The governments of the United States and the State of North Carolina have enacted laws, regulations and policies that promote the protection of wetlands. This protection generally involves the approval of permits for any planned disturbance of designated or identified wetlands.

For regulatory purposes under the Clean Water Act, the term wetlands means "those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, creeks and similar areas".

Generally, if one is planning to develop property where the possibility of on-site wetlands exists, it is useful to secure assistance from the Corps of Engineers or a private consultant to investigate the site. If on-site wetlands are to be impacted by the project, then it is usually necessary to proceed through an approval process that involves the Corps of Engineers (404 permit) and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (401 permit). Local government agencies are not responsible for administering programs involving wetlands.