Archived Story

Wetland forum in Three Rivers Sept. 24

Published 4:04pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013

THREE RIVERS — Regional conservation organizations are joining efforts to inform area landowners of available tools, programs and financial incentives to protect River Country’s remaining wetlands and restore some of those that have been lost.

The forum, “River Country Riches: Landowner Incentives to Preserve Private Wetlands for Regional Benefit,” will be Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 p.m., at Camp Eberhart’s Klinger Dining Hall on Corey Lake, near Three Rivers.

The forum will focus on strategies to protect and restore significant wetland areas in partnership with private landowners.

It will cover the programs that offer financial assistance for restoring wetlands that have been lost due to draining or filling over time.

“Cass and St. Joe counties have collectively lost more than 50 percent of their wetlands since the earliest Europeans settled this area,” said Vic Eichler, chair of the Fabius Township Wetlands Committee.

“The influence of water in our region is undeniable, and healthy fisheries and natural areas are a part of our River Country heritage. The objective of the forum is to provide information and assistance to interested landowners to aid in the protection and restoration of area wetlands.”

The Fabius Township Wetlands Committee will host the forum in collaboration with several regional organizations, including Friends of the St. Joe River Association, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, several County Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Ducks Unlimited. The push to conserve regional wetland resources was initiated by an EPA grant-funded study, which ranked the functions of existing and historic wetlands throughout the St. Joseph River Watershed, covering all or parts of 15 counties in Michigan and Indiana.

“The overarching goal is to conserve our most sensitive land and water resources, understanding the numerous functions they serve to mitigate storm events, store floodwaters and filter polluted runoff, among others,” stated Geoffrey Cripe, land protection specialist with project partner Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

Additionally, the study results continue to be available to local planners, conservation organizations and drain officials to utilize in their daily work.

The forum is geared primarily toward landowners who have current or historic wetlands on their property, but will include valuable information for public officials and anyone who is interested in learning more about resources available to conserve or restore wetlands.

“Many tools and programs are available to assist farmers and other landowners to permanently conserve and restore critical wetlands they own,” stated Eichler. “The forum will discuss and celebrate the resources that make this region unique. Attendees will hear from groups working to advance water quality protection in the region.”

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