Environmental Services Program
LTBB Wetlands Protection Program
Wetlands are very important for the way of life for the LTBB. This way of life is rooted in the traditional reliance on fishing, hunting, and gathering of plants for food, medicine, and crafting, as well as for cultural and spiritual purposes. In 2006, the LTBB Tribal Council passed a Wetland Protection and Management Statute to further the protection of wetlands on Tribal lands. The Statute defines a wetland to be, “land characterized by the presence of water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal conditions does support, wetland vegetation or aquatic life, and is commonly referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh, not contiguous to the Great Lakes, or a river or stream. Wetlands must have hydric soils, wetland vegetation, and wetland hydrology.” Two key components of the Statute are that permanent development is not allowed in wetlands and that since mitigation so often fails to meet the functions of the wetlands that they replace, it is not an option to replace existing wetlands.
To continue to protect and preserve wetlands within the Reservation, LTBB Environmental Staff monitor eleven wetland sites on LTBB trust lands on a semi-annual basis. The sites are evaluated for habitat quality, threatened and endangered species, culturally significant plant species, and invasive plant species. Bioindicators are also used to help determine overall wetland ecosystem health, such as through frog and toad surveys. The data helps to determine changes occurring over time and helps direct future restoration efforts. Additionally, staff develop and plan restoration projects, conduct invasive species removal, and participate in National, Tribal, regional and local workgroups and meetings on wetland science and policy.
What are wetlands and why are they important?
Wetlands are important components of the landscape that perform many functions such as water transfer and storage, biogeochemical processes, as well as provide habitat (space, food, and shelter). Based on these functions, wetlands provide values to humans and ecosystems through flood control, shoreline erosion protection, filtering and cleansing water, groundwater recharge, erosion control, food production, recreation, and habitat for plants and animals, including many rare or endangered species. Wetland protection provides direct benefits to human health and safety by reducing flood damage and preserving water quality.
In spite of the important functions and values that wetlands provide, they have not always been appreciated. Wetlands are transition zones between terrestrial and aquatic systems that are often located along rivers, lakes, and in floodplains, which are often important agricultural lands because they are nutrient-rich and highly productive. Isolated wetlands may occur where precipitation and poor drainage causes water to pool in lowlands or other areas. Isolated wetlands are not restricted to the lowest points on the landscape – they may be found anywhere the water table is above the surface of the ground. Prior to the 1970’s, US public policies encouraged the drainage and destruction of wetlands for conversion to agriculture as part of the Federal Swamp Land Act of 1850. Some sources estimate that over 70% of Michigan’s original wetlands were either drained or filled, while many remaining wetlands are not representative of original landscape types.
Threats to wetlands
Today, some of the biggest threats to wetlands are from human activities. Common activities include filling and draining of wetlands for agriculture and land development, damming for flood control and water supply, and dredging and extensive stream channel modifications for navigation. For instance, according to the EPA, wetlands along the Mississippi River that were able to store 60 days worth of water now only have the capacity to store 12 days of water. That is a HUGE change that has lead to severe flooding, increased erosion, and decreased water quality and habitat for plants wildlife.
Other threats to wetlands include pollution from stormwater runoff, air pollution from factories, power plants, and cars, and landfills and dumps that leak toxins. As the population increases, so does the demand for land, especially along waterfronts. Still today, policy and management for wetlands is much different than policy and management for streams, rivers, and lakes. Most State and Federal programs have focused on the maintenance and restoration of streams, rivers, and lakes, whereas most wetland policies focus on preventing wetlands from being converted to uplands (U.S. E.P.A., 2002). Currently, many wetlands are federally protected under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of dredged or fill materials into navigable waters of the United States through a permit program jointly administered by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This permit program has been interpreted to extend from traditionally navigable waters to “isolated waters” such as wetlands. Wetlands are also protected by the State of Michigan under Part 303, Wetlands Protection, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451.
If you have any questions about any of these activities or would like further information please contact: Jacqueline Pilette, LTBB Wetlands Specialist at (231) 242-1674 or email@example.com