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Introduction
All local decision makers, whether elected or appointed officials, volunteer committee members, or staff, face difficult questions about how to meet community needs for housing, public infrastructure, and economic development while also protecting sensitive natural resources. Land use conflicts are common, and in Wisconsinís wetland-rich landscape some of the most difficult cases involve wetlands.

In 2009, Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA) launched a program to educate local decision-makers about the public benefits of wetlands, and to help local governments better protect local wetlands. Through this work, we have significantly improved our own understanding of the challenges local governments face when administering wetland protection land use policies, and have come to recognize that local governments need better tools and resources, and much more support, for their wetland protection efforts. Click here for a summary of the wetland educational resources and technical support that is available to local governments from WWA as well as from federal and state agencies and other nonprofit organizations.

As our funding and capacity allows, WWA will make every attempt to accommodate requests from communities that would like direct assistance and support with efforts to improve local wetland protections and to address challenges associated with administering land use and wetland protection regulations. This direct assistance could include WWA staff providing one-on-one consultation on local wetland concerns, giving feedback on proposed ordinance language, presenting at or participating in board or committee meetings and hearings, and planning and delivering wetland trainings.

On these pages, you will find our Land Use and Wetlands Publication Series that includes tools and resources designed to provide basic information about how to minimize land use conflicts and improve wetland conservation at the local level. More in-depth information about wetland-friendly land use policy and planning tools is also available by clicking on the boxes at the bottom of the page.

The Land Use and Wetlands Publication Series includes the following tools and resources:

You may also be interested in hosting and/or encouraging a Wetland Summit in your community. Wetland Summits can provide a forum to help local decision-makers directly discuss and address county-wide or regional challenges and opportunities to improving to local wetland education, restoration, and protection efforts. The Land Use and Wetlands Publication Series provide educational tools and resources that could be distributed at a local Wetland Summit.

Learn more about the Wetland Project Funding Opportunities through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Lake Grants Program. Wetland ordinance development and educational events like Wetland Summits are just a few examples of the projects that can be funded by the WDNR Lake Grants program.

If you would like to discuss your communityís wetland education and training needs, to request assistance with local wetland policy development, or to receive more information on WWAís educational resources, please contact WWA's Wetland Policy Specialist Kyle Magyera at 608-250-9971 or kyle.magyera [at] wisconsinwetlands.org.



Land Use and Wetlands:
A Local Decision Makers' Guide to Wetland Conservation

The purpose of the publication is to improve wetland protection and reduce wetland controversies by providing town, village, city and county land use officials with basic information about how wetlands benefit Wisconsinís communities and practical steps they can take to improve consideration of wetlands and wetland laws in local land use decision-making.

The target audience for the Local Decision Makers Guide is those elected, appointed, or volunteer land use officials who may not have extensive education on wetland functions and the connection between land use decisions and wetland health. Land use officials who may find the Guide helpful when evaluating projects or proposals that impact wetlands include:

  • Boards of Supervisors
  • Boards of Adjustments or Appeals
  • Common Councils
  • Planning, Zoning, and Land Conservation Committees or Commissions

In addition, local and regional administrators and staff may find the publication helpful when engaging and assisting a variety of stakeholders on wetland land use issues. The Guide can also be used by citizens and watershed organizations as a resource to help encourage open and productive communication with land use officials about the value of protecting and restoring local wetlands.


Land Use and Wetlands:
How Wetlands Benefit Your Community

This excerpt from the Local Decision Makers' Guide to Wetland Conservation is a printable brochure that illustrates how wetlands contribute to the economic health, public safety, and quality of life in Wisconsinís communities.

  • Click here to download the wetland benefits brochure.



Land Use and Wetlands:
An Inventory of Wisconsin Countiesí Zoning and Land Division Ordinances **Updated**

The purpose of this project was to complete a comprehensive inventory and assessment of how Wisconsinís 15 coastal counties use zoning and land division ordinances to facilitate wetland protection.

  • Click here to download the full report for Wisconsin's coastal counties.
  • Click here to download the findings from the coastal county research.

We have also completed research on the zoning ordinances of 30 non-coastal counties. Click below on the name of a county to read more on the research that has been completed on local wetland policies. Our goal is to have a zoning inventory completed for all counties.

Coastal Counties
(Zoning, Subdivsion, and Stormwater Ordinance Inventories)
Non-Coastal Counties
(Zoning Ordinance Inventories)
Ashland
Bayfield
Brown
Douglas
Door
Iron
Kenosha
Kewaunee
Manitowoc
Marinette
Milwaukee (City of)
Oconto
Ozaukee
Racine
Sheboygan
Barron
Burnett
Chippewa
Columbia
Dodge
Dunn
Eau Claire
Florence
Fond du Lac
Iowa
La Crosse
Langlade
Lincoln
Marathon
Oneida
Outagamie
Polk
Price
Rock
Rusk
Sauk
Sawyer
Shawano
Vilas
Walworth
Washburn
Washington
Waukesha
Waupaca
Waushara


Land Use and Wetlands:
Zoning Opportunities to Improve Wetland Protection

The purpose of this project was to develop detailed recommendations for how local governments can amend land use ordinances to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing wetland land use policies and programs.

By February 2014, local governments are required to update their shoreland zoning ordinances to comply with new requirements under Chapter NR 115 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. Though the new rule does not substantially change minimum standards for shoreland-wetland protection, the ordinance revision process provides an opportunity to make local land use regulations more consistent with, or even more effective than, federal and state wetlands laws.

Our recommendations are based on findings from an inventory of county wetland policies. Though the research was limited to 45 counties, the findings and recommendations derived from it have applications for tribes, counties, cities, villages and towns across the state.

  • Click here to download a high resolution copy (print quality) of the wetland zoning guidebook.
  • Click here to download a low resolution copy (screen quality) of the wetland zoning guidebook.

  • Click here to download a summary of select county wetland policies that exceed state minimum wetland zoning standards.

This guidebook is intended to provide a variety of recommendations, and options within each recommendation, that local governments may choose to explore, adopt, and implement at their discretion.


Click on the boxes below to learn more about wetlands, wetland laws, and practical steps local land use decision makers can take to protect and restore the ecological, economic, and social benefits provided to Wisconsinís communities.


Northern shoveler photo above by Dennis Malueg.