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Wetlands and Watershed Planning
Although wetland protection regulations have slowed the rate of wetland losses, Michigan’s wetland resources continue to be degraded and lost at a rate that, while slowing, is still faster than efforts to restore or create wetlands. In addition, those areas with significant historic loss of wetlands continue to endure the consequences of that loss (e.g., water quality issues, flooding and flashy streams, and loss of wildlife). Michigan’s wetlands continue to face emerging and increasing threats, not only from historic threats such as agriculture and development, but also newer threats like invasive species and climate change.
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. Michigan's Wetland Conservation Strategy (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). At the federal level, USEPA’s current strategic plan includes specific strategies focused on watershed planning and wetland restoration. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan includes a focus on protection and restoration of communities of native aquatic and terrestrial species important to the Great Lakes, including-the-ground habitat restoration and protection, and a focus on nonpoint source pollution impacts on nearshore health and watershed management and green infrastructure practices to reduce and treat stormwater, and reduce runoff and erosion.
EGLE has developed a Michigan Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Strategy that has the primary goal of evaluating the success of the state in protecting, managing, and restoring Michigan’s wetlands such that they will continue to provide the public benefits of flood and storm control, wildlife habitat, protection of subsurface water resources and groundwater recharge, pollution treatment, erosion control, and nutrient cycling. Within this Strategy, Michigan has developed tools that are used by planners and land managers to identify and prioritize wetland restoration for watershed management.
In particular, EGLE has developed Landscape Level Wetland Assessment tools using geographic information system (GIS) mapping and remote sensing to gain a landscape view of watershed and wetland condition. This information is available on EGLE’s Wetland Map Viewer, and can be used to support watershed planning, zoning decisions, identification of wetland restoration/protection priorities, and similar purposes at the local or regional level by identifying wetland functions for prioritization efforts relating to wetland restoration and preservation.
One of the ways that EGLE is assists in these efforts this is by establishing working relationships with watershed groups and other partners to promote the concept of restoring wetlands to address watershed impairments and improve water quality. EGLE is interested in establishing new partnerships with individuals, watershed groups, conservation organizations, governmental agencies and businesses. Please contact Michael Van Loan at 517-899-7004 or VanLoanM@Michigan.gov of our joint EGLE and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s Voluntary Wetland Restoration Program, for more information.
Additional information on watershed planning and how to incorporate wetlands into watershed planning can be found:
Handbook for Developing Watershed Plans to Restore and Protect Our Waters
Wetlands Supplement: Incorporating Wetlands into Watershed Planning