Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Michigan Will Receive A $900,000 Grant to Conserve Coastal Wetlands Connecting Negwegon State Park

Wetlands in coastal watersheds in the United States are experiencing a net annual loss of more than 80,000 acres according to a 2013 report (PDF) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, highlighting the importance of coastal wetland conservation. Conservation of these habitats will not only benefit coastal wetland-dependent wildlife, but will also enhance flood protection and water quality, and provide economic and recreational benefits to anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife watchers.

On February 2, 2016, Service Director Dan Ashe announced over $20 million in funding to 28 projects in 12 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats. In the Midwest Region, Michigan will receive $900,000 to help conserve wetlands on the coast of Lake Huron. Funding for the conservation projects is provided under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Wetlands Grants provide critical funding in the effort to protect some of our most fragile and at-risk wildlife habitats, said Service Director Dan Ashe. “With rising ocean levels eating away at coastal wetlands from one side and development claiming more and more acres on the other, our coastal wetlands are being squeezed into an ever thinner sliver of land. Never before has it been so important to protect these places. These grants will help coastal communities create on-the-ground projects to make them more resilient and ensure the preservation of our wildlife heritage for future generations.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will be awarded $900,000 to protect over 570 acres, with 180 acres being used as a match in Alpena County, Michigan on Thunder Bay. Of this acreage over 491 acres are nationally declining coastal wetland types including globally rare dune and swale habitat. Acquisition of the property will provide continuous acreage between the North and South Units of Negwegon State Park. These current land holdings are the last piece of the puzzle, finishing this remote and pristine state park.

Thunder Bay is a major migratory bird stopover area, especially notable for migrating shorebirds and songbirds. The project area’s beach zone and dune swales support spawning and nursery habitat for whitefish, endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly and Pitcher’s thistle, and the proposed threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

The coastal waters off of Negwegon are part of the only freshwater national marine sanctuary in the United States. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary encompasses more than 4,300 square miles making it the largest sanctuary in the United States. To date, nearly 100 shipwrecks comprising nearly a complete collection of Great Lakes vessel types have been discovered within the sanctuary.

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the Service and funded under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding is administered by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuel. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetland restoration projects.

For more information on the projects funded this year, visit http://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants.