Rep. Dingell gets up close with DU Michigan project, impact

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) on Thursday, Aug. 13, took a first-hand look at how Ducks Unlimited can promote not only healthy wildlife habitat, but healthy eating as well.

Dingell visited the Ducks Unlimited Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office where DU staffers explained to her the importance of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as tools for waterfowl and water quality projects.

DU staff members then took Dingell to tour one of those projects, a grassland and wetland restoration project at Washtenaw Food Hub in Ann Arbor. The hub is a unique farming cooperative that blends sustainable development with smart food growing practices.

"It's getting back to the idea of a more biodiverse landscape and low-input way of growing food over a long-term period," said Kim Bayer, a partner with the food hub.

DU is helping restore about 100 acres of what was once a heavily-farmed section of land back to a natural state. In July DU and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources planted 82 acres of native grasslands at the farm property. And throughout the next year DU and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will restore more than 20 acres of wetland.

The total project cost is $50,000, which is part of a $500,000 Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act grant administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When finished, the site will provide nesting habitat for mallards.

"DU plays a vital role in protecting and conserving wildlife habitat in southeast Michigan and across the country," Dingell said. "It was great to meet with leadership at the regional office to see firsthand how they are partnering with local organizations to restore wetlands and farmlands and learn how federal programs can better support their efforts."

Bayer said the restored acreage in the future will be used for a mixture of sustainable food development, such as grazing or chestnut trees. Whatever the cooperative decides to do, Bayer said it wouldn't be possible without the help of DU and other partners.

"It's fantastic that there is this kind of support for restoration like this," she said. "We are extremely grateful to be able to participate and to try to make it something that adds to the biodiversity in Michigan."

The project is part of DU's Great Lakes Initiative. The initiative aims to protect the waters of the Great Lakes and conserve critical habitat for many species of waterfowl that utilize this vast watershed throughout their life cycle. Click here for details.