Wetland Ecology

Wetlands are among the most valuable ecological communities on earth due to the diversity of species they support and their role in their role in the greater ecosystem.  As a result, regulations including the Clean Water Act have been implemented to protect wetlands and the ecological functions that they provide.

Wetlands are a major focus for Birch Ecology and we are experts in wetland delineation, Section 404 Wetland Permitting, wetland mitigation, and monitoring of wetland creation and restoration sites.  Our ecologists have worked extensively in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region, in wetland environments ranging from the plains to the alpine.  We are experienced with complex wetland delineations, including studies that required detailed analyses of groundwater data to map wetlands in flood irrigated pastures and hayfields.  In addition, we have prepared comprehensive environmental impact evaluations for sensitive subalpine wetlands, and have worked with the EPA to restore wetlands following Clean Water Act violations.  Our team of experienced plant ecologists and soil scientists provides the technical background to ensure the accuracy and high quality of our investigations.

Fen wetland with Buckbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.


Our ecologists have mapped hundreds of acres of wetlands in the Rocky Mountain west and we take pride in the accuracy of our delineations.  For complex delineations, we offer what few other firms in Colorado can – a team approach that includes an experienced plant ecologist paired with a Certified Professional Soil Scientist who is an expert in wetland soils.  This results in the highest quality studies for our clients.  When delineators are inexperienced, it can have considerable financial impacts. Our technical expertise ensures the accuracy of wetland mapping for project planning and due diligence; it provides a better opportunity to understand the ecology of an area; and it creates a better foundation for designing and implementing wetland creation and restoration projects.

Wetland delineation for a stream restoration project on the Williams Fork River in Routt County, Colorado.



Wetlands are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act and by many local governments as a part of the land use code and development review process.  We have experience obtaining Section 404 Wetland Permits and local wetland permits for a diversity of projects including residential and commercial developments, ski and golf resorts, stream restoration and river stabilization projects, recreational facilities, dam and reservoir improvements, and transportation and utility projects.  Our ecologists have an established reputation and excellent working relationships with regulators at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, and state and local agencies.  This facilitates effective communication to address the needs and concerns of our clients.

Bridge piers were restored under a Nationwide Wetland Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.



We have considerable experience restoring and creating wetlands for Section 404 wetland permits and for local wetland mitigation requirements.  We use proven techniques to establish diverse plant communities that meet their ecological performance standards and minimize the length of monitoring and reporting period.   We can help to make wetland mitigation into an aesthetic amenity that serves multiple purposes: increased wildlife habitat value, improved water quality, bank stabilization, fisheries enhancements.  We have experience restoring wetlands impacted by Clean Water Act violations and coordinating with personnel at the EPA to gain final approval of restored wetlands.

Newly planted wetland creation in Silverthorne, Colorado.


Restoration of streamside wetlands and riparian habitats requires a specialized set of revegetation techniques and a detailed knowledge of river hydrology and geomorphology.  Our multidisciplinary team of plant ecologists, stream hydrologists, soil scientists and river engineers works collaboratively to design and implement stream restoration projects.  These have successfully increased the ecological functions and values of riparian habitats along major rivers as well as small mountain streams.  For additional information, please refer to our STREAM RESTORATION services page.

Willow cuttings in a riparian wetland restoration along the South Platte River near Ft. Morgan, Colorado. Photo Credit: Steve Belz


Careful monitoring is essential for the success of wetland creation and restoration projects, particularly during the first two growing seasons.  We regularly visit our restoration sites to identify any problems and provide timely recommendations.  In particular, it is important to manage noxious weeds and other invasive species; ensure the site has a wetland hydrology; and determine if wildlife and/or human use is causing damage.  By providing timely and well-considered recommendations to our clients, then overseeing the necessary work, we can achieve project success criteria and meet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mitigation requirements within the minimum required time period.

We utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods to document vegetation establishment and track changes to plant communities over time. For our quantitative monitoring projects, we establish permanent vegetation monitoring transects, then collect vegetation cover, species richness, survivorship, and other data as required by the ecological performance standards. We use statistical analyses to characterize the plant community and to evaluate changes over time.  This can be particularly important when bonding or warranty issues are tied to the vegetation success criteria.

Vegetation establishment in a wetland creation is evaluated by collecting plant cover data.


Irrigation is a common practice in the Rocky Mountain West, and it has a tremendous influence on the distribution of wetlands across our landscape.  Irrigation-induced wetlands are generally not regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  However, the burden is placed on the landowner to demonstrate which wetlands are supported solely by flood irrigation in order to remove them from Corps jurisdiction.

Our team has considerable experience developing and implementing groundwater hydrology monitoring investigations to delineate natural vs. irrigation-induced wetlands.  Our studies are conducted in accordance with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Technical Standard for Water-Table Monitoring of Potential Wetland Sites (2005).  Using this approach, irrigation is terminated and groundwater elevations are regularly measured throughout the growing season for one or more years.  At the conclusion of the study, the areas that lack a natural wetland hydrology as defined by the Technical Standard are not regulated by the Corps.

Groundwater hydrology monitoring well constructed of finely slotted PVC embedded in sand and capped with a bentonite plug.


Functional assessments have become an important tool for wetland ecologists and regulatory agencies.  These methods seek to quantify the ecosystem services provided by individual wetlands. In contrast to the typical acre-for-acre comparisons, functional assessments are based on the ecological functions a wetland provides due to its landscape position, vegetation, hydrology, size, and other factors.  Functional assessments are used by regulatory agencies to evaluate wetland impacts in permitting decisions and for determining mitigation requirements.  In addition, functional assessments can be used to establish restoration goals and to monitor the success of restoration projects.  We are experienced in using a variety of methods to document wetland functions, including the Functional Assessment for Colorado Wetlands (FACWet), Montana Assessment Method, and the Ecological Integrity Assessment (EIA).

High-functioning riparian wetlands lining the Eagle River in Wolcott, Colorado.


Fens are a specialized wetland type that is characterized by the accumulation of organic soils.  Due to their uniqueness, the U.S. Forest Service considers them to be essentially irreplaceable and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strictly regulates wetland impacts to fens.  Birch Ecology’s team includes Dave Buscher, a Certified Professional Soil Scientist who is an expert in fen identification and mapping.  Due to the additional regulations associated with fens, it is critically important to accurately identify and map these communities.

Iron Fen in Gunnison County, Colorado.


Our team has established working relationships with federal, state, and local regulatory agencies.  We take pride in our reputation and the accuracy of our studies, and regulators know to expect high-quality work from the Birch Ecology team.  This facilitates effective communication and negotiation on behalf of our clients.

Photo Credit: Jeremy A. Garcia



The Birch Ecology team has experience preparing detailed restoration plans for Clean Water Act Violations.  We have successfully implemented these designs, prepared annual monitoring reports, and gained final project approval from the EPA.

Restored reach of Left Hand Creek in Boulder County, Colorado.


Our ecologists have designed and created several ornamental wetlands as aesthetic amenities for golf courses and private properties, and we have designed demonstration wetlands for educational purposes, with accompanying signs. These projects have been associated with golf courses in Eagle County, an environmental education and conference center in Grand County, and for an educational site with signs for elementary school students in Larimer County, Colorado.

Planting plan for a wetland demonstration garden in Winter Park, Colorado.