Tidal wetlands are flat, vegetated areas that are subject to regular flooding by the tides. The most familiar form of tidal wetland, and a defining feature of Connecticut’s shoreline landscape, is the coastal salt marsh characterized by such plants as salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), salt meadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) and spikegrass (Distichlis spicata). Tidal wetlands provide more than scenic vistas; they are an indispensable part of the Long Island Sound ecosystem, serving such functions as waterfowl and wildlife habitat, pollution control, floodwater storage, and nurseries for fish and shellfish.

Up until the late 1960s, tidal wetlands were considered swamps and wasteland, useful only when dredged, drained, or filled. As an unfortunate result, over one-third of Connecticut’s tidal wetlands have been lost since colonial times. Our remaining tidal wetlands, therefore, are all the more important to the health of Long Island Sound and deserve special efforts to protect them.

Since the implementation of the Connecticut Tidal Wetlands Act in 1969 and the Connecticut Coastal Management Act in 1980, the most serious threat to our remaining tidal wetlands is posed not by large-scale development projects but by piece­meal degradation of small wetland areas on private lots and back yards. Degrading tidal wetlands by filling, dredging, dumping of brush or debris, or blocking tidal flow is perhaps the greatest damage that individuals can inflict upon the Sound.

In addition to the loss of resource and habitat values, the destruction of tidal wetland vegetation can lead to colonization by nuisance species, such as the invasive common reed, Phragmites australis. Phragmites has relatively less wildlife habitat value, and its thickly-growing stalks often block access to the water.