Great Lakes conservation effort surpasses 15,000 acres

Southeast Michigan program still growing

This Saginaw Bay parcel, undergoing a controlled burn in 2021, will soon be a managed wetland habitat.

This Saginaw Bay parcel, undergoing a controlled burn in 2021, will soon be a managed wetland habitat.

DETROIT – June 17, 2022 – A major Great Lakes wetlands conservation effort to improve habitat and water quality in southeast Michigan will protect or restore an additional 1,300 acres over three years, thanks to newly awarded federal funding.

Ducks Unlimited has led the Saginaw Bay to Lake Erie Coastal Habitat Project since 2005, which has conserved wetland and grassland habitat along a major bird migratory route that is also a water resource for dozens of communities in the United States and Canada.

“From Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay through Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and western Lake Erie, this program has targeted scarce habitat in a highly developed region,” said Kali Rush, Ducks Unlimited’s regional biologist for Michigan.

The program is funded through a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant and partner contributions. The new grant brings the total investment to over $16.5 million in federal dollars and private contributions that will push the total land conserved to more than 15,000 acres.

It targets Great Lakes coastal marshes and associated shoreline habitats, expansion and restoration of state and federal wildlife areas, and private lands restoration important for waterfowl production and spring migration.

“Michigan has lost more than 50% of its historical wetlands and 99% of its prairie habitat,” Rush said. “Conserving remaining Michigan Great Lakes coastal wetlands and building on the existing protected habitat in the corridor becomes increasingly vital.”

The new $1 million NAWCA grant is supported by $2.2 million in matching funds by Ducks Unlimited, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Pheasants Forever, Legacy Land Conservancy and Six Rivers Land Conservancy. This phase will improve 1,300 acres across nine project sites, which includes land protection, habitat restoration and wetlands enhancement.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is a major grant partner helping Ducks Unlimited enhance two large tracts of land near Fish Point Wildlife Area in Tuscola County.

“We’ve lost more than 90% of wetlands here in Saginaw Bay,” said Joe Robison, Michigan DNR southeast Michigan region supervisor. “These projects let us manage water levels and create new, healthy marshes. Every new acre means more habitat for waterfowlers for generations to come.”

Wetlands filter impurities and pollutants before entering waterways and are therefore crucial to the economic and physical health of millions of residents who rely on clean Great Lakes water. The Great Lakes support more than 1.3 million jobs that generate $82 billion in wages annually. This includes the Great Lakes commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries, collectively valued at more than $7 billion annually.

And more than 35 million people in the United States and Canada pull their drinking water from the Great Lakes. Harmful algal blooms, caused by nutrient runoff, are just one threat to drinking water. Wetlands remove these nutrients and help reduce the impact of algal blooms.

More than 3 million waterfowl annually migrate through or breed in the Great Lakes region. Many of them depend on the fragmented habitat corridor extending from Saginaw Bay to western Lake Erie. The corridor has vital breeding habitat for marsh birds and grassland birds.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit

Media Contact:
Chris Sebastian
(734) 623-2017