Wetlands can be described as the transitional zones between uplands and deep water -- they are areas that are dependent on the presence of water for all or part of the time. Because of this, wetlands that do not have water in them year-round can sometimes be difficult to recognize. However, their presence in the landscape is still significant, as they will fill with water during a flood or storm event and perform important wetland functions, such as sediment stabilization, flood attenuation, and nutrient cycling, along with many others.
In the past, wetlands have been viewed as nuisance areas, and until relatively recently, the United States federal government has supported policies that encouraged the draining of wetlands, usually for conversion to cropland. Now wetlands are recognized for their value to human health and economics and are protected ecosystems regulated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), as outlined in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Texas, often thought of as a relatively dry state, contains millions of acres of wetlands of varying types. These wetlands perform a wide array of functions that are invaluable to wildlife and humankind, and with wise use and conservation, we can insure Texas wetlands will still exist for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
The third national wetlands report by the Service states that the estimated wetland loss rate is now 58,500 acres annually. In 1997, there were an estimated 105.5 million acres of wetlands in the conterminous United States, and 100.5 million acres (95 percent) of this total are freshwater wetlands.