Looking across a newly restored wetland with grasses starting to grow and white birds wading in the water
TNC Wetland Restoration Blausey Tract at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge © TNC

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Nature Conservancy to Restore Vital Wetlands

280-Acre Project Will Protect Water Quality and Restore Wildlife Habitat

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently broke ground on the restoration of one of the largest remaining undeveloped parcels in the historic Irwin Wet Prairie. The 280-acre Sandhill Crane Wetlands project aims to protect water quality and restore wildlife habitat.

Farmed for decades, The Nature Conservancy has begun converting this frequently flooded, marginal cropland into a functioning wetland that will reduce nutrient runoff into nearby streams and expand natural habitat. Once over 10 miles long, the historic Irwin Wet Prairie played a pivotal role in slowing down and naturally treating waters that carried nutrients to Lake Erie. It also provided vital habitat for wildlife such as songbirds, waterfowl, and amphibians and reptiles.

“Today, less than 5% of all wetlands and marshes in the western Lake Erie basin remain, and their removal has resulted in profound impacts on water quality, most notably the annual harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie” says Alexis Sakas, natural infrastructure director for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “The Sandhill Crane Wetlands project will return much needed ‘natural infrastructure’ to the landscape, which provides long-term benefits of flood reduction, cleaner water, wildlife habitat and recreation and tourism opportunities. Upon completion of the restoration, this site will provide an estimated 300 million gallons of additional stormwater storage capacity thereby reducing flood impacts and enabling replanted native vegetation to absorb nutrients that would otherwise be carried downstream to the lake. What’s more, this project is part of a broader TNC initiative to restore thousands of additional acres of wetlands across the Western Lake Erie Basin.” 

The project’s name also reflects an optimism that the land will again support nesting and foraging habitat for Sandhill Cranes, which have not successfully nested in Ohio’s Oak Openings region in over 70 years. Initial restoration of this property will take place over the next year and provide extensive research and education opportunities for landowners, students, and partners.

This restoration effort was made possible because it is located within the Maumee Area of Concern and is a priority project for wildlife habitat. Funding was provided by the Maumee Area of Concern and Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Programs. For more information about the site history, maps, and project details, please contact Alexis Sakas, at alexis.sakas@tnc.org.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 75 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 38 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.