Sand Point Nature Preserve is a 220-acre property that protrudes into Michigan's Saginaw Bay. Thanks to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), it is a home for wildlife, outdoor recreation and an important mechanism for improving water quality.

Sand Point is owned by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy (SBLC) and contains Mud Lake, Kingbird Pond, Hemlock grove, meadows and numerous wetlands.

The preserve's important coastal wetlands cater to a variety of different ecosystem services, such as improving water quality, flood control and pollution runoff absorption. The area also acts as a hub for numerous forms of outdoor recreation. Sand Point provides habitat for migratory waterfowl, fish and other wetland-dependent species.

The ecological and recreational services that wetlands such as Sand Point offer can help boost the economy, and better the overall ecosystem. Crucial to the success of these wetlands and conservation efforts is NAWCA, a federal funding program for conservation projects.

Since 2012, NAWCA has helped Ducks Unlimited and its partners acquire 84 acres for permanent protection on the preserve, adding to 139 acres originally protected in 2009 by Ducks Unlimited, making it more than the 220 acres it is today.

Ducks Unlimited and its partners have expanded Sand Point three times as part of two, $1 million NAWCA grants. In 2011, 40 acres of forested wetlands and a portion of Mud Lake were acquired for $106,000; in 2012, 41 acres of wetlands and the rest of Mud Lake were obtained using $103,000; and in 2012, three acres of wetlands were acquired for $13,000.

"NAWCA's funding to acquire this land provided crucial support to protect a natural area that could have otherwise been developed," said Trevor Edmunds, SBLC director of conservation. "Under the SBLC's stewardship, the land will forever provide a place of respite for native flora and fauna as well as a venue for people to enjoy and interact with nature."

Sand Point is just one of many NAWCA projects Ducks Unlimited has collaborated on from Saginaw Bay to the Western Lake Erie Basin of the Great Lakes. Over the next four years, more than 20 projects will take place, including restoration, enhancement, acquisition and protection of wetlands and uplands. Together the NAWCA-funded projects will conserve more than 4,080 acres.

Ducks Unlimited implements projects across North America because of federal programs like NAWCA and conservation partners who help administer the necessary non-federal fund matching requirements. NAWCA was founded in 1989 and has had a substantial role in protecting and restoring wetlands and uplands across North America. The program requires that for every federal dollar provided to a project, state and non-governmental partners match it with two dollars at a minimum, which spurs additional private investment and therefore the amplification of conservation investments.

Historically, NAWCA funding of more than $18.8 million has stimulated partner contributions of over $62.7 million for wetland conservation work across Michigan. NAWCA needs strong support from Congress, so wetland conservation efforts can continue throughout Michigan and across North America.

People can help promote healthy wildlife and clean drinking water by telling their elected representatives to support NAWCA. Civic engagement by conservationists from all walks of life can help ensure lawmakers understand that the health of natural resources is directly correlated to the health of our communities.