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Michigan Wetlands

michiganwetlandsWetlands are a very complex subject in Michigan. I will attempt a brief description, only to add to it later. They are often misunderstood, underappreciated and sometimes overlooked. They are enjoyed by many hikers, sportsmen and hunters. 

Wetlands are often described as a bog, a swamp or marsh. It is land where the soil  is saturated with moisture. They are complex natural systems, and like Michigan’s lakes, no two are alike. They provide ecological balance and functions.

Wetlands are generally found in flat areas of vegetation as a depression on the landscape. Or, they are commonly found between the water and dry ground along a stream, river or lake.

Wetlands act much like a sponge during times of storms, snowmelt and high water levels.  The wetlands can “absorb” much water thus preventing flooding. During times of low water levels, the waters are slowly released back into the lakes, rivers and streams. One estimate states one acre of wetlands can hold some 350,000 gallons of water if flooded one foot.

Wetlands are home to much wildlife and serve as stops for migrating birds. Many of our endangered species makes their home in wetland areas and a wide variety of plant life is found here.

Wetlands act as a filter for the waters of our lakes, streams and rivers. Wetlands remove the phosphates that can find their way into the ecosystem by way of runoff from lawns, farms, industrial plants and sewage. This removal greatly reduces the aquatic weeds and algae, which steal the oxygen that plants and animals need to survive. These weeds also steal vital nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Over the years it is estimated we have lost one half of all wetlands in this country. Wetlands, or portions of them, have been filled in to build roads or railroads. They were drained for creation of farmland. And yes, they were filled in along many of Michigan’s lakes and rivers to become home sites.

A permit from the DEQ is required to deposit fill or permit the placing of any fill material in the wetland area. A permit is also required to dredge, or remove any soil or minerals from the wetland area or to drain surface water from wetland area. When constructing or developing any area within the wetland area, you would be required to obtain a permit before any work could begin.

If in doubt, ask!

Written by Dave.