Erie Marsh is one of the largest coastal wetlands on Lake Erie, supporting numerous animals and plants that would otherwise be hard-pressed to find suitable habitat. The most significant feature of this area is its role as a migratory and nesting area for shorebirds, waterfowl, landbirds, and in the fall, raptors. It also harbors some of Michigan’s few remaining colonies of American lotus, and swamp rose-mallow, both listed as state-threatened.
In 2006, Erie Marsh Preserve became a privately-owned component of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, established in 2001 as North America’s first International Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, which includes islands, coastal wetlands, inland marshes, shoals, and riverfront lands along 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie, protects habitat for 65 species of fish, 29 species of waterfowl, and 300 species of migratory birds in Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Erie Marsh Preserve is managed through a collaboration of The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other partners.
Wetland Construction and Restoration Project - Erie Marsh Preserve closed starting June 1, 2013
This project will ultimately restore a hydrologic and physical connection between Erie Marsh Preserve and Lake Erie and provide water level management capability to 946 acres of coastal wetlands through the construction or improvement of levees, water distribution canals, water control structures, and the installation of a new water supply system and fish passage structure. This phase of the project will result in enhancement of 258 acres. All proposed construction meets current engineering specifications.
Specific project objectives will result in wetland restoration and facilitate the long-term management of a sustainable, high-quality coastal wetland complex by:
- Restoring a hydrologic and physical connection to Lake Erie that allows access to additional fish spawning and rearing habitat and facilitates passage for fish and other aquatic organisms, such as freshwater mussels, and nutrient exchange between the restored wetlands and Lake Erie.
- Increasing the quality and diversity of wetland habitat types within the Preserve through the independent water level management of four wetland units ranging in size from 44 to 250 acres. Acres of wetland habitats restored will be monitored using aerial and ground mapping and survey techniques.
- Providing independent wetland management infrastructure to promote sustainable populations of wetland-dependent wildlife and fish, and increased native biodiversity.
- Improving the ability to control invasive plant species within the Preserve. Following restoration, native natural communities will be promoted through ongoing, adaptive management to control invasive species such as Phragmites (Phragmites australis). Acres of invasive plant species removed will be monitored for treatment effectiveness using aerial and ground mapping techniques.
- Increasing access for wetland management and recreation throughout the Preserve.
- Monitoring changes in wetland vegetation communities and fish and wildlife use of the restored wetlands following hydrologic reconnection with Lake Erie. Monitoring will follow established protocols to document changes in species diversity and abundance, and may also inform future restoration projects in adjacent Great Lakes bottomlands.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Nature Conservancy received the donation of Erie Marsh from the Ottawa Bay Development Company in 1978. It supports numerous animals and plants that would otherwise be hard-pressed to find suitable habitat.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Conservancy works with the Erie Shooting and Fishing Club to manage the site to continue to protect its wetland values. The Club has managed a portion of the property for more than a century. As part of the terms of the donation, the Club leases the site from the Conservancy for waterfowl hunting in the fall and continues to own the cottages at the southern end of the preserve.
During late 2011 and 2012, The Conservancy implemented a large-scale restoration project at the preserve. The ultimate goals of this project are to provide fish access to the diked area, improve water management capacity to increase wetland quality and control invasive plants such as Phragmites.
See the migratory birds that use this restored coastal wetland system near the Michigan/Ohio border.
Restoration Director Chris May speaks about what we’re doing at Erie Marsh.