Wetlands, Wildlife and You Too
Branch County Soil Conservation District
Basin Program Funds:
Heavy recreational and agricultural use, along with the progressive development
of the Great Lakes, have resulted in increasingly eutrophic surface waters.
This condition has been caused by large amounts of sediment and associated
nutrients entering the surface water through soil erosion. Compounding the
problem is the destruction of valuable wetlands that previously acted as natural
filters protecting this valuable resource.
The goal of the Wetlands Wildlife and You Too project was to establish a permanent
natural filtering system for surface and groundwater through wetland restoration.
The restored wetlands will minimize the sources of off-site damages to streams;
reduce soil, associated nutrients, and toxic contaminant loadings; and improve
fish and wildlife habitat.
Branch County is located in south central Michigan along the
Indiana border. It is a traditionally agricultural area that is experiencing
population growth in its unique lake areas and towns. There are over 91 lakes
in the county and over 1,000 miles of streams. Increased soil erosion from
agricultural use and land development are impacting Branch County water quality.
With this project, Branch County Soil Conservation District:
1) restored wetlands; 2) educated the public on the importance of wetlands;
3) established coalitions with various federal, state, and local agencies
involved in wetland restoration; and 4) encouraged the establishment of outdoor
education laboratories to increase experimental learning and promote students'
understanding of the importance of a sustainable wetland.
The Branch County area has received a much greater appreciation of wetlands
through the demonstrations, education, and publicity programs that were part
of this project. Additionally, several Branch County wetlands were restored.
One of these areas became a public demonstration site with signs along a major
highway in Branch County. A number of partnerships were formed and publicized
through articles and photographs in the county newspaper. Organizations forming
these partnerships include the Branch County Sportsmen Club, Branch County
Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, Branch County Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Michigan
Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the Branch County Soil Conservation District, and the Great Lakes
Commission. Members of these various organizations distributed information
about wetlands both to their respective organizations and at their individual
places of employment.
All students of Branch County elementary schools learned about wetlands and
gained an appreciation for the importance of preserving the remaining wetlands
of Branch County. With the help of teachers at the Quincy Community School,
a curriculum was developed, printed, distributed, and taught to students. A
video entitled Our Wetlands Need You was professionally produced
for the purpose of educating the public on various types of wetlands and their
functions. The video is to be shown in the schools and to every major Branch
County community service group. A slide presentation and picture display was
developed as an offshoot of the video project, which is to be used at county
functions such as the 4-H Fair, Ag Day, and Home Show. Quincy fourth grade students
studied wetland plants, developed a presentation, and assisted 600 elementary
students in the planting of 12 different types of wetland plants. Wetland lessons
were used as part of the Quincy Summer School curriculum. Area science teachers
have used selected lessons as teaching material. An Albion College Summer Enrichment
class used lessons as part of a thematic unit based on Kalamazoo River study.
Wetlands, Wildlife and You Too has reached an audience of 10,400 people.
Students from local schools have contributed time and effort
to surface water quality projects, testing, planting aquatic vegetation, and
studying best management practices to protect and restore wetlands and improve
water quality. From our wetland restoration efforts, the project restored
11 wetlands, converting 41 acres of upland back to wetland habitat. The project
has educated students and staff from the local school districts regarding
the importance of the wetland restoration process and has fostered an environmental
ethic that includes stewardship of the land and positive attitudes about natural
Contact: Gordon Porter, (517) 278-8008