The ribbon cutting by Governor Rick Snyder, DU’s David Brakage and Pete Albrecht, and DNR Director Keith Creagh
MUCC staff had the honor of being invited to a ribbon cutting and official unveiling of the wetland restoration work recently completed at the Maple River State Game Area. Anyone that drives 127 near St. John’s in mid-Michigan has likely seen the DNR’s Working for Wildlife signs, and the regular “ups and downs” of managing water to benefit waterfowl, many other fish and wildlife species including deer, and hunters.
Maple River State Game Area is a 9,000-acre managed complex of wetlands, bottomland hardwood forest, native grasslands, and agricultural uplands that provide habitat for a wide variety of migratory birds and other wildlife. It is the largest contiguous wetland complex in mid-Michigan. It is also home to grassland habitat projects through the Pheasant Restoration Initiative with Pheasants Forever and On The Ground hinge-cutting for deer habitat through MUCC and QDMA.
This wetland project was truly a team effort thanks to Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the DNR’s working relationship, along with the local Friends of the Maple River Watershed, and a host of private and public funding sources—the real “bucks” here.
The partnership of DNR Wildlife Division and Ducks Unlimited staff and volunteers was the key to leveraging funds for this project.
More than $415,000 in DU member contributions, hunting license dollars, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture were all leveraged to revitalize wetland and wildlife productivity at the State Game Area.
Ducks Unlimited provided engineering design and construction management for the public projects, while DNR completed additional work to improve water control, dike repairs, and repairing a spillway damaged in a 2013 flood. In addition to these major projects, at least an additional $85,000 worth of work has been invested by the DNR in maintenance of the area and improving hunter access, including boat launch improvements, walk in access, and modified farming plans.
What was clear to the almost 50 people in attendance was that wildlife management includes both the kinds of technical and infrastructure improvements we saw, as well as the “boots on the ground” that we always talk about.
All of it costs money and time and each of our contributions matter—when we buy our hunting and fishing licenses, volunteer on an On The Ground project, buy a raffle ticket, or go to yet another fundraising banquet.
Governor Rick Snyder attended the festivities and helped unveil the new sign. Snyder was excited to learn more about what goes into managing these diverse habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and access to great hunting and trapping opportunities. Michigan Ducks Unlimited State Chairman Pete Albrecht spoke about hunters contributions to Michigan’s economy, and DNR Director Keith Creagh, DU Chief Operating Officer for the Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office David Brakage, and DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason all touched on the power of partnerships in making it happen.
It was a gorgeous day out and Mother Nature put on a great show–a perfect V formation of geese honking overhead and landing in a nearby field, sandhill cranes calling in the distance, a bald eagle, and a few deer sightings. The Governor summed it up perfectly by saying, “This IS Pure Michigan”!