Tribal Wetland ProgramsOVERVIEW

Wetlands and other water resources hold cultural significance to many Tribal Communities. Wetlands may provide Tribes with healthy, traditional foods for subsistence or sustenance; plants used for medicinal, healing, and ceremonial purposes; reeds and grasses for weaving baskets and textiles; and fish and other wildlife. Many Tribal Communities undertake efforts to protect and restore these valuable resources. Development of a Tribal Wetland Program is an opportunity for a Tribal Community to identify priorities and implement plans for managing and protecting their wetland resources. This webpage is intended to provide tools and resources for Tribal wetland program managers to utilize when building and developing their wetland programs.

The National Association of Wetland Managers (NAWM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have worked with Tribes to develop a series of Tribal Wetland Programs Webinars focused on developing effective Tribal wetland programs that accommodate and account for the unique ways in which Tribes manage their wetland and cultural resources. Beginning in 2018, NAWM and EPA worked with an advisory group from EPA Region 10 and the Pacific Northwest Tribal Wetlands Working Group (TWWG) to develop webinars; later webinars in this series capture lessons learned from Tribes in regions all across the U.S. Currently, NAWM and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota GeoSpatial Services (SMUM), along with an advisory workgroup composed primarily of Tribal wetland managers, are developing a series of webinars focused on building Tribal wetland programs that are being presented in 2022 and 2023. Click here to view information on upcoming webinars in this series.

The following sections discuss various aspects of Tribal wetland programs and provide links to relevant resources. Additional resources that may be of interest are available on NAWM’s State Wetland Programs webpage.


Every Tribal wetland program is unique, but in 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed guidance to assist tribes (and states) in building strong programs. A foundation of EPA’s Enhancing State and Tribal Programs Initiative (ESTP) is the document Core Elements of State and Tribal Wetland Programs, also called the Core Elements Framework (CEF). Drafted with state and tribal input, this document describes four core program elements (monitoring and assessment, regulatory activities, wetland restoration and protection, and water quality standards for wetlands) that provide a comprehensive approach to wetland program building activities. Development of a Wetland Program Plan reflecting current and future actions in one or more of the core elements is a voluntary program and not required by EPA. The CEF is intended to be fairly comprehensive so that states and tribes can choose from an array of actions that are best suited to their goals and resources. EPA recognizes that program development activities will continue to be incremental and bounded by the goals and resources within a state or tribe; the Agency does not expect simultaneous development of all core elements by every state and tribe. The ESTP and CEF were designed for state and tribal wetland programs that are in the developing stages but can be useful to all states/tribes including those that are refining more mature wetland programs.


NAWM’s webpage on the EPA Core Elements Framework

NAWM’s webpage on Wetland Program Plans, which includes links to Tribal Wetland Program Plans and 2013 Wetland Program Plan Handbook

EPA’s webpage on Developing a State or Tribal Wetland Program Plan

From EPA: Templates for Developing Wetland Water Quality Standards

EPA Regional Wetland Contacts

The United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET) hosted Wetland Program Plan Writing Workshops in 2020 and 2021. Several resources from the workshops are available on their website


Securing funding to build and sustain a wetland program can a major challenge. Tribal wetland programs may have to pay for personnel, lab monitoring supplies, travel, contractual work, data management, mapping, website maintenance, outreach & education, training, permitting (e.g., site visits, applications), vehicles for field work, overhead expenses, grant administration, and other costs. Funding for Tribal wetland programs is often a combination of Tribal and Federal sources. The following sections provide resources on applying for EPA grants and other potential funding sources for Tribal wetland programs.

EPA Funding

A list of potential EPA funding sources for Tribal wetland programs is available here.

EPA’s Office of Grants and Debarment provides information and training programs on putting grant applications, developing budgets and work plans, and other relevant topics.

The PNW Tribal Wetland Working Group (TWWG) held training sessions on developing competitive WPDGs: Part 1, Part 2

Other Potential Funding Sources

The following EPA webpage also includes potential funding sources from other federal agencies.

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Branch of Tribal Climate Resilience has an Annual Awards Program. An informational webinar on the Program and Request for Proposals was held on April 25, 2022 and is available for viewing on the ITEP website.

General information from NAWM on Sustainable Financing for States and Tribes.


NAWM and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota GeoSpatial Services (SMUM) are currently working on a project to increase the capacity of Tribal Communities to protect, restore, and mitigate impacts to tribal wetlands by providing training on innovative tools, wetland science, grant writing, outreach, and communication. NAWM and SMUM have assembled an advisory workgroup, composed primarily of Tribal wetland managers, to inform project tasks and findings.

A part of this project will be developing of webinars on a variety of topics related to Tribal wetland programs. Information on upcoming webinars and recordings of past webinars can be accessed here.