Conservation Resource Alliance
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Arcadia Marsh Restoration

October 31, 2013

 

Photo by Angie Lucas courtesy of GTRLC

The tale ends with a tranquil scene of birds gliding through a pristine marsh with vibrant wildflowers and a gently meandering stream. Getting to the end of the story, however, offers a more complex narrative of a community coming together to bring the right partners to the table to protect and restore 155 acres of stunning habitat in the heart of Manistee County.

The Arcadia Marsh, located just east of Arcadia, Michigan, is a Great Lakes Coastal Marsh, a rare and declining natural coastal community and one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Of great conservation significance, the Arcadia Marsh hosts over 150 species of birds including 17 State Endangered, Threatened, or Species of Special Concern, making it an unparalleled site for birding. It is also an important spawning, nursery and year-round habitat for numerous fish species including brown trout, brook trout and northern pike.

In 2010, Conservation Resource Alliance was invited by Ducks Unlimited and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, who purchased the property in 2007, to do what CRA does best – lead stream and aquatic habitat restoration efforts. With the financial support of Ducks Unlimited, the Michigan Coastal Zone Management program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes program, the project was launched.

The mission was ambitious – the ecosystem had been manipulated for over a century beginning with a railroad grade in the late 1800s. Over the years, Bowen’s Creek, the central feeder stream to the marsh, had been diverted to accommodate agriculture and other human uses. By the time the Conservancy purchased the land, the creek was drastically degraded. It was shallow, filled with sand and invasive species like phragmites (Phragmites australis) and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) were encroaching on the sensitive plant community.

A variety of conservation organizations and agencies came to help – each partner playing a key part. Ducks Unlimited administered the restoration grant, worked to restore the natural channel of Bowen’s Creek and recreated open water habitat within the marsh. CRA was tasked with coordinating the replacement of seven road/stream crossings in the watershed and enhancing aquatic habitat with large woody debris. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians joined the team to collect data and monitor changes. The Manistee County Road Commission handled the road/stream crossing installation. The Conservancy headed up invasive species treatment, prescribed burns and native plant re-colonization.

The next chapter will include the Conservancy’s purchase of additional land at the marsh, the continuation of invasive species treatment and native plant restoration as the marsh comes back to life. Plant and animal composition are closely being monitored – we’ll be sure to share survey results as soon as they are ready. Arcadia Marsh has traditionally been used for quiet recreation and visitors will soon be invited to enjoy the natural splendor of this area once again. The Conservancy is raising funds to build a universally accessible trail in the near future.

Kudos to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited for bringing this project to fruition and a big thanks to all the partners, volunteers and staff who made this project possible.


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Conservation Resource Alliance

Bayview Professional Centre
10850 Traverse Highway, Suite 1180
Traverse City, MI 49684
231-946-6817

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