Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Michigan: Southwest Region High Quality Wetland Preservation

Mitchell's satyr butterfly

Blue Creek Fen is one of the last
remaining locations for the endangered
Mitchell's satyr butterfly.
Source: MDOT

In 2003, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to restore two wetland fen habitats in southwest Michigan. In collaboration with local landowners, MDOT and partners worked jointly on preservation planning, implementation of management goals, and performing management activities to restore the wetlands at both sites.

Shrub Removal at Blue Creek Fen, 2009

Shrub Removal at Blue Creek Fen, 2009
Source: MDOT

The two wetland sites are the Blue Creek Fen in Berrien County, Michigan and the Paw Paw Prairie Fen in Van Buren County, Michigan. Both sites are in the Paw Paw River Watershed, which is part of the St. Joseph Watershed of southwest Michigan. MDOT purchased the sites in 2000 and 2005 to provide wetland preservation credit in the watershed.

MDOT's goal at both sites is to restore the fens natural ecosystem function. MDOT and TNC work to actively control invasive plants with herbicide, shrub and tree removal, and controlled burns. MDOT assisted with a controlled burn at the Paw Paw Prairie Fen in 2006 and 2009. The burns help to stimulate the region's native prairie landscape and enable growth of native wetland species. In 2009, MDOT removed shrubs at the Blue Creek Fen site. Currently, it plans to assist in a State land grant to conduct a controlled burn that will promote re-population of the endangered Mitchell's satyr butterfly from a nearby unmanaged site to the MDOT parcel.

Steve Chadwick (DNRE), Mike O'Malley, and Mike Pennington (MDOT), 2010

Steve Chadwick (DNRE), Mike O'Malley, and Mike
Pennington (MDOT), 2010
Source: MDOT

Both sites serve as high quality wetlands and contain a variety of transitional habitat types required for the Mitchell's satyr butterfly. The adjacent uplands serve as a buffer from external threats. In 2011, MDOT will place a conservation easement on the wetlands and associated uplands at the Blue Creek Fen. This will allow MDOT to better manage the area surrounding the restoration site. The easement will help preserve water quality and natural hydrology and limit the amount of waste that gathers onsite. At the Paw Paw Prairie Fen, MDOT will place a conservation easement on the wetlands and work with TNC to continue to manage the adjacent uplands in accordance with the management plan.

Eastern Box Turtles at Blue Creek Fen, April 29, 2010

Eastern Box Turtles at Blue Creek Fen, April 29, 2010
Source: MDOT

Paw Paw River Sub Watershed and St. Joseph River Watershed

Paw Paw River Sub Watershed and St. Joseph River Watershed
Source: MDOT

One of the strengths of this partnership and restoration effort is the use of best available science to develop long-term management plans. In 2005, TNC wrote a management plan that incorporates the best available science for the Paw Paw site. In addition, FWS and TNC wrote a conservation strategy that emphasizes five key management practices for the Blue Creek Fen site. The fen, which contains the Mitchell's satyr butterfly, is one of the last remaining habitats for this endangered species. To protect this species and maintain its habitat, the plan emphasizes that the land manager should maintain critical ecological processes, develop ecological goals, minimize external threats, conserve evolutionary processes, and have the ability to manage adaptively.

The management of the sites will be led by MDOT, TNC, FWS, and DNRE. There will be a three-part environmental stewardship agreement between MDOT, TNC, and DNRE to ensure long-term management. The sites will provide MDOT with nine acres of wetland credit, which can be applied to future project impacts.

This unique partnership and use of best available science to preserve the two wetland sites already serves as an example to other habitat management initiatives in the State. The management agencies will continue to coordinate and jointly monitor the sites and native species to ensure the long-term restoration of the sites.

For more information, contact Michael Pennington, Wetland Mitigation Specialist, Michigan Department of Transportation, at penningtonm@michigan.gov or Donald Cameron, Planning and Program Development Manager, U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Michigan Division at Donald.Cameron@dot.gov.


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