Conservation commissioners in Massachusetts have a unique knowledge of the local landscape and the important functions that wetlands provide in their community, such as flood control and wildlife habitat. As a result, commissioners play an important role in protecting these wetland resource areas because their knowledge is incorporated into the permitting process at the local level. In fact, the majority of permitting requirements under the Wetlands Protection Act ('The Act,' Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 131, Section 40) are administered by conservation commissions. For this reason, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and its Division of Wetlands and Waterways (DWW) are committed to providing commissions with the training and tools necessary to implement the Act. The first and often the most important step in protecting wetlands is identifying their location in the field. Freshwater wetlands bordering on creeks, rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes are protected by the Act. Four wetland types are identified in the Act: bogs, swamps, marshes, and wet meadows. Generally, these are areas where groundwater is at or near the surface, or where surface water frequently collects for a significant part of the growing season, and where a significant part of the vegetative community is made up of plants adapted to life in saturated soil. The ground and surface water conditions and plant communities which occur in each of these wetland types are specified in the Act. Hydrology (water) and vegetation (plants) are the two characteristics that define freshwater wetlands protected by the Act.