From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance. They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.
In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them. The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.
Here is lesson eight from Toledo, Ohio:
Healthy Water from Healthy Wetlands: Howard Farms Ohio Coastal Restoration Project
It’s ambitious, but we know this is 100% doable and will have fantastic benefits.
Mistakes of the past reached a boiling point in the summer of 2014 in Toledo, Ohio, where residents were warned against drinking and even bathing in local tap water.
Bright green algae bloomed across Lake Erie, fed by phosphorous- and nitrogen-rich agricultural runoff—causing extremely high levels of microcystin (which can damage the liver) in the water supply. Toxins in the water supply were so bad that fish were dying.
The incident highlights the importance of the Howard Farms Coastal Restoration Project, which is transforming nearly 1,000 acres of farmland along Lake Erie back into its original wetland habitat. The efforts will result in restoring a natural filter for polluted water.
More than 75 years ago, in an effort to cultivate new cropland, the Howard Farms property was drained, ditched, and disconnected from Lake Erie by levees.
As a result, twenty-eight species of fish could no longer spawn there, an important creek channel disappeared, and hundreds of acres of wetland habitat vanished along with their natural ability to cleanse water before it reached Lake Erie.
To tackle the problem, Ducks Unlimited and local stakeholders turned to grant funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to restore the property back to its former wetland habitat. Metroparks of the Toledo Area (the local parks agency) previously had bought Howard Farms with the idea of restoring habitat and transforming the agricultural land into a world-class metropark.
What Will Restoration Look Like?
The project will hydrologically reconnect the property to Lake Erie and restore several hundred acres of coastal emergent wetlands and nearly 7,500 feet of the historic Cedar Creek riverbed. The 28 species of fish now suffering from habitat loss will soon benefit from the restoration, which will make it possible for them to once again migrate from Lake Erie into the wetlands for spawning.
A key part of this project will be installing boardwalks around the land, opening up the wetlands to hunting, fishing and birding. The Toledo area is one of the most popular birding spots in the country, and the Howard Farms restoration project will bring back new opportunity for birders across the country.
The project’s $2.8 million in grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will be pooled with $1 million from the Ohio Division of Wildlife and an additional $5 million from Metroparks. The plan is to finish designs and hire contractors in early 2015. Habitat restoration and installation of the recreational use amenities will run into 2016.