Immense resources are required to protect and restore wetland habitats. To get the most return on those resources for waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited often tackles projects near large, established wetland complexes. Enlarging an already-productive public or private area encourages more use by ducks and other wildlife, instead of starting new in an area not frequented by birds.
That’s the case with a 130-acre site in northwest Pennsylvania. Ducks Unlimited, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and Waterfowl USA acquired the parcel in 2019, and this year incorporated it into Pennsylvania’s 1,400-acre State Game Lands 151. The addition will give new opportunities for wildlife and people.
The site is in DU’s Great Lakes/ Northwest Pennsylvania International Conservation Priority Area and within 30 miles of Pymatuning Reservoir and 60 miles of Lake Erie, major stopover areas for millions of migratory birds.
The project is unique. The site was heavily developed for aquaculture farm purposes in the 1970s. The original wetlands were diked, deepened and managed via drainage pipes and ditch networks. The impoundments were managed as open water ponds for baitfish and game fish. Fish production ceased in the 1990s and the site was no longer maintained.
“Despite its partially degraded state, these wetlands still support a wide variety of breeding, migratory and wintering bird species, including wood ducks, mallards and other migrating birds,” said Jim Feaga, DU regional biologist in Pennsylvania. “But we have a tremendous opportunity to restore it to a truly functional habitat.”
DU used funding from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, as well as an $85,000 donated bargain sale value from the Hohmann Family, former owners, to help purchase the land. The next phase of this project will restore the wetlands on the property for waterfowl and give the PGC the ability to control water flow to replicate natural wetland flooding cycles.
DU has already received a $165,000 grant from the S. Kent Rockwell Foundation to restore the wetlands by 2023. DU is leveraging this gift in public and private grant applications to raise the additional dollars required to complete the project.
Outdoors enthusiasts will benefit, too. The property in bordered on two sides by public roadways, making it easy to access. The project will enhance public access opportunities to enjoy wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing.