Wetlands Frequently Asked Questions


Wetlands Frequently Asked Questions

What is a wetland?

Under Massachusetts General Law the term “ wetlands”, is defined as wet meadows, marshes, swamps, bogs, areas where groundwater, flowing or standing surface water or ice provide a significant part of the supporting substrate for a plant community for at least five months of the year; emergent and submergent plant communities in inland waters; that portion of any bank which touches any inland waters. 

Why are wetlands important?

Wetlands are important to the environment and society for a variety of reasons.  They regulate the flow of water by retaining storm flows for short periods, thus reducing flood peaks;  They protect lake shores by providing a buffer for the erosive action of waves and other storm effects; They improve water quality by retaining or transforming excess nutrients, and trapping sediment and heavy metals; and they provide many wildlife critical habitat for breeding and  nesting. www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/n_resource/wetlands


What is a vernal pool?

Vernal pools are small, shallow depressions that are isolated from other surface waters. They flood in the spring and sometimes in the fall, but they are typically dry in the summer. They often have hydric soils. When dry, vernal pools can often be recognized by a layer of stained leaves covering the dry depression.

How can I certify vernal pool?

The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has a procedure outlined on their website, along with the required forms.  www.state.ma.us/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/nhesp.htm

What makes vernal pools unique to other wetlands?

Certain wildlife species rely on vernal pools for reproduction; and certain vegetation species can only be found in or around vernal pools.  Vernal pools dry up during the summer.

Where do I find the Wetland Rules and Regs?

Massachusetts wetland regulations may be found at http://www.mass.gov/dep/water/resources/wetlands.htm#wire

The Town of Amherst Wetlands Protection Bylaw and Regulations may be found at http://www.amherstma.gov/index.aspx?nid=1269

How do I know if there are wetlands on my property or what the boundaries are?

A professional environmental scientist/consultant must assess whether or not there are wetlands and what the limits are.  The Conservation Commission must then verify the delineation through the public meeting or hearing process.  For more information, please contact 259-3202.

How do I find an environmental consultant?

The Conservation Department has a list of local consultants, but you may contact other New England firms or individuals by searching the phonebook or internet.

If I am doing work on my property and there are wetlands – what do I need to do?

If you propose to do work which alters the landscape within 100 feet of a wetland or propose work in a wetland – you must file for a permit with the Conservation Commission.  For more information, please contact 259-3202.

If I suspect I have wetlands on my property and want to do work in or near them, who do I contact?

You may contact the Wetlands Administrator who will assist you with the permitting process.  For more information, please contact 259-3202.

I’m putting up a shed and/or deck addition; do I need a permit to do so?

If the structures are within 100 feet of a wetland, then yes – you must obtain a permit from the Conservation Commission.  For more information, please contact 259-3202.

I noticed my neighbor doing work on their property near a wetland – what should I do?

Work in or near wetlands is regulated by Massachusetts General Law and Local Bylaw.  Work conducted without obtaining the necessary permit(s) is illegal and should be reported to the Wetlands Administrator.  For more information, please contact 259-3202.

What do I do if I have beavers on my property?

Contact both the Health Department and the Conservation Department.