By Xinjuan Deng
Capital News Service
LANSING — Two federal grants of $1 million each will help restore wetlands and migratory bird habitats in Michigan.
The projects include work on water control and distribution structures in the Saginaw Bay area, Southeast Michigan and the Lake Michigan area.
Tom Melius, Midwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, “Wetlands in the upper Midwest not only serve as indicators of water quality for our communities, but also serve as the breeding and resting grounds for hundreds of species.”
More than 3 million waterfowl annually migrate through or breed in the Great Lakes region, many in the corridor that extends from Saginaw Bay to western Lake Erie, including Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.
The corridor has vital breeding grounds for mallards and wood ducks, as well as American black ducks, redheads, shovelers and blue-winged teal. In addition, grassland species including bobolinks, sedge wrens and Henslow’s sparrows will benefit from habitat restoration, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) authorizes the grants.
The federal law encourages public-private partnerships to protect migratory bird habitats.
Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit organization based in Ann Arbor, received the grants.
One project focuses on 2,004 acres stretching through Arenac, Bay, Gladwin, Hillsdale, Huron, Iosco, Jackson, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Midland, Monroe, Oakland, Ogemaw, Saginaw, Sanilac, St. Clair, Tuscola, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
Ducks Unlimited will work with 12 partners such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Nature Association and the Nature Conservancy to implement that grant.
The partners will add about $2.25 million in matching funds to the project.
Dane Cramer, a Ducks Unlimited regional biologist, said federal grants are usually doubled or tripled on the local level.
Cramer continued, “It is very rewarding to be part of such a conservation success story.”
“Since its inception, approximately 1,600 projects have contributed to the conservation of more than 25 million acres across North America,” he said.
Kristin Schrader, public affairs coordinator of Ducks Unlimited, said a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes on.
“It is rarely as simple as writing a check to acquire and protect an existing piece of habitat or jumping on a bulldozer to restore a wetland,” she said.
The second grant, with an additional $2.5 million from partners, will protect coastal West Michigan in Mason, Lake, Osceola, Oceana, Newaygo, Mecosta, Muskegon, Montcalm, Ottawa, Kent, Ionia and Allegan counties.
It will protect at least 1,687 acres of wetlands and grasslands and restore 300 acres of wetlands and 100 acres grasslands.
Michael Sertle, another Ducks Unlimited regional biologist, said, “As a result of this funding opportunity, we will be able to cooperatively protect and restore some of the Great Lakes’ most productive habitat for the benefit of waterfowl and other migratory birds.”
Cramer said work is expected to begin this summer.