“Restoring wetland habitat so that sensitive marsh bird species can thrive is a goal worth pursuing because of the greater benefit wetland restoration offers to the entire Great Lakes region and the communities that depend on this globally significant ecosystem ,” said Rebeccah Sanders, Vice President for the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi Flyway at the National Audubon Society. “This is restoration that is informed by sound science, is measurable, manageable and sustainable—which all make for projects that are poised for success. I can’t think of a smarter or more worthwhile investment for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
Marsh birds are an effective indicator of wetland quality and their charismatic nature promotes great public interest that helps with sustaining monitoring through community involvement. Projects that address this group of birds will address all of the focus areas in the Great Lakes Action Plan. Coastal wetland restoration for marsh birds in urban areas aids with the remediation of “Areas of Concern” and creates a living laboratory for education and engagement with the local community. By focusing on marsh birds, monitors and stewards have a relatively easily identifiable and accessible indicator for measuring success. Not only do these programs restore habitat, they allow the community to take part in education and stewardship of the project over the long term.
Over the last nine years, Congress has invested more than $2.9 billion in more than 4,000 projects through GLRI. With GLRI funding, Audubon and partners have begun to restore the large wetlands of the Calumet region of Illinois and Indiana, and birds are responding. Places like Big Marsh, Indian Ridge Marsh, and the Dupont Natural Area have all seen improvements in water management, invasive species removal and native plant installation. Species that have been in serious decline or had nearly disappeared are bouncing back, and more diverse. Soras are breeding once again at Big Marsh, the rare King Rail has returned to breed at Dupont, and Least Bittern and Common Gallinule populations are increasing for the first time in decades.
“If the next Action Plan can focus on restoring nesting habitat in the wetlands for marsh birds like it did for the nesting habitat along the beaches for Piping Plovers, we can translate the success of the Calumet region and other smaller projects to the remaining wetlands along the entire Great Lakes basin,” added Sanders. “As a result, our Lakes will be healthier, more resilient to climate change and our birds and wildlife will thrive, as will people and our local economies. It’s a win-win all around.”
The protection and restoration of the Great Lakes is crucial for the well-being of birds, wildlife and people throughout the region and is a top priority for the National Audubon Society and our over 200,000 members and 130 chapters in the region. The Great Lakes support fisheries, recreation, and tourism and provide vital habitat to more than 350 bird species and countless other wildlife and Audubon strongly supports the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
Today’s meeting in Chicago was the last in a series of events scheduled throughout the Great Lakes states. The EPA will be taking public input on how to shape the next plan, known as Great Lakes Action Plan III, which will guide restoration efforts from 2020-2024. The EPA expects to release a draft plan in mid-October or November.
A regional office of the National Audubon Society, Audubon Great Lakes protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Great Lakes basin using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon Great Lakes brings together community scientists and conservationists to take the lead in advocating for and managing the ecosystems birds need to thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more about how to help at gl.audubon.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.