
 "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."
 U.S. Department Of Agriculture
Natural Resource Conservation Service
(National Food Security Act Manual 1988)
(The Act is commonly known as
the "Swampbuster")
 "Wetlands are defined as areas that have a predominance of hydric soils and that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of hydrophytic vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions, except lands in Alaska identified as having high potential for agricultural development and a predominance of permafrost soils."