Restoring and Protecting Lake Michigan’s Critical Wetlands
With the exception of the polar ice caps, the Great Lakes system is the largest source of freshwater in the world and holds roughly 20% of the planet's fresh water. Lake Michigan, the third largest of the Great Lakes, provides drinking water to 6.6 million people, in addition to its many recreational and industrial uses.
Green Bay represents 30% of the total Lake Michigan watershed, making its health integral to the health of Lake Michigan overall. Home to 50% of the Lake’s remaining wetlands, the Green Bay ecosystem serves to filter, restore and protect water as it travels into the Lake. Agricultural and urban runoff, wetland loss to agriculture and development, invasive species and climate change threaten these critical systems.
To address these impacts, Ducks Unlimited (DU)-- an organization focused on the conservation of wetlands and associated habitats for wildlife and people-- has adopted a holistic approach to ecological restoration of the Bay by identifying projects that address threats to each part of the system: tributary streams, coastal wetlands, and Green Bay itself.
High up in the watershed, DU works to restore small wetlands and grasslands, targeting areas with the greatest water quality benefit. Further down the watershed, where land to support excess water from flooding is needed, DU works to restore or enhance existing larger marshes that provide areas for migration and nesting habitat, while also trapping sediment and nutrients. On the coastal wetlands adjacent to Lake Michigan, DU restores Northern Pike spawning marshes that offer significant benefits to water quality, while supporting a critical apex predator. Complementing work in the watershed, DU’s in-lake restoration of plant communities benefits fish and wildlife, while improving the quality of water flowing into the Lake.
With support from CFP, Ducks Unlimited is pursuing this comprehensive, long-term strategy to restore and protect Green Bay to improve water quality and provide benefits to communities, fish, wildlife.