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In 1979 the US Fish and Wildlife Service published and adopted a classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. The system was designed for use in a national inventory of wetlands. It was intended to be ecologically based, to furnish the mapping units needed for the inventory, and to provide national consistency in terminology and definition. We review the performance of the classification after 13 years of use. The definition of wetland is based on national lists of hydric soils and plants that occur in wetlands. Our experience suggests that wetland classifications must facilitate mapping and inventory because these data gathering functions are essential to management and preservation of the wetland resource, but the definitions and taxa must have ecological basis. The most serious problem faced in construction of the classification was lack of data for many of the diverse wetland types. Review of the performance of the classification suggests that, for the most part, it was successful in accomplishing its objectives, but that problem areas should be corrected and modification could strengthen its utility. The classification, at least in concept, could be applied outside the United States. Experience gained in use of the classification can furnish guidance as to pitfalls to be avoided in the wetland classification process.