Ducks Unlimited is pleased to announce that it has been recently awarded funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help conserve important habitat in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a federal program designed to target the most significant issues within the Great Lakes ecosystem, including habitat conservation, invasive aquatic species, non-point source pollution and contaminated sediment.

A $1.5 million grant was awarded in Michigan, which will make a significant impact on conservation in the Saginaw Bay region of the state. These funds will help to restore emergent wetlands to 940 acres of land currently in agricultural use at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. The project specifically targets wetlands conservation within the Shiawassee Flats, a 40,000-acre floodplain wetland complex formed by the confluence of the Bad, Cass, Flint, Shiawassee and Tittabawassee Rivers. The Flats include a diversity of natural and managed wetlands that have historically been a critical waterfowl stopover area in the Great Lakes region.

The restoring these wetlands will provide a key connection between previously restored wetlands and the Shiawassee River, providing valuable habitat for fish, waterfowl and other wetland-dependant species. It will also improve water quality as it moves downstream towards the Saginaw Bay.

"Restorations of this magnitude are difficult to come by not only in the Saginaw Bay watershed, but anywhere in the Great Lakes basin," said Dane Cramer, regional biologist at DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office. "This project will make appreciable impacts to the thousands of waterfowl that migrate through Saginaw Bay and the Shiawassee Flats area every spring and autumn as well as important fish species and other wetland denizens."

Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network and Dow Chemical Company provided financial support. The project received support from several sources including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Saginaw Bay WIN, and the Shiawassee Flats Citizens and Hunters Association.

In Pennsylvania, the GLRI awarded a grant to Ducks Unlimited, the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and a multitude of other partners plan to control invasive species and restore and enhance 392 acres of wetland and associated upland habitat at four locations within the Lake Erie watershed.

"This project is representative of the tremendous opportunity to restore wildlife habitat, water quality, and quality of life in the Lake Erie Watershed," said Kurt Anderson, Regional Biologist at DU's Annapolis (MD) Office. "Specifically, it will engage a variety of partnerships to restore and enhance diverse areas of shoreline, emergent wetlands, sand barrens and sand plains, forested habitats, and will reduce the threat from aquatic and terrestrial invasive species."

The grant work will occur in Presque Isle State Park, Erie Bluffs State Park, Roderick Wildlife Reserve and Little Elk Creek Forest, which all lie within the Lake Erie Watershed. Native habitat has been compromised by invasive species including Phragmites, a decorative reed that threatens coastal habitats throughout the Great Lakes.

"This area is a real gem," said Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania's Third Congressional District. "Controlling invasive species improves habitat for wildlife, and it benefits the community by maintaining local game fish such as walleye and yellow perch. It's a major recreational hub and generates a lot of economic activity."

GLRI funding was awarded through two sources; the Sustain Our Great Lakes partnership provided $632,603 and the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture has awarded $101,858.