Wetland Restoration and Watershed Planning
Although wetland protection regulations have slowed the rate of wetland losses, it is estimated by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) that the United States still loses approximately 100,000 acres of wetlands annually. While the amount of wetlands lost each year in Michigan is unknown, it is widely accepted that the amount of wetlands continues to decline.
In addition to protecting our remaining wetlands, it has become evident that further steps are necessary to enhance our wetland resources. Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the United States Department of Agriculture's, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began efforts to reverse the tide of wetland losses by establishing wetland restoration programs. These programs are designed to assist landowners who wish to voluntarily restore wetlands on their property. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and several non-profit conservation organizations including Ducks Unlimited have also established wetland restoration programs.
The restoration of drained or altered wetlands re-establishes and adds important ecological functions to the landscape, including the creation of new wildlife habitat, increased flood storage, and the enhancement of water quality. Resource management plans developed at both the state and federal levels identify wetland restoration as a key component for environmental improvements and set ambitious restoration goals. The Federal Clean Water Action Plan (USEPA, 1998) sets a national goal of a net increase of 100,000 acres of wetland per year by 2005. Michigan's Wetland Conservation Strategy (MDEQ, 1997) established a short-term goal of restoring 50,000 acres of wetland by the year 2010 (one percent of historic losses); and a long term goal of restoring 500,000 acres of wetland (ten percent of historic losses).
Voluntary wetland restoration efforts on private land reflect a proactive, non regulatory approach to wetland protection and conservation. However, many areas that make ideal wetland restoration candidates may be protected under existing state laws. Floodplain areas, partially drained areas that are still considered wetlands, and agricultural drains that may be considered intermittent or seasonal streams are examples of areas where restoration activities may require review and approval by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
The MDEQ has determined that it could be most effective in this effort by assisting agencies and organizations with established wetland restoration programs. Initially, the MDEQ's wetland restoration efforts focused on conducting inspections of potential restoration sites to determine whether state permits would be required, and attempting to expedite application reviews when permits were needed. Since then, the initiative has expanded and focused on three major areas: 1) establishing the Michigan Wetland Working Group (MWWG), a state, federal, and non governmental organization work group which strives to advance the coordination of wetland restoration activities and facilitate the most effective use of available resources to achieve the common goal of restoring wetlands in Michigan, 2) reducing regulatory burdens and time delays experienced by organizations conducting wetland restoration projects, and 3) establishing working relationships with watershed groups and other partners to promote the concept of restoring wetlands to address watershed impairments and improve water quality.
The MDEQ and the MWWG have been successful in establishing working relationships with numerous watershed groups and organizations to promote the concept of restoring wetlands to address watershed impairments and improve water quality.
The MDEQ is interested in establishing new partnerships and working relationships with individuals, watershed groups, conservation organizations, governmental agencies and businesses involved with or interested in wetland restoration. If you have questions about the MDEQ's wetland restoration program or would like additional information on restoring wetlands, please contact the MDEQ Wetland Restoration and Watersheds Coordinator, Mr. Robert P. Zbiciak, at 517-241-9021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following are links to information regarding wetland restoration and watershed planning:
USEPA's Wetland Restoration Page