Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wildlife and Fisheries Resources

Committee Chair

Christopher T Rota

Committee Co-Chair

James T Anderson

Committee Member

Christopher M Lituma


Wetland ecosystems are unique, important sources of numerous services such as wildlife habitat. Their widespread loss due to drainage and development in North America has promoted the creation of many programs and policies to try to reverse the damage done. One such program is the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). ACEP is administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides landowners with technical and financial assistance to restore wetlands on private agricultural land. One of the primary objectives of ACEP is to provide wildlife habitat while restoring wetlands in agricultural areas. It is important to monitor conservation practices such as ACEP to determine if the program goals are being met. This can be accomplished by directly studying the wildlife community on these wetlands in combination with assessing overall wetland features and vegetative characteristics. We conducted land-cover, vegetative, and wetland feature assessments on wetlands enrolled in ACEP in West Virginia to determine if ACEP wetlands have similar characteristics to wetlands compared with a set of reference wetlands located on public land. Additionally, we studied the wintering occupancy of new world sparrows on the same wetlands to evaluate how ACEP sites function as wildlife habitat compared to other available wetland habitat in West Virginia. Wetland characteristics between ACEP and reference sites differed in a few areas: the proportion of pasture immediately surrounding wetlands was higher on ACEP sites than reference, and the proportion of forest immediately surrounding sites was higher on reference sites. Additionally, the percent coverage of invasive herbaceous material was higher on reference sites, and seasonal flooding was more likely to be present on ACEP sites. Other characteristics and features including invertebrate diversity did not differ significantly between site types. Two Passerellidae species had higher occupancy probability on ACEP sites over reference sites: swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) and dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis). The small number of differences between wetland characteristics on ACEP and reference sites, coupled with higher wintering sparrow occupancy of two species on ACEP sites indicates that ACEP wetlands in West Virginia are functioning similarly to other wetlands located in West Virginia and provide important, early successional wildlife habitat.