National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) NEWS

To coincide with the start of American Wetlands Month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing the completion of the most comprehensive and detailed U.S. wetland data set ever produced. The National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) available for download and through the Wetlands Inventory Mapper ( ) provides access to digitally mapped wetlands for the lower 48 states, Hawaii and dependent territories, as well as 35% of Alaska.

NWI - Wetlands Mapper

NWI – Wetlands Mapper

WOW that’s great, but now     “Wait for it…,     …Wait for itt…,     …Wait for ittt…,
and here it comes…”

The Department of Interior (DOI) has also announced it is stopping any new national wetland inventory mapping [e.g. no updates or improvements to the NWI]. The DOI is doing this by moving the NWI budget line item to its ‘parent’ division which will be using this money for other activities. The NWI budget is only about $4.4 million, and they can move up to $5 million dollars with no Congressional approval.

Many local, state and federal governments use and benefit from the NWI, so it seems absolutely bizarre that the DOI would pull funding for this geospatial layer. Especially when you consider the White House’s recent Climate Data Initiative announcement, and the importance of accurate wetlands data would be for climate change modeling and other resiliency planning efforts.

NSGIC has sent a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary Jewell about this, and last week the Association of State Wetland Managers invited Bill Burgess from NSGIC to go to a meeting with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to emphasize the importance of the NWI and to deliver the message that Wetlands are a dynamic resource and need a dynamic mapping program. As part of this effort NSGIC has prepared the attached information paper on applications of the NWI. This effort is a great example of how NSGIC can quickly mobilize on a national geospatial issue on behalf of the states. I just hope someone at the DOI and White House are listening!

Please take a look at this NSGIC document [Value_NWI_Data_050614_Final]. I’d be interested in hearing from our State, Local Government and Private Industry members on this topic. You can POST your comments below!



Philip S. Worrall
Executive Director
Indiana Geographic Information Council, Inc.


  1. Steve Kloiber says:

    It’s sad that this blog post hasn’t generated any comments.

    The need for good geospatial data on natural resources and land cover (like the NWI) will not go away. People will muddle through with old, out-of-date, wetland inventory data or they will resort to using wetland data extracted from land cover data like NLCD (which has very low classification accuracy for wetlands). Either way, people will be making decisions about managing resources and climate change adaptation with substandard data. Garbage in, garbage out.

    On the other hand, the NWI is definitely due for an overhaul. You can’t keep using an approach largely developed in the 1980s. So maybe this is really an opportunity to re-imagine and re-engineer the process for providing this type of information. You can’t take 40+ years to create a dataset.

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