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Developing Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Procedures and Strategies for Montana

Randy Apfelbeck 1, Marc Jones 2, Elizabeth Crowe 2, Bryce Maxell 3, Anna Noson 3

1. Montana Department of Environmental Quality, 1520 E. 6th Ave. Helena, MT 59620
2. Montana Natural Heritage Program, 1515 East 6th Avenue, Helena, MT 59620
3. University of Montana, Division of Biological Sciences, Missoula, MT 59812

Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MT-DEQ) is currently in the process of developing a statewide water quality monitoring program strategy to meet the objectives of section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act to monitor, assess and report on the status and trends of all State waters, including wetlands. We are proposing the development of a comprehensive wetland monitoring and assessment program by including the assessment of wetlands as part of our statewide water quality monitoring program to evaluate the ecological condition of a variety of wetland types, including riverine and depressional wetlands, within randomly selected watersheds. The wetland assessments will be carried out in conjunction with stream and lake assessments to assess watershed health and to identify the primary stressors.

MT-DEQ is proposing to develop a probabilistic sampling design to make statistical statements about the status and trends of Montana's wetlands. Hence, we need wetland assessment protocols that can accurately assess wetland condition and can be linked to Montana's water quality standards. Therefore, our approach to assessing wetlands will include multiple scales and a 3-tiered framework that uses landscape, rapid and site-intensive assessment protocols. For the past two years we have been working in two pilot areas (i.e., Middle Milk HUC and the Red Rocks HUC) to develop biological assessment procedures for depressional and riverine wetlands. Future work will also include the development of rapid and landscape assessment protocols for assessing the condition of all wetland types. This year we intend to initiate the development and testing of rapid assessment protocols within the Red Rock HUC pilot area.

Keywords: Wetland monitoring; wetland assessment; rapid assessment protocols

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