[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 4 (Thursday, January 6, 2011)]
[Pages 777-780]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-3]



Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers

ZRIN 0710-ZA06

National Wetland Plant List

AGENCY: U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The National Wetland Plant List (NWPL) is used to delineate 
wetlands for purposes of the Clean Water Act and the Wetland 
Conservation Provisions of the Food Security Act. Other applications of 
the list include wetland restoration, establishment, and enhancement 
projects. To update the NWPL, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), 
as part of an interagency effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service 
(NRCS), is announcing the availability of the draft National Wetland 
Plant List (NWPL) and its web address to solicit public comments. The 
public will now be provided the opportunity to comment and vote on the 
wetland indicator status ratings of the plants, species nomenclature 
changes and the revisions to the definition of indicator status ratings 
contained in the NWPL.

DATES: Written comments must be submitted on or before March 7, 2011.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on indicator status evaluations and 
general comments through the Web site identified below. Whenever 
possible, commenters should submit comments on-line at: http://wetland_plants.usace.army.mil/. For instructions on how to submit 
comments online, please go to the supplementary section below.
    For those without internet access, comments may be sent to Ms. 
Karen Mulligan, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Community of 
Practice, 441 G St., NW., Washington, DC 20314-1000.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Karen Mulligan, Headquarters, 
Regulatory Community of Practice, Washington, DC or Mr. Robert Lichvar, 
Director of the National Wetland Plant List, Engineer Research and 
Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. 
Ms. Mulligan can be reached at (202) 761-4664 and Mr. Lichvar can be 
reached at (603) 646-4657.



    The effort to develop a comprehensive wetland plant list began with 
the FWS in 1976 and paralleled the development of their wetland 
classification system for the National Wetland Inventory (NWI), which 
culminated in Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the 
United States in 1979. A brief footnote in that publication mentions 
that the FWS intended to produce ``a list of hydrophytes and other 
plants occurring in wetlands of the United States'' for use in 
conjunction with the NWI. At about the same time the NRCS, then known 
as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), initiated an effort to prepare 
a preliminary list of hydric soils, again for use with the NWI. Through 
a series of subsequent drafts, the FWS effort eventually led to the 
production of the National List of Plant Species That Occur in 
Wetlands: 1988 National Summary (List 88)--and associated regional 
    The FWS initially derived the lists by searching some 300 national 
and regional floras and other scientific publications. This effort 
produced the Annotated National Wetland Plant Species Database, which 
documented the taxonomy, nomenclature, distribution, and ecology of 
wetland flora in the U.S. In 1987, the SCS (through a contract with the 
Biota of North America Program [BONAP]) updated the taxonomy and 
nomenclature that culminated in List 88. During the initial development 
of the database, a wetland rating system was created based on habitat

