Corps Puts Plant List on More Predictable Path

swamp doghobble

The swamp doghobble is on the 2016 National Wetland Plant List. Photo by Robert H.Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Earlier this week, the U.S. Army Corps announced the availability of the 2016 National Wetland Plant List and – in response to NAHB’s request – established a process for future updates to the list that will make it more predictable and transparent.

The Corps uses the plant list to establish one of three markers needed to identify a wetland: soil, hydrology and vegetation or plants. It’s important because land development and home building activities in places that meet the federal wetland definition are often subject to expensive and time-consuming Clean Water Act permitting regulations.

When the Corps first took over administration of the plant list in 2012, it made a number of changes without the benefit of an open, transparent process. Since that time, NAHB has been working with Corps officials to address member concerns.

In response to NAHB members’ repeated requests, the Corps published the plant list in the Federal Register last fall for notice and comment.

NAHB requested a transparent, predictable process for builders and their consultants to rely on as they conduct wetland delineations.

And the regulators listened. The recent announcement formalizes a process for future updates to the list which will occur every other year according to the following steps:

  • A change in plant status (e.g., from wetland to upland) can be requested at any time using this link.
  • Proposed plant status changes will be compiled in January of odd years and sent to Corps voting panels.
  • Proposed changes will be published in the Federal Register for public comment in September of odd years.
  • Final changes will be published in December of odd years.

But challenges remain. NAHB’s comments addressed the list’s deficiencies, including a lack of scientific data to support the listing of over 2,700 plants and concerns about the composition and credentials of the list’s national and regional voting panels. Regrettably, the Corps did not grant the association’s request for inclusion of non-governmental plant experts on voting panels nor did it remove species from the list that lack supporting scientific data.

The 2016 plant list will become effective May 1 and be used in wetland delineations performed thereafter. A summary of status changes by region and the response to technical comments is available on the plant list website.

For more information, contact Amy Chai or Owen McDonough.

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