The last few days have been hectic in more ways than one. For one, the new wetland indicator plant list is out. This list was first issued in 1988, with revisions in 1993 and 1996. This latest revision comes after years of work, and the release of the new final list was announced in a recent Federal Register notice.
In case you don't know, this list is really important. This is the list that identifies wetland plants. It's one of the main tools used by wetland delineators to assess the presence of a wetland. You can find the latest list for Washington here.
In our Wetland CAO draft, aspen/cottonwood wetlands are singled out for special protection because they are considered the "best of the best" in the words of the CAO draft. However, in the new wetland indicator plant list for Washington, aspens are given a rating of FACU, which means aspens are not a wetland plant. Cottonwoods, by the way, are identified as FAC, which means they are found between 33% and 67% of the time in wetlands. Despite being found outside of wetlands as much as two-thirds of the time, that's good enough for cottonwoods to be classified as a wetland indicator.
The bottom line is that one of our most important CAO wetland categories protects "wetlands" that are typified by a federally-listed non-wetland plant (aspen). I wonder if we'll be protecting prickly pear wetlands next?