Lake St. Clair Coastal Habitat
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Draining

Lyn Betts, NRCS

Wetland loss has been significant in both Michigan and Ontario. In spite of improved wetland protection laws in the United States and Canada, the piecemeal conversion of wetlands to residential and agricultural uses continues, posing a threat to fish and wildlife and their habitat. Since 1873, over 70 percent of the wetlands have been lost on the U.S. side of Lake St. Clair. This loss is primarily due to urbanization/industrialization and residential or recreational development.

The Canadian portion of the watershed has experienced a similar loss of coastal wetlands. Between 1873 and 1968, much of this land was drained for residential and agricultural purposes. By the mid-1960s more than 40 percent of the wetlands directly associated with the lake had been destroyed. By 1982, Kent and surrounding counties had lost 80-100 percent of their original wetland areas. Essex County lands draining to Lake St. Clair have lost over 97 percent of the wetland area and 95 percent of the original forest to agricultural and urban development. Currently 92 percent of the Essex County lands are in agricultural use and 5 percent urban infrastructure with only 3 percent as natural lands. The rate of conversion to agriculture has slowed in recent years, and some of the drained pasturelands and poorer cropland in the areas have been reflooded.

 

For more information, see: Habitat Assessment, Section V (PDF)