Status of Vernal Pool Protections in Michigan

While vernal pools receive limited specific protections from state & federal government regulations, there are still ways local communities, foresters, and other stakeholders can protect and advocate for increased regulation of vernal pools. Please visit our Resources tab for more information. Below are the current ways that vernal pools would be regulated under current Michigan wetland law, Part 303. 

State Protection

There are several ways that vernal pools would be regulated under Part 303, Wetlands Protection (state law):

  • The vernal pool is more than 5 acres in size or is part of a wetland that is more than 5 acres in size.

  • The vernal pool has, or is part of a wetland that has, a documented presence of an endangered or threatened species under part 365 or the federal Endangered Species Act

  • Is part of a rare and imperiled wetland as defined by Part 303 in Section 30301.  Vernal pools are not currently listed as one of the types of rare and imperiled wetlands.

  • The vernal pool has, or is part of a wetland that has, a permanent, seasonal, or intermittent surface water connection or other direct physical contact with an inland lake or pond, a river or stream, one of the Great Lakes, or Lake St. Clair.

  • The vernal pool is, or is part of a wetland that is, partially or entirely located within 500 feet of the ordinary high watermark of an inland lake or pond or a river or stream or is within 1,000 feet of the ordinary high watermark of one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair.


Local Protection: 

For more information & resources on local protections, please visit our 'For Local Communities' page under the Resources tab.

Part 303 allows a local unit of government to regulate wetlands by ordinance, in addition to state regulation, if certain criteria are met: These criteria include: 

  • A wetland ordinance cannot require a permit for activities exempted from regulation under Part 303.

  • A wetland ordinance must use the same wetland definition as in Part 303.

  • Local units of government must publish a wetland inventory before adopting a wetland ordinance.

  • Local units of government that adopt wetland ordinances must notify EGLE.


Wetlands less than 5 acres can be regulated by local governments. If a local government wishes to regulate a wetland less than 2 acres in size, the local government must grant a permit unless it is determined that the wetland is essential to the preservation of the community's natural resources.  In making this determination, the local unit of government must find that 1 or more of the following exist at the particular site:

  • The site supports state or federal endangered or threatened plants, fish, or wildlife appearing on a list specified in section 36505

  • The site represents what is identified as a locally rare or unique ecosystem.

  • The site supports plants or animals of an identified local importance.

  • The site provides groundwater recharge documented by a public agency.

  • The site provides flood and storm control by the hydrologic absorption and storage capacity of the wetland.

  • The site provides wildlife habitat by providing breeding, nesting, or feeding grounds or cover for forms of wildlife, waterfowl, including migratory waterfowl, and rare, threatened, or endangered wildlife species.

  • The site provides protection of subsurface water resources and provision of valuable watersheds and recharging groundwater supplies.

  • The site provides pollution treatment by serving as a biological and chemical oxidation basin.

  • The site provides erosion control by serving as a sedimentation area and filtering basin, absorbing silt and organic matter.

  • The site provides sources of nutrients in water food cycles and nursery grounds and sanctuaries for fish


How do I determine if my vernal pool meets these criteria? 

Vernal pools should meet at least one of these essentiality determinations because wetlands by definition will provide:

  • Hydrologic absorption and storage capacity

  • Pollution treatment

  • Absorbs silt and sediment

  • Wildlife habitat

For a downloadable copy of this information, click here:  Vernal Pool protection in Michigan.docx