What Are Wetlands?
Wetlands are areas of land that are covered by water, or that have saturated soil conditions, year-round or for varying periods throughout the year. There are several different types of wetlands, for example marshes, swamps, and bogs, each one distinctive depending on its hydrology, soils, and plant communities. Wetlands serve as transition zones between dry land and open water, protecting water quality by filtering out chemicals, pollutants, and sediments that would typically contaminate a waterway. They also provide natural flood control by soaking up runoff during heavy rainstorms and releasing stored flood waters to creeks and streams during droughts. Wetlands can be a culturally important resource, often providing critical habitats for specially adapted, culturally significant, water-loving plant and animal species.
Protecting Tribal Wetlands
The Santa Ynez Chumash Reservation encompasses an extensive and diverse array of aquatic and terrestrial habitat. These aquatic resources include the perennial flowing Zanja de Cota Creek, the underlying Santa Ynez Upland Groundwater Basin, and a unique composition of freshwater forested and shrub wetlands. In June 2014, the Chumash Environmental Office secured a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for the Tribe to conduct wetlands assessment work throughout the reservation. With the Wetlands Program Development funding, the Tribe aims to expand the water resources program to include monitoring and protection of the wetland areas on the reservation.
Wetland Inventory, Assessment, Mapping
Preliminary assessments conducted by the Chumash Environmental Office have shown that of the Tribe’s total acreage of reservation land, approximately 20% is classified as wetlands. Using geographic information system (GIS) data, aerial photography, and on-the-ground surveys and assessments, the Chumash Environmental Office will delineate and map wetland areas on the reservation, taking inventory of wetland plant and animal species. Hands-on training and educational information will also be provided to the Tribal community to build the Tribe’s capacity to monitor and protect wetlands on the reservation.