DU and its partners are protecting, restoring, and enhancing waterfowl habitat on both private and public land in this region. Along the Michigan shore of Lake Erie, 258 acres of coastal marsh are being restored at the Erie Marsh Preserve and 91 acres are being restored at the Point Aux Peaux State Wildlife Area. In addition, 64 acres of waterfowl habitat are being restored on the newly acquired Dusseau Tract at Erie State Game Area, including small, shallow wetlands, rare lake-plain prairie, and coastal wetlands. These habitats will not only support breeding and migrating waterfowl but also filter runoff from neighboring agricultural fields. DU and partners will also secure conservation easements adjacent to these protected conservation lands, which will serve as buffers for this habitat in perpetuity.
On the Ohio side of Lake Erie, DU will be working with the Ohio Division of Wildlife to enhance a 392-acre coastal wetland at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, which provides some of the best public duck hunting in the region. Another DU project, the Middle Harbor Restoration, will restore a severely degraded coastal marsh, which is currently devoid of vegetation and filled with invasive common carp. When completed, this restored marsh will provide high-quality wetland habitat for waterfowl, fish, and other species.
And in both Michigan and Ohio, the NRCS is directing its GLRI/Farm Bill funding toward conservation practices that will improve water quality and provide habitat for wildlife. Farm Bill conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, and Emergency Watershed Protection Program will help restore wetland and wildlife habitat on a landscape level and improve water quality in Lake Erie.
"In so many areas of this country, waterfowl are faced with diminishing quality and quantity of habitat. The GLRI, funding for habitat and Farm Bill conservation programs, is truly transforming many areas of the Great Lakes, especially western Lake Erie," said Becky Humphries, director of DU's GLARO. "Black ducks, mallards, canvasbacks, scaup, Canada geese, and many other waterfowl species will find a much more welcoming landscape when they migrate to and through the Great Lakes region."
Looking ahead, securing funding for the GLRI, Farm Bill conservation programs, NAWCA, and other important programs for waterfowl will be a challenge, given the current budget environment in Congress. One key selling point for these programs—beyond their immediate habitat benefits—is that they provide recreational opportunities and support jobs associated with hunting, fishing, bird-watching, other outdoor sports, and on-the-ground restoration work. A report by the Brookings Institution estimates that every dollar invested in Great Lakes restoration projects generates two dollars of economic growth.
With policy work currently under way on the 2012 Farm Bill, now is the time for DU members to inform their congressional representatives about how important these conservation programs are to wetlands, other wildlife, and people. To make your voice heard in support of waterfowl conservation and our hunting heritage, visit the DU website at www.ducks.org/publicpolicy.
Gildo Tori is director of public policy at DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office in Ann Arbor, Michigan.