Wetlands, Wildlife and You Too
Branch County, MI

Grantee: Branch County Soil Conservation District
Basin Program Funds: $9,900
Non-federal Funds: $19,300
Project Duration: 04/1995 - 10/1996
Status: complete

Problem Statement
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.

Wetlands site photo

Background
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.

Activities
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.

Results
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 resources.

Contact: Gordon Porter, (517) 278-8008

 

Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150.  projects.glc.org. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner