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Water: Wetlands

Core Elements of an Effective State and Tribal Wetlands Program Framework

What is the Core Elements Framework?

The CEF outlines the core elements of a state or tribal wetland program, describes each core element, and provides a comprehensive menu of program-building activities for each core element.

EPA hopes that a clearer definition of core elements and collection of concrete actions outlined in the CEF will increase the understanding of what comprises a state and tribal wetlands program and encourage more states and tribes to pursue a strategic approach to wetland program development.

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. The CEF is designed as a menu of activities that states and tribes can draw from to design their own roadmap towards a more comprehensive wetland program. States and tribes will implement the CEF depending on their individual program goals and available resources.

For each core element the CEF provides a menu or table of program building activities. Actions listed in the tables are a suite of activities that a state or tribe can pursue to advance development of that core element. The CEF has four chapters, one for each core element, which include:

  1. Definitions: Provides a concise description of each core element: Monitoring and Assessment, Regulatory activities including 401 Certification, Voluntary Restoration and Protection, and Water Quality Standards for Wetlands;

  2. Goals and Benefits: Identifies federal goals associated with each core element and provides examples of state and tribal goals (e.g., more habitat for threatened and endangered species, greater protection from storms). This section also includes benefits that states and tribes could enjoy if they pursued each core element (e.g., well-defined restoration priorities that are informed by monitoring and assessment data could protect the most vulnerable wetlands in a watershed);

  3. Menu of Program Development Actions: outlines a set of objectives for each core element, key program-building actions, and a menu of activities that states and tribes can use to advance wetland program development and gauge progress.

The CEF also includes an introductory chapter and selected references and resources; the latter will be updated over time and case studies will be added.

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How will the Core Elements Framework be Used?

The CEF is intended primarily as a resource for states and tribes, in particular those that are building their wetland programs. EPA recommends that states and tribes consult the CEF in identifying goals and next steps for program development. EPA Regional Offices will use the CEF as a basis for program development discussions with states and tribes. Beginning in FY10, Wetland Program Development Grant (WPDG) Requests for Proposals will reference the CEF and ask that proposals describe how the project links with one or more program development actions in the CEF. This webpage will be updated in Spring 2009 to describe in more detail how the CEF will be incorporated into the WPDGs.

EPA will also use the CEF, along with information from states and tribes on their program development goals and needs, to prioritize and deliver targeted technical assistance beginning in FY09. Depending on expressed need, we will provide targeted trainings, distribute best practices by states and tribes with well-developed programs, and support peer-to-peer learning forums to help states and tribes enhance their programs.

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Enhancing State and Tribal Programs and the Core Elements Framework Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does the ESTP initiative provide additional funds to states and tribes?

Much of the ESTP effort is focused on using the resources we have more strategically. We know that many state and tribal wetlands programs today are not able to meet all of their program goals because of insufficient or inconsistent funding.

  • EPA will develop and support additional state and tribal peer-to-peer information networks as well as targeting EPA resources to specific training and technical support for program building activities under the core elements framework.
  • The EPA Wetlands Program is sponsoring a series of workshops and trainings on sustainable finance. The purpose of these sustainable finance workshops is to help state and tribal wetlands programs develop a stable and appropriate funding model to better meet their goals. Sustainable Financing for State and Tribal Wetland Programs  Exit EPA Disclaimer

2. How does this initiative impact support for previous EPA's wetland program priorities? For example, in the past 2-4 years, EPA has focused on building state and tribal wetlands' monitoring and assessment programs. Will this priority continue to be supported?

We will continue to support states and tribes work in any of the core elements, including providing on-going support for monitoring and assessment. Core elements will receive equal consideration, so in general, we won't select certain core elements for emphasis. However monitoring and assessment is the foundation for much of the other work in program development. We anticipate many states and tribes will begin or continue to work in this area.

3. Why does the ESTP focus on smaller, less developed state and tribal wetland programs?

  • ESTP support is available to all states and tribes. However it is designed with the needs of smaller wetland programs in mind. We are focusing on those states and tribes actively working to further build small programs because small-FTE programs are most dependent on EPA funding and technical assistance for program results thus we believe greatest improvement with EPA resources can be made here. See a copy of the evaluation (PDF) (29 pp, 461K, About PDF).
  • We will continue to assist developed program as well. The Core Elements Framework includes objectives and associated program building activities that can be used to refine more fully developed programs.

4. How will the Core Elements Framework enhance technical assistance?

  • The Core Elements Framework clearly defines the core elements and outlines a menu of program activities under each core element. By clearly defining ways to move forward in program development and aligning EPA's technical assistance, including targeted trainings and outreach, we can provide more relevant support to willing states/tribes. The Core Elements Framework will help EPA to track specific program building actions that state are working on and can help EPA tailor assistance to areas where a significant number of states and tribes are working.
  • EPA will also align the Wetlands Program Development Grants with the Core Elements Framework to put more emphasize on program development.

5. When and how will the Core Elements Framework be used in grant decisions?

  • The Wetland Program Development Grants are EPA's primary source of financial support for state and tribal programs. A 2007 evaluation of the grants program indicated that most grant funds have gone to program development though there have been some exceptions. EPA will use the Core Elements Framework to guide program development and beginning in FY10 intends to ask grantees to reference the Core Elements Framework in their proposed grant activities

6. How can state and tribes do all the activities listed in the Core Elements Framework with no additional funding?

  • EPA doesn't expect state and tribes to undertake all the activities
  • Much of the ESTP effort is focused on using both EPA and state and tribal resources for wetland work more strategically.
  • The Core Elements Framework is very broad and states and tribes will find that it is a comprehensive set of program building activities. It is to be viewed as a menu of activities - there is not the expectation that a state or tribe will commit to all of the core elements or all of the activities under one core element. The state/tribes will pick activities that are best suited to help them meet their program goals.
  • EPA has set aside a limited amount of non-grant funds to support technical assistance activities related to ESTP. For example, support for regional/state meetings or training on the technical components of the ESTP.
  • EPA will develop and support additional state and tribal peer-to-peer information sharing networks as well as targeting EPA resources to specific training and technical support to program building activities under the core elements framework.
  • Consideration will also be given to providing more sustained (3-4 years) grant funding when possible.

7. Did EPA receive state and tribal input on the ESTP and Core Elements Framework?

  • Yes. EPA convened a short-term work group of States and Tribes and ASWM to help review and provide comments on the ESTP and CEF. This focus group consisted of 3 tribes and 12 state representatives. EPA worked closely with this group July- February 2009.

8. Who at EPA can help me with the ESTP and provide help on how to make the best use of the Core Elements Framework?

Rebecca Dils, EPA Wetland State and Local Liaison
Wetlands Strategies and Program Branch
Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds
dils.rebecca@epa.gov, phone 202-566-1378

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