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Great Lakes Article:

Partnership secures $1 million grant for wetlands
Julie Buckles
The Ashland Daily Press

Nine organizations in the Chequamegon Bay region met for eight months last year drafting a proposal called the Superior Coastal Wetland Initiative. Last week their efforts paid off: the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) awarded them nearly $1 million for projects focused on wetland restoration and acquisition. This is in addition to $875,000 received four years ago for restoring 55 acres of wetlands and acquiring property around the Bad River and Kakagon Sloughs.

"Considering the two grants, this is a large chunk of money for this kind of focus," said Barb Spardo, the regional joint venture coordinator. "It's really due to the partnerships."

The 1989 North American Wetlands Conservation Act provides matching grants for migratory bird habitat restoration initiatives on the North American continent, currently distributing $44 million in Canada (45 percent), Mexico (five percent) and the United States (50 percent).

The current administration favors partnerships, Spardo said. Regional groups are catching on, creating collaborations to move projects forward. Greg Fischer, program manager for the Red Cliff Natural Resources Department and Fish Hatchery, partnered with six organizations to implement a $150,000 rehabilitation project on Red Cliff Creek. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, for one, provided technical expertise for developing and helping implement a plan for the project.

This is the biggest benefit of partnerships, said Pam Dryer, refuge manager of Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge and the project's coordinator and grant writer. "We feed off one another's technical expertise."

The nine organizations - from the Bad River Band to The Nature Conservancy - contributed $1.3 million in technical assistance and cash toward the Initiative. Wetlands only account for 10 percent of the Lake Superior coast, but provide critical habitat for aquatic plants, animals, fish and birds. The Initiative hopes to acquire land, purchase easements and restore habitat and create stream buffers, affecting about 5,800 acres of habitat, Dryer said.

"It really is the first example of a partnership coming together between natural resource players in Lake Superior," said Mike Gardner at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, which received $30,000 of the grant. "We're identifying needs, coming together and getting more done on the land."

The result may mean different things to different groups - but all benefit water quality. For instance, Ducks Unlimited is interested in improving migratory waterfowl habitat. Ducks, which largely drive the funding, use Lake Superior wetlands for shelter and food during migration, as do hundreds of other migratory birds. Wisconsin is one of our most important states, said Richard Pierce, director of operations at the Great Lakes and Atlantic Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ducks Unlimited kicked in $20,000 and received $10,000 from the NAWCA grant. "Our main business is wetland restoration, we're naturals for this project," he said. "Obviously our interest is migratory waterfowl, but this kind of work benefits all of us."

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