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descriptions derived from the various regional floras, botanical 
manuals, and other scientific works.
    In the early 1980s, the four primary Federal agencies involved in 
wetland delineation (Corps, EPA, FWS, and NRCS) realized the potential 
utility of the plant and soil lists for wetland delineation purposes in 
conjunction with wetland delineation manuals that were under 
development at that time. All wetland delineation manuals produced at 
the Federal level during the 1980s referenced these plant lists in 
defining hydrophytic vegetation.
    The four agencies agreed to participate cooperatively on Regional 
Interagency Review Panels. A National Panel of wetland ecologists was 
assembled to review and further revise the various plant lists and the 
wetland rating system established by the FWS. This rating system, based 
on the frequency that a particular plant occurs within wetlands versus 
uplands, eventually led to the five indicator categories listed in List 
88 (i.e., obligate wetland, facultative wetland, facultative, 
facultative upland, and obligate upland).
    The FWS realized that subsequent editions of their List 88 would be 
inevitable and an appeal procedure was established for submitting 
proposed changes to the list (e.g. additions, deletions, and changes in 
indicator statuses). Since the original publication of List 88, many 
changes to the taxonomy and nomenclature of wetland plants have been 
proposed and accepted. Following the original publication of List 88, 
the FWS adopted a revised taxonomic standard, Synonymized Checklist of 
the Vascular Flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (Kartesz 
1994), as a basis for the names included within the proposed list, 
National List of Vascular Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands (List 
    The National Panel and the FWS considered it necessary to respond 
to requests for changes to List 88 and to the numerous revisions in 
both taxonomy and nomenclature by proposing List 96 and its derivative 
regional lists. The FWS published proposed changes to List 88 in the 
Federal Register (62 CFR 2680) on January 17, 1997, in compliance with 
a 1996 Memorandum of Agreement between the Corps, EPA, FWS, and NRCS. 
The National Panel received comments and, in conjunction with the 
Regional Panels, reviewed and considered all comments in developing the 
final draft of List 96. For a variety of reasons, List 96 was never 
finalized, and List 88 remains the only approved list of wetland plant 
indicator statuses.
    In 2005, the FWS developed plans to update and adopt List 96 as 
List 05. This new List was to include all of the changes in scientific 
names and wetland indicator statuses that were needed because of 
taxonomic and nomenclatural changes; however, this update never 
occurred. In December 2006, the administration of the list was 
transferred from the FWS to the Corps through a Memorandum of 
Agreement, which renamed the list as the National Wetland Plant List. 
The list continues to be an interagency product maintained by the 
Corps, FWS, EPA, and NRCS. The National Panel consists of 
representatives from each of the four participating agencies who direct 
the continued development of the NWPL. They guide the work by updating 
the taxonomy and nomenclature along with wetland indicator statuses of 
wetland plants nationwide. The number of plants listed has changed 
since List 88; growing from 6,728 species to 7,662 in List 96, with the 
majority of the increase resulting from taxonomic and nomenclatural 
changes, including the addition of many infraspecific taxa (i.e., 
varieties and subspecies). By 2010, further advances in systematic 
science involving wetland plants resulted in an additional 1,600 
infraspecific entries. Because of taxonomic and nomenclatural changes 
since 1988, the number of infraspecific taxa has increased to 2,200; 
substantially more than the original 12 in List 88 and 600 in List 96. 
Because this seemed to be an impractically high number of entries, the 
National Panel of the NWPL decided to revert back to the species-level 
taxonomy, and to not include any infraspecific taxa. Thus, the current 
review of the 8,558 species does not separately treat these 
infraspecific taxa with their own distinct wetland ratings and includes 
all the infraspecific taxa at the species-level.

Nomenclature Issues

    Changes in nomenclature frequently affect the wetland indicator 
status. In the updated database, the currently accepted name is linked 
to the List 96 and List 88 scientific names and any former synonyms. 
This link allows a reviewer to consider all prior ratings, which may be 
critical information for species that have been merged or split. The 
National Panel established methods using List 96 draft ratings as the 
starting point to minimize effort and recognize prior updates from the 
1990s. Many changes to nomenclature and scientific advances were 
considered during the updating of the NWPL, including the following 
    1. Species names from List 96 that did not change and are currently 
    2. Species names from List 96 that were assigned a new species name 
(these include misapplication of genus, spelling, recognized author 
changed, etc.).
    3. Two or more species names from List 96 that merged into one 
species name (these include all nomenclatural adjustments such as 
autonyms, homonyms, hybrids, isonyms, synonyms, tautonyms, etc.).
    4. Species names from List 96 that were split into two or more 
species names.
    5. New species of wetland taxa that were added since Kartesz's 1994 

Indicator Status Ratings

    In List 88, there are five categories of indicator status, or 
ratings, used to describe a plant's likelihood for occurrence in a 
wetland versus an upland: Obligate Wetland (OBL), Facultative Wetland 
(FACW), Facultative (FAC), Facultative Upland (FACU), and Obligate 
Upland (UPL). These ratings represent the estimated probability of a 
species occurring in wetlands versus non-wetlands in a region. This 
method is problematic for two reasons: the ratings are not supported by 
numerical data, and the previous FWS definition of frequency, which was 
the basis for the division of groups that the wetland plant ratings 
were tied to, did not include a mathematical expression useful for 
testing the wetland ratings. These issues have led to 
misinterpretations of the frequency formula. To address some of these 
problems, the National Panel modified the definitions for the indicator 
status categories to increase clarity and to better describe species 
occurrences. The indicator status developed recently by the National 
Panel for updating the NWPL are; OBL--almost always is a hydrophyte, 
rarely in uplands; FACW--usually is a hydrophyte but occasionally found 
in uplands; FAC--commonly occurs as either a hydrophyte or non-
hydrophyte; FACU--occasionally is a hydrophyte but usually occurs in 
uplands; UPL--rarely is a hydrophyte, almost always in uplands.
    The original information supporting indicator status assignments, 
from List 88 through List 96, was qualitative and not quantitative. To 
better reflect this supporting information, the new category 
definitions are also based on qualitative descriptions, rather than 
numeric frequency ranges. The

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percentage frequency categories used in the older definitions will only 
be used for testing problematic or contested species being recommended 
for indicator status changes.

