An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »


Basic Information about Voluntary Wetland Restoration and Protection

Voluntary wetland restoration and protection include activities related to the re-establishment, rehabilitation, or protection of wetlands that are not required by statutes or regulations, such as Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Required wetland mitigation activities often provide an opportunity to go “above and beyond” to include additional voluntary restoration.

Restoring and protecting wetlands supports numerous beneficial services for people and wildlife. Some of these services, or functions, include protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters, and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods. The unique natural characteristics of wetlands make them an integral part of our natural infrastructure.

Voluntary wetland restoration and protection often include on-the-ground collaborations between nonprofits, local governments, and industry in an effort to advance shared interests. Voluntary wetland restoration and protection often emphasize wetland functionality to best support broader ecosystems and ecosystem services. Many state and tribe programs rely on voluntary restoration and protection activities as a basis for their wetlands programs because of this broad focus.

Restoring Naturally Occurring Wetlands

Wetland restoration involves taking efforts to restore a former or degraded wetland’s physical, chemical, or biological characteristics to return its natural functions.

Voluntary wetlands restoration is a growing area of collaboration across the federal family. Different agencies have a variety of authorities and responsibilities. Federal agencies with key roles include EPA, USACE, NOAA, USFWS, USDA, US DOD, DOI, USFS and USDOT. Generally, these various agencies administer different Acts or other legislation that stipulate the protection for various aspects of wetlands (e.g., specific wildlife). For instance, the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and North American Wetlands Conservation Act all concern voluntary wetlands restoration, but focus on distinct aspects of the ecosystem. The EPA supports voluntary wetland restoration through opportunities for funding, partnerships with various federal and state agencies, and partnerships with independent groups.

Funding for voluntary wetlands restoration may be found on EPA’s Water Finance Clearinghouse. Specific voluntary wetlands restoration is summarized below.

Wetland Program Development Grants

Wetland Program Development Grants provide eligible applicants an opportunity to conduct projects that promote the coordination and acceleration of research, investigations, experiments, training, demonstrations, surveys and studies relating to the causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction and elimination of water pollution. Review a database of funding awarded in the form of Wetland Program Development Grants.

Information and guidance on wetlands, background on the practice of restoration, creation, and enhancement, and information on the processes involved in undertaking a wetland project can be found in Technical Resources for Grant Writers and Grant Recipients. The appendices provide documents, web sites, agencies, and other resources for finding additional information and advice on restoration, creation, and enhancement projects.

Five Star/Urban Waters Restoration Program

The Five Star/Urban Waters Restoration Program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, forest, riparian and coastal habitat restoration, stormwater management, outreach and stewardship with a particular focus on water quality, watersheds and the habitats they support. View a catalog of past recipients of Five Star Grants.

Protecting Naturally Occurring Wetlands

In addition to restoring compromised wetlands, voluntary protection of naturally occurring wetlands is a valuable part of voluntary wetland restoration and protection.

How Do Wetlands Protect Me?

Wetlands can play a role in reducing the frequency and intensity of floods by acting as natural buffers, soaking up and storing a significant amount of floodwater. A wetland can typically store about three-acre feet - three acres covered in water three feet deep - or one million gallons of water. Coastal wetlands serve as storm surge protectors when hurricanes or tropical storms come ashore. In the Gulf coast area, barrier islands, shoals, marshes, forested wetlands and other features of the coastal landscape can provide a significant and potentially sustainable buffer from wind wave action and storm surge generated by tropical storms and hurricanes.

Voluntary Wetland Restoration and Protection Core Elements Framework

For information on voluntary wetland restoration and protection, please refer to the EPA Core Elements Framework.

For select examples of how states and tribes are implementing the Core Elements Framework to enhance and protect their resources, see Examples of State and Tribal Wetland Programs.