Michigan has been awarded $5 million in grants from the non-profit National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that will be dedicated to funding removal of several dams and culverts that are the primary cause of long-term declines in many migrating native fish species due to fragmentation of critical river, stream, and creek habitat located in northern Michigan. The grant will enable local projects whose primary aim will be to restore the natural pathways and aquatic habitat that many native fish species ultimately depend upon during their life cycles for migration back and forth between the Great Lakes, for spawning, for foraging, and for protection against predation. The river and stream aquatic habitat restoration projects are also expected to benefit at risk populations of eastern massasauga rattlesnake, pickerel frog, and several species of increasingly rare freshwater mussels.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will manage the grant-funded projects in collaboration with local conservation groups and Indigenous tribes with an intended goal of reconnecting nearly 200 upstream miles of rivers and streams situated in fourteen Michigan counties. Rivers, streams, and creeks where the grant money will fund aquatic habitat connectivity restoration efforts include:
- Twin Lakes Creek in Cheboygan County
- AuSable River in Crawford County
- Carr Creek, Dana Lake, and Little Bay de Noc in Delta County
- Wycamp Creek in Emmet County
- Two Mile Creek in Gogebic County
- Boardman/Ottaway River in Grand Traverse County
- North Branch Cole Creek in Lake County
- Spring Creek in Luce County
- McAlpine Creek in Mackinac County
- Silver Lead Creek in Marquette County
- Little Muskegon River and Buckhorn Creek in Mecosta County
- Stony Creek in Oceana County
- East Branch Big Creek and AuSable River in Oscoda County
- Hayden Creek in Van Buren County
In addition to the project leadership role of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, several groups including the Conservation Resource Alliance of Traverse City, Huron Pines in Gaylord, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy in Marquette, and the U.S. Forest Service are each also expected to make significant contributions to the overall success of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant funded aquatic habitat restoration initiative.
A leading contributor to the fact that many native fish populations in the United States have suffered severe declines over the course of the past one hundred years, more than two million dams, culverts, and other barriers that act to prevent certain species of native fish from migrating upstream to spawn are present in the United States. The long-term effects of the many physical barriers that prevent life sustaining fish migration is best exemplified by the fact that Atlantic salmon, once present in abundance in every river north of the Hudson River, a coldwater species that seeks to spawn and raise their young in rivers, then migrates back to the ocean to feed, grow, and then again attempts to return upstream to spawn, is now a threatened species.