A Landowner's Guide to Wetland Restoration

Restoring wetlands can enhance or create excellent habitat for wildlife and natural places for people to enjoy. Wetlands also help to improve water quality and store flood water. It is estimated that over 50% of North and South Carolina’s wetlands have been drained, filled, converted to other land uses since early European settlement.

What is Wetland Restoration?

Wetland restoration is taking action to reverse human-caused changes so the land can return back to a more natural state. The main problems for wetlands are lack of adequate water and the right kinds of plants.

How are Wetlands Restored?

Wetlands can be restored by bringing back the right amount of water and re-establishing wetland plants.

Restore the water
  • plug or fill drainage ditches
  • remove fill material (rock, gravel, sand, dirt) from historically wet areas
  • remove dams to lower water levels in ponds and lakes
  • remove drain pipes (tiles) used to drain fields for farming
  • reconnect streams with adjacent low land floodplains so the floodplains can soak up water and decrease flooding elsewhere
Restore the habitat
  • plant native trees, shrubs, plants
  • remove non-native plants
  • exclude livestock from wet areas to allow natural regeneration and improve water quality

How can land owners restore wetlands on their properties?

  • What is the history of your site and resulting
    changes to your wetland?
  • How can these man-made changes be reversed?
  • Understand what wetland type(s) you have. Do you have marsh? Forested wetland?
  • Talk to local natural resource agencies about ideas on what activities they would suggest for restoring your wetland. To protect water quality, some activities may require a permit, especially if you are moving dirt in or near a stream or wetland.
  • Outline your restoration goals for the wetland. What steps are required to achieve these goals?
  • Consider consulting with a native plant nursery for wetland plant suggestions, or a private consulting company for assistance in creating and implementing your plan, especially if manipulation of dirt or water is planned.
  • Funding may be available for your restoration. Contact your county, local soil and water conservation district, or other natural resource agency for information.  Click here for a list of resources.
  • Observe your wetland for a couple of years. Take pictures. Is your wetland on the right track? Is it returning to a more natural state?
  • Remember that wetland restoration is a process that can take several years to see results. Some years will be wetter or drier, and wetland plants take time to establish.
  • Consider long-term legal protection, such as through a conservation easement. This can also include nearby or surrounding natural areas to further protect your restored wetland.


You can download a PDF brochure of this information or contact us and we can mail you a copy.

Photo Description: Restoring wetlands can enhance or create excellent habitat for wildlife and natural places for people to enjoy. Restored wetland at Valle Crucis Park, Boone, NC.
Photo: NC Division of Water Resources (www.



Visit our Resources to find a list of native plant nurseries and link to federal and state resources..