Wetland Program Plans as a Sustainable Finance Tool

Glenn Barnes is a senior project director at the Environmental Finance Center at The University of North Carolina and is director of the Sustainable Finance for Wetland Programs project.

EPA is encouraging all states and tribes to create wetland program plans.  These plans lay out the activities that each state or tribal program plans to undertake over the next few years in each of the four core elements of wetland programs: regulation, monitoring & assessment, restoration & protection, and water quality.

These wetland program plans can be important sustainable finance tools.  EPA is not requiring states and tribes to include budgets or other specific financial information in the plans.  Nevertheless, elements of sustainable finance can be incorporated into the plans.

The sustainable finance process involves first identifying the work of the state or tribal program and then seeking out appropriate funding and partners to complete that work.  Obviously, the primary objective of wetland program plans is to set a work plan for states and tribes for the next several years.  By having a plan, states and tribes will know what they need to pay for.

Several plans specifically mention the need for funding and building partnerships.  The Yurok Tribe, for example, states that their plan is “intended to outline YTEP’s program development needs and objectives and better plan for future funding and coordination opportunities.”  Other plans identify who will be tasked with finding the funding or partnerships.  Montana’s plan tasks the Montana Wetland Council with identifying funding; the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community tasks the senior environmental specialist with preparing grant requests and coordinating with other tribal departments and external agencies.

Other plans specifically identify grants and other funding sources that the program will seek out.  For example, the Goshute Reservation identify several federal sources from EPA, USDA, and Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as plans to seek funding from Utah and Nevada.  Tennessee developed a plan in the 1990s that also listed specific state and federal funding sources.

The Fort Belknap Indian Community outlines potential uses for Wetland Program Development Grants over a five year period, tying a potential funding source to specific tasks in the program plan.  The Hopland Band of Pomo Indians similarly discuss their plans to use Prop 84 bond money and associated matching funds for the construction of fish passage improvements.

Beyond identifying funding sources, states and tribes following the sustainable finance framework also seek out governmental and non-governmental partners to help them complete their work.  Several plans include information on these program partners.  The Chippewa Cree list several partners from within the tribe, state and federal agencies, and named experts to help with their sweet grass reintroduction project.  Both New Mexico and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community list key federal, state, and tribal partners as well as their anticipated rolls in their program plans.

New Hampshire dedicates an entire section of their plan to sustainable finance, incorporating many of these elements.  They list plans to revise existing fees and to seek out new funding sources as well as discuss plans to partner with key academic institutions, natural resource scientists, and conservation groups.

By incorporating these sustainable finance elements into their program plans, states and tribes will be better situated to seek out the appropriate funding and partners they need to complete their work tasks.




  1. Sean McGinnis

    I never quite gained an understanding of “what” the sustainable finance elements are and “what” makes them sustainable in the first place. I was also surprised that no mention of private capital investment was included. I have to believe this offers a further diversified approach to financing efforts outside traditional federal and state sources, hence creating a more sustainable pipeline of funding.

    • Matt Harris

      Thank you for your comment Sean. I will defer to Glenn for a more in depth-response. However, as a general response:

      Wetland program plans contribute to sustainable finance as opposed to having no program plan at all—-a strategy (or lack thereof) I think most can agree is not sustainable. This post does not detail which specific elements are more/less financially sustainable, but rather is relevant to wetland protection programs that may have no plan at all, and want to look at examples. More specifics will be discussed in a future post, and I would imagine private capital investment will not be excluded from the discussion. The limited availability of private capital investment in recent years could explain its poor showing amongst the example plans in this post, which hyperlink to actual program plans from States and Tribes.