The Update Process

    Over the past year and a half, updates have occurred through a web-
based application that allows many more users to access information, 
while also retaining a permanent and transparent update record. Using 
the secure Web site, the National and Regional Panels have been able 
work online in their efforts to generate a draft Federal update of the 
NWPL. Until this notice in the Federal Register, the public and other 
governmental entities have had access to the rest of the botanical data 
on the site, but not to the panel evaluations that were used to develop 
the draft NWPL.

Instructions for Providing Comments Online

    When visiting the Web site the first time, the user will have to 
accept the Department of Defense (DoD) certificate associated with the 
secure Web site. Once on the Web site, the user needs to click on the 
link titled ``PARTICIPATE IN THE NWPL UPDATE.'' The commenter will be 
sent to a login page where they will enter their name, a user name 
(first initial and last name), password, e-mail address and select 
their institutional affiliation. The automatic login generator will, by 
e-mail, confirm the registration of the user name and password and the 
user can then login and proceed to the query page. The Corps wetland 
supplement regions map is shown in a color-coded format. Comments may 
be made on one or multiple wetland supplement regions. The entire 
wetland plant list for each wetland supplement region is shown on the 
results page after a region is chosen and accepted. All prior votes 
associated with the update can also be shown on the query results page 
by selecting the ``Yes'' ``Show All Votes?'' radio button at the top of 
the page. Each species has a red ``vote'' link in each row. Clicking on 
the red word ``VOTE'' for that species will send the commenter to the 
species page where a vote may be made. The species page includes 
scientific and common names, synonyms, voting history by the panels, 
1988 and 1996 statuses and maps based on North American distributions 
and counties. This information can be considered when submitting 
comments on the wetland rating for the species. Comments including 
literature citations, experiential references, monitoring data and 
other relevant reports should be submitted through the ``Questions or 
Comments? Contact us!'' link on the homepage. All votes and comments 
will be compiled and sent to the Regional Panel for their 
consideration. In the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains region, ``more 
input needed'' is marked in red for 75 species. The Corps is requesting 
assistance in the form of comments, literature references, data or 
experience for these species in the comment box to help clarify their 
    In all cases, the most useful comments are from specific knowledge 
or studies related to individual species. Reviewers should use their 
regional botanical and ecological expertise, field observations, 
reviews of the most recent indicator status information, appropriate 
botanical literature, floras, herbarium specimens with notation of 
habitat and associated species, habit data, relevant studies, and 
historic list information. Guessing is inappropriate, and for plants 
unknown to the reviewer, it is preferable that commenters select the 
``I do not know (DK)'' option rather than simply guessing an indicator 
    If the commenter has other comments in general that are not species 
specific, there is an email contact link on the homepage. The link is 
titled ``Questions or Comments? Contact us!''. By clicking on this 
link, the commenter can submit other comments in regard to the NWPL 
update in general.
    For the purposes of determining a species frequency and abundance 
in wetlands, wetlands are defined as those areas that are inundated or 
saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration 
sufficient to support, and under normal circumstances do support, a 
prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil 
conditions (33 CFR 328.3 and 40 CFR 230.3). Such wetlands are 
identified using the Corps 1987 Wetland Delineation Manual or relevant 
regional supplements, whichever is more recent. Wetlands are identified 
using the three-factor approach. Because the species being evaluated is 
part of a vegetation assemblage, examining the other species present in 
relation to their assigned wetland fidelity may be useful in assessing 
hydrophytic vegetation.
    Species newly proposed as wetland plants have been added to the 
Draft NWPL. Commenters who would like to propose a new wetland species 
to the list may do so on the home page. These species will be checked 
for current nomenclatural status, and their supportive data will be 
added to the Web site to assist with the assignment of a wetland 
rating. These newly proposed species and suggested ratings will be sent 
to the Regional Panels for review and will go through the same 
evaluation process as for species already on the list.
    Recommendations for a different indicator status for select species 
in additional subregions may be submitted. The subregions are based on 
Land Resource Regions (LRRs) and Major Land Resource Areas (MLRAs) 
(http://soils.usda.gov/survey/geography/mlra/) and are shown for each 
wetland supplement region on the NWPL Web site. If the commenter feels 
that a wetland supplement region needs a subregion that has not yet 
been developed, the commenter should identify the MLRAs involved and 
provide a list of species from within that region that need their own 
wetland ratings. These can be submitted on the home page by clicking on 
the link titled ``PROPOSE NEW SPECIES.''
    When assigning wetland indicator statuses, reviewers should 
consider the ecological information on the Web site, which includes 
prior information obtained by the FWS and others.
    Commenters should use the status definitions described above and 
developed by the National Panel for updating the NWPL. The percentage 
frequency categories used in the older definitions can be used for 
testing problematic or contested species being recommended for 
indicator status changes.
    A sampling and testing protocol is being developed for future 
recommended additions to the NWPL. Future requests for changes to 
wetland ratings will be evaluated using scientific approaches using 
limited but strategic field data. Submissions for future recommended 
changes in indicator status must follow the established protocols and 
must include submission of ecological data, literature review, testing 
description, and geographical data.
    Wetland indicator designations such as No Indicator (NI), No 
Occurrence (NO), and No Agreement (NA) will not be used in the updated 
NWPL. Inclusion of Upland (UPL) plants was considered, but it was 
decided for this update of the NWPL they will not be included until 
after the update is complete. The addition of upland plants later is 
necessary to support wetland delineations that are typically done at 
the ecotone between wetland and upland landscapes. If a plant species 
has been identified as occurring in a wetland habitat, but is not 
listed in a regional or state list, the NWPL should be consulted to 
verify whether that species occurs in wetlands in adjacent areas before 
it is assumed to be UPL and

