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Michigan Receives $5M for Conservation Projects; Seven in UP

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation recently announced the recipients of the first America the Beautiful Challenge, a $1 billion grant program that launched in May to fund various landscape-level conservation projects. Michigan has been awarded $5 million administered by the state Department of Natural Resources.

“Michigan’s natural resources are among the best in the nation and we will work with everyone to preserve them for future generations,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “These federal grants for our inland waterways will help us protect several endangered species, reduce risks to public safety and improve climate resilience. Let’s continue to work together to ensure all our waters, from the Great Lakes that define us to our thousands of inland bodies of water, are safe for decades to come.”

Michigan’s award will fund the removal of 27 river barriers to restore passage for fish and other aquatic life. In addition, this work will benefit several endangered species such as the eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, the pickerel frog, and freshwater mussel species including the ridged clam and the elktoe.

The DNR will work with local organizations and federally recognized tribes to reconnect nearly 200 miles upstream of rivers and streams to work towards improved climate resilience and river connectivity, as well as easier passage of aquatic organisms between and within waterways. Such remediation projects also help eliminate public safety risks, particularly for sites where road traffic crosses the waterways.

Partners include the Conservation Resource Alliance, Huron Pines, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy, and the US Forest Service.

The streams benefiting from the America the Beautiful Challenge grant are located in 14 counties across Michigan:

  • Twin Lakes Creek (Cheboygan County)
  • Au Sable River (Crawford County)
  • Carr Creek (Delta County)
  • Dana Lake (Delta County)
  • Cove of Noc (Delta County)
  • Wycamp Creek (Emmet County)
  • Two Mile Creek (Gogebic County)
  • Boardman/Ottaway Rivers (Grand Traverse County)
  • North Branch Cole Creek (Lake County)
  • Spring Creek (Luce County)
  • McAlpine Creek (County Mackinac)
  • Silver Lead Creek (Marquette County)
  • Little Muskegon River (Mecosta County)
  • Buckhorn Creek (Mecosta County)
  • Steinbach
  • East Branch Big Creek (Oscoda County)
  • Au Sable River (Oscoda County)
  • Hayden Creek (Van Buren County)

DNR Director Dan Eichinger said supporting the America the Beautiful Challenge will go a long way toward improving water and fish flow, which is critical to healthy rivers and streams.

“Put simply: fish and other organisms in the water have to move,” says Eichinger. “Throughout their many life stages, whether foraging, reproducing, hiding from predators, or seeking protection from extreme conditions, fish need to be able to move easily within their waters and between waters. By removing barriers to such movement, we can better protect fish populations.”

Earlier this year, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation created the America the Beautiful Challenge with a vision to streamline and centralize a statewide grant funding opportunity that would leverage federal investment in conservation and restoration with private and philanthropic contributions to help protect of land, water and wildlife to accelerate efforts across the country.

Michigan was one of six applicants awarded the maximum grant amount of $5 million.

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