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Wetlands of the United States

Their Extent and Their Value To Waterfowl and Other Wildlife

Mallard landing on a pond


Samuel P. Shaw and C. Gordon Fredine


Undisturbed marshes, swamps, and overflow lands have many inherent values and a variety of uses. This report is confined to the use of these natural wetlands by wildlife. Millions of Americans rely on wild animals to furnish them with healthful outdoor recreation.

Other values of wetlands include the storage of ground water, the retention of surface water for farm uses, the stabilization of runoff, the reduction or prevention of erosion, the production of timber, the creation of firebreaks, the provision of an outdoor laboratory for students and scientists, and the production of cash crops such as minnows (for bait), marsh hay, wildrice, blueberries, cranberries, and peat moss. Some wetlands provide good fishing.

This report points out relative values of different types of wetlands to wild game in general and to waterfowl in particular. It locates and describes areas that should be protected and improved to meet the needs of a stable or increasing waterfowl population. The information is presented with the fervent hope that it will assist and stimulate the establishment of more comprehensive land-use programs and policies. The inventory was financed largely by funds derived from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps.

The wetlands data on which this report is based were gathered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the cooperation of various State fish and game agencies. Much of the assessment of waterfowl values was made by State biologists for their respective States.

This resource is based on the following source:
Shaw, Samuel P. and C. Gordon Fredine  1956.  Wetlands of the United States -
     their extent and their value to waterfowl and other wildlife.  U.S.
     Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.  Circular 39.  67pp.
This resource should be cited as:
Shaw, Samuel P. and C. Gordon Fredine  1956.  Wetlands of the United States -
     their extent and their value to waterfowl and other wildlife.  U.S.
     Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.  Circular 39.
     Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 05JAN99).

Table of Contents

Summary of Chapters
The Problem of Saving Wetlands
  • The nature of wetlands
  • Cooperative planning

  • A Century of Wetland Exploitation
  • Swamp Land Acts of 1849, 1850, and 1860
  • Previous inventories
  • Evidences of wetland losses
  • Organized drainage enterprises
  • Other destructive forces

  • Wetland Soils
  • Peats and mucks
  • Alluvial soils
  • Future outlook

  • The Wetlands Inventory
  • Areas covered
  • Classification
  • Evaluation

  • The 20 Wetland Types
  • Inland fresh areas
  • Inland saline areas
  • Coastal fresh areas
  • Coastal saline areas

  • Use of the Inventory
  • Water-control and land-use planning
  • Flyway management
  • Wetland preservation and development
  • Encouraging local wetland projects

  • Public Waterfowl Areas
  • Role of refuges
  • Refuges under public control
  • Refuges and hunting
  • Refuge management
  • Future of refuge programs

  • Improving Wetlands for Waterfowl

    Contributions to Other Wildlife

    Glossary of Plant Names

    List of References

    Text Figures

    Figure 1 -- Agricultural land (acreage as of Jan. 1, 1950) in drainage enterprises
    Figure 2 -- Extent and present value of wetland types
    Figure 3 -- Flyway areas used in analyzing the relative importance of wetland types to waterfowl
    Figure 4 -- Typical bog and a dam which made the bog into a good waterfowl pond in New Hampshire
    Figure 5 -- Horicon Marsh in Dodge County, Wis.
    Figure 6 -- Pothole blasted by Wisconsin Conservation Department in Rat River Marsh, Winnebago County, Wis.
    Figure 7 -- Highway pond above Portsmouth, N.H., where new turnpike was used as a dam to impound a former salt marsh
    Figure 8 -- Fenced stock-water pond in eastern Montana
    Figure 9 -- Marsh in Cattaraugus County, N.Y., Showing stages of watrefowl habitat-improvement project
    Figure 10 -- Willow Slough State game Preserve, Newton County, Ind.
    Figure 11 -- Pheasant hunters in marsh in Emmett County, Iowa
    Figure 12 -- Beaver pond in Michigan, which created good waterfowl habitat


    Plate 1 -- Seasonally flooded basins or flats
    Plate 2 -- Inland fresh meadows
    Plate 3 -- Inland shallow fresh marshes
    Plate 4 -- Inland deep fresh marshes
    Plate 5 -- Inland open fresh water
    Plate 6 -- Shrub swamps
    Plate 7 -- Wooded swamps
    Plate 8 -- Bogs
    Plate 9 -- Inland saline flats
    Plate 10 -- Inland saline marshes
    Plate 11 -- Inland open saline water
    Plate 12 -- Coastal shallow fresh marshes
    Plate 13 -- Coastal deep fresh marshes
    Plate 14 -- Coastal open fresh water
    Plate 15 -- Coastal salt flats
    Plate 16 -- Coastal salt meadows
    Plate 17 -- Irregularly flooded salt marshes
    Plate 18 -- Regularly flooded salt marshes
    Plate 19 -- Sounds and bays
    Plate 20 -- Mangrove swamps
    Plate 21 -- Distribution of wetlands of the United States


    Table 1 -- Acreage granted to States for swamp reclamation
    Table 2 -- Change in wetland acreage since 1850
    Table 3 -- Growth and condition of land in drainage enterprises for specified years
    Table 4 -- Estimated acreage of fertile, undeveloped land that is physically feasible to provide with drainage in selected humid sections of the United States, 1948
    Table 5 -- Description and acreage of wetland types in the United States
    Table 6 -- Values of wetlands to waterfowl, based on State-unit determinations
    Table 7 -- Use of wetland types by game and fur animals
    Table 8 -- Number of game and fur species using wetlands

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