Note: Some of the following photos are larger than can be viewed on a normal PC's monitor. Use the arrow keys to scroll up-down and left-right.
A picture of developer running heavy equipment through wetland area
creating deep troughs which can block migration of the bog turtles. The
four wheel drive backhoe became so mired in the wetland it had to use
it's backhoe to push it along through the area:
Overall view of the tract taken the summer of 2002 from a radio controlled
airplane looking west. Notice upper right the spring house is circled.
Below that one can see the upper (smaller) pond's water level and much
of the surrounding area south and east of the pond is well below the
pond's water level. One can also see the wetlands extending at
mid-right into the woods. The main bulk of the wetland is to the left
of the picture, off camera, only part of which can be observed from
McFadden Road. Bog turtles have been discovered over the
entire wetland area.
Kenneth M. Klemow, Ph.D.
Department of Biology, Wilkes University
We have turned our views on wetlands completely around within the past twenty-five years. Now, wetlands are considered be valuable environmental resources deserving protection. As a result, stringent laws are in effect that regulate development in wetlands. Failure to abide by those regulations can have severe consequences for uninformed or unscrupulous developers. Violators face heavy fines, prison sentences, and costs associated with restoring wetlands back to their original condition. Since the stakes are so high, every property owner should understand how wetlands are legally defined and which activities in wetlands are regulated.
A consistent definition of a wetland was developed during a meeting of the four federal agencies early in 1988. According to that definition, a wetland is any area whose soil is covered with standing water or saturated with sufficient frequency and duration to cause special water-tolerating plants to grow there. Specifically, if the water table is eighteen inches or less from the soil surface for at least one week during the growing season, then the site is a wetland.
Developers in Pennsylvania should pay very close attention to that
definition because many local areas appear at first glance to be dry
uplands, but are really wetlands. The biggest problem for developers is
created on sites that are wet for a few weeks in the late spring, due to
snowmelt, but then dry out throughout the summer. Thus, it is dangerous
to assume that an area is not a wetland merely because it is dry
Property owners who hire a consultant should understand that the consultant acts as an impartial umpire, making a determination according to the evidence available. Therefore, property owners should provide as much information about the property as possible, including any information on past uses. The property owner should give the consultant enough leeway to gather any other information that might be available, especially from neighbors and governmental agencies. Property owners should also recognize that many sites require several visits at different times of the year, due to hydrologic or vegetation patterns that are impossible to assess during a single visit. Finally, property owners should never ask a consultant to "shade" the findings by calling a site an upland when it is really a wetland. When such cases are discovered, both the property owner and the consultant are held liable.