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Why is Wetland Restoration Important?
Wetlands are a highly valuable and ecologically important natural resource that provide a wide range of functions and services that improve water quality including flood control, nutrient and pollutant removal, sediment retention, and groundwater recharge. Wetlands also provide critical habitat for a wide array of fish and wildlife species, including threatened and endangered species.
Wetlands in Michigan, and throughout the Midwest, have faced historic losses and alterations, primarily through efforts to drain and/or fill them for agricultural cropland and residential or commercial development. It is estimated that approximately half of all wetlands in Michigan that existed prior to European settlement have been removed from the landscape. Many remaining wetlands are degraded due to altered hydrological regimes, vegetation alteration, encroachment of non-native plant species, or other factors. The restoration and enhancement of altered and degraded wetlands re-establishes and adds important ecological functions back to the landscape including improving water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat.
What is a Voluntary Wetland Restoration (VWR) Project?
In 2019, amendments to Part 303, Wetlands Protection, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, 1194 PA 451, as amended (NREPA) created a program to facilitate VWR projects in coordination with state, federal, tribal, and nongovernmental agencies and organizations specializing in wetland restoration and conservation. The goal of the program is to enhance coordination, consistency, and operational procedures and improve and streamline the permitting process, to facilitate a net increase in wetland functions and services.
Generally, a VWR project involves activities whose purpose is to restore lost functions and services in altered, degraded, or former wetland. Many areas that are ideal wetland restoration candidates are regulated under state law and require a permit from EGLE before restoration activities can begin. Floodplains, partially drained areas that are still wetland, and agricultural drains that are intermittent or seasonal streams are examples of areas where restoration activities likely require permitting by EGLE.
EGLE and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in partnership with wetland restoration practitioners, have developed a streamlined permitting program to specifically process VWR projects that meet certain criteria. For the specific statutory language pertaining to the VWR program see Section 30312f of Part 303, Wetlands Protection (NREPA). EGLE has developed a robust Minor Project Category for wetland habitat restoration and enhancement to help streamline the VWR permitting process. Descriptions of General Permit and Minor Project categories can be found on our Permit Categories page.
Who can apply under the VWR Program?
- A state, federal, or tribal agency.
- A non-governmental organization whose stated primary purpose includes wetland conservation.
- A Person in partnership through a written agreement with any of the above.
Entities listed above can request a meeting with VWR staff to discuss a potential project prior to submission of a permit application at no cost. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the proposed project, identify if EGLE permits are required, and if so, discuss potential permitting issues and ways to maximize net increases in wetland functions and services. To request a VWR Pre-Application meeting, submit an electronic request via our online permitting system, MiEnviro.
Potential Funding Opportunities
Assistance may be available for voluntary wetland restoration projects through a variety of wetland restoration programs designed to help landowners who wish to restore or enhance wetlands on their property. Partners that have established wetland restoration programs in Michigan include:
- United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) - Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) - Wetland Reserve Easement Program (WRE)
- USDA NRCS Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- Ducks Unlimited
- Conservation districts, land conservancies, watershed organizations
Grand funds may also be available to conduct wetland restoration projects from:
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)
- USEPA Wetlands Funding and Grants Page
- National Association of Wetland Managers
- EGLE NonPoint Source Program
The following are links to technical resources regarding wetland restoration:
- USEPA - Wetlands Protection and Restoration
- National Association of Wetland Managers
- Michigan DNR - Wetland Restoration Techniques
- Michigan Wetlands Association
- USDA NRCS - Wetland Restoration, Enhancement, Creation and Construction
- Michigan Invasive Species Information
- FEMA Flood Map Service Center
The Voluntary Wetland Restoration program 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 EGLE's Voluntary Wetland Restoration Program or would like additional information on restoring wetlands, please contact the EGLE VWR Coordinator Michael Van Loan at 517-899-7004 or VanLoanM@Michigan.gov; or the DNR VWR Coordinator Randy Knapik at 517-282-7783 or KnapikR2@Michigan.gov.