Open Spaces : American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Washington: Tide Returns to Nisqually Estuary

Many bird species resting at a wetland

This project is a model of how estuary restoration can happen while providing a mosaic of diverse habitats for fish and migratory birds, quality public access, and education. Photo: Jesse Barham, USFWS. Download.

Photo iconPhotos: Nisqually Restoration and Boardwalk Projects on Flickr

Video iconVideo: Rivers and Tides: Restoring the Nisqually Estuary

River delta restoration projects are considered crucial to provide increased resiliency to large estuary systems – a key tool for adaptation in the face of climate change and related impacts of sea level rise. The Nisqually estuary in Washington State is a shining example.

After a century of diking off tidal flow, the Brown Farm Dike was removed in October 2009, allowing tidal waters to once again inundate 762 acres of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge near Olympia, Washington. Along with 140 acres of tidal wetlands restored by the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Nisqually Delta represents the largest tidal marsh restoration project in the Pacific Northwest to assist in recovery of Puget Sound salmon and wildlife populations.

During the past decade, the refuge and close partners, including the Tribe and Ducks Unlimited, have restored more than 22 miles of the historic tidal slough systems and re-connected historic floodplains to the Puget Sound in Washington State, providing the potential to increase salt marsh habitat in the southern reach of Puget Sound by more than 50 percent. The projects have also initiated the restoration of more than 70 acres of riparian surge plain forest, an extremely depleted type of tidal forest important for juvenile salmon and songbirds.

“The project is an important step in the recovery of Puget Sound,” says Refuge Manager Jean Takekawa. “Combined with the 140 acres previously restored by the Nisqually Indian Tribe, more than 900 acres of the Nisqually estuary have been restored.”

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Wisconsin: Forward Thinking to Restore Native Prairie

A pheasant
Ring-necked pheasant. Photo: Dave Menke.

An innovative program to restore native prairie and slow the spread of non-native plant species that may thrive in Wisconsin’s warming climate is living up to the state’s motto “Forward” – taking bold steps to sustain natural resources into the future.

According to a comprehensive state report, Wisconsin's Changing Climate: Impacts and Adaptation, climate change models predict a shift to increased moisture and temperature in the decades ahead. By the middle of the century, statewide annual average temperatures are likely to warm by 6-7 degrees Fahrenheit. These changing conditions favor invasive plant and tree species over native prairie.

Tom Kerr, Manager of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s St. Croix Wetland Management District (District), says many invasive plants have already established themselves, mainly trees that outcompete native grasses. The District manages 7,800 acres in eight counties, providing habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds, threatened and endangered native species and resident wildlife.

Removing the scattered non-native trees – mostly non-native and invasive Russian olive, Siberian elm and buckthorn, as well as trees native to North America like green ash, box elder, pine and cottonwood – also benefits wildlife habitat for grassland species. The non-native trees combine with other trees to provide cover for predators such as skunks, raccoons and fox that threaten nesting waterfowl, pheasants and numerous non-game bird species that depend on large, open grasslands to thrive. 

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Last updated: June 21, 2012