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the NWPL is updated to label these species with this rating.
    The plus and minus modifiers have been dropped, and only five 
indicator designations (i.e., OBL, FACW, FAC, FACU, UPL) will be used 
in the NWPL. All plants previously assigned these modifiers have been 
merged into their broader indicator category during the review and 
revision process, with the exception of those plants assigned FAC-. The 
National and Regional Panels, as well as the academics, reviewed all 
species from the 1996 National List of Plant Species that Occur in 
Wetlands (hereafter called the List, with specific versions noted by 
their year of establishment) that were assigned FAC- to appropriately 
categorize their wetland rating.

Future Actions

    Public comments received through the web-based system will be 
compiled and tracked to provide an administrative record.
    Regional Panels, in conjunction with the National Panel, will 
review comments from the Tribes, other federal agencies, states, and 
the public and will develop the final regional lists. The majority of 
final wetland ratings will be developed based on the analysis of all 
input and comments. For those species without general agreement, the 
National Panel will assign ratings using a specific protocol developed 
for this purpose.
    After the National Panel assigns wetland ratings to non-consensus 
species and reviews all regional lists, it will develop the final NWPL.
    Notice of the final NWPL will be published in the Federal Register 
along with the web address.
    Maintenance and annual reviews and updates of the NWPL will be done 
using the web-based system.

Future for the NWPL Web Site

    Protocols were developed to ensure that updates to the NWPL will 
occur biennially or as necessary and that they will follow 
scientifically acceptable procedures. The updating process will provide 
guidelines established by the National Panel for testing wetland 
indicator status ratings for future recommended changes and additions 
to the NWPL. The process will be supported by an interactive Web site 
where all procedures and supportive information will be posted. 
Information on this searchable Web site will include the names of all 
National and Regional Panel members, prior ecological information 
obtained by the FWS or Kartesz (BONAP) for each species, any comments 
previously made by others that was retained in the FWS database on the 
NWPL, and links to botanical literature and plant ecology information 
to support assignment of wetland indicator statuses of all species 
under consideration.
    Once the NWPL is initially updated, this Web site will be expanded 
to include upland plants and facilitate regular updates as additional 
information is submitted and nomenclature changes. These changes will 
be generated through a modification of the web-based process outlined 
above. Regular updates based on nomenclature changes will be developed 
on a biennial basis. Anyone may petition for a change in indicator 
status for any taxon by submitting appropriate ecological data, 
literature review, testing description, and geographic data. This will 
include frequency and abundance data for the taxon in wetlands and 
uplands in a broad range of the wetland supplement region or subregion 
for which the change is proposed. Such data will be reviewed and 
evaluated by the appropriate Regional Panel, and any changes they 
recommend will go through a vetting process similar to the initial NWPL 
update. The Web site will contain the most recent, currently valid 
indicator statuses.


    We utilize the NWPL to conduct wetland determinations under the 
authority of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344) and 
Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 401 et 

    Dated: December 17, 2010.
Michael G. Ensch,
Chief, Operations and Regulatory, Directorate of Civil Works.
[FR Doc. 2011-3 Filed 1-5-11; 8:45 am]