Grants to focus on coastal protection

Manoomin, or wild rice, is of great importance to Anishinaabe communities in the Great Lakes region, including the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Current and future wetland restoration efforts in the St. Marys River will include restoration of manoomin beds. (Photo courtesy of Danielle Fegan)
The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ Wildlife Program uses georeferenced imagery collected by small unmanned aircraft systems such as drones to monitor the effects of invasive species management actions. Understanding the efficacy of invasive species treatment can improve management outcomes over time. (Photo courtesy of Danielle Fegan)
An American bittern, a focal species in the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ secretive marshbird assessments, is seen among wetland vegetation. Through a collaborative planning process, the Sault Tribe will work with project partners to identify conservation and restoration priorities that benefit ecological communities along the St. Marys River, including wildlife. (Photo courtesy of Brad Silet)

MARQUETTE — The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians will develop a comprehensive inter-agency resilience plan that prioritizes coastal wetlands for protection and restoration in the St. Marys River, the Tribe announced.

The shorelines and coastal wetlands of the St. Marys River are subject to annual, intra-annual and hour-to-hour water level fluctuations related to lake level changes, storm events and frequent wakes created by cargo ships, all of which directly impact wetland communities and contribute to shoreline erosion, the Sault Tribe said.

The project will align and enhance strategic management of coastal wetlands across jurisdictional boundaries.

The grant was awarded through the National Coastal Resilience Fund, which awards grants that increase and strengthen natural infrastructure to protect coastal communities while also enhancing habitats for fish and wildlife, the Tribe said. NCRF is a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Shell Oil Company, TransRe, the EPA, AT&T and Occidental, with additional funding support from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The Saint Marys River is the outflow of the largest freshwater lake in the world and the center of the Anishnaabe indigenous world,” said Eric Clark, lead wildlife biologist for the Sault Tribe’s wildlife program, in a news release. “The river boasts some of the best examples of intact freshwater coastal marsh ecosystems in the entire Great Lakes Basin and it is impossible to overstate their importance to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and our regional cul

ture and economy.”

Clark noted that these ecosystems are not without stressors, with anthropogenic, or human, impacts on the river threatening the resilience of these coastal marshes.

“The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe and our partner agencies recognize this and have prioritized collaborative approaches to conservation and restoration in the St. Marys River,” Clark said. “This grant from NFWF and NOAA will help us develop a rigorous adaptive framework and collaborative plan to strategically advance our work in this important river.”

The $345,000 project also will advance building relationships and collaboration among natural resources managers, stakeholders and community members through participation at project workshops.

“The Great Lakes are more than an economic engine and ecological treasure — they are part of our DNA as Michiganders,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, said in a news release. “That’s why I applaud all the incredible work the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has done to protect Michigan’s ecosystems including the Great Lakes, as well as protect wildlife and vital habitats across the state.”

Peters said the grants will build on the efforts of the Sault Tribe and help protect the Great Lakes for future generations.


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