Making way for migratory birds in the St. Mary's
The St. Mary’s River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is an important waterway for migratory birds and a traditional waterfowl hunting area for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. But over the past few decades, tribal members noticed a decrease in waterfowl hunting opportunities in the St. Mary’s. In 2014, the Service's Coastal Program awarded funding to the tribe’s Inland Fish and Wildlife Department to control invasive species in coastal marshes along the river.
The department investigated migratory bird use of the area and began identifying management practices to restore the wetlands and control the invasive plant species that had spread throughout the coastal wetland complex. Collaborating with partners such as Loyola University Chicago, Boise State University, Oregon State University, Dartmouth College and Three Shores Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, the department has designed a hybrid cattail control program that shares labor, equipment and expertise among the partners.
So far, more than 65 acres have been treated for invasive plant species, including purple loosestrife, hybrid cattail and phragmites. The tribe’s Inland Fish and Wildlife Department staff have removed 440 33-gallon trash bags of purple loosestrife across 53 acres of coastal marsh bordering the St. Mary’s River. Experimenting with management methods, the department and partners identified a better approach for removing invasive cattails – mechanical removal using a cattail harvester. Testing was conducted on young cattail stands by cutting the stands at varying heights to investigate harvesting effects. The project partners also mapped the locations of invasive species in early summer 2016 to focus efforts on recently invaded wetlands and maximize the amount of area treated during the project.
The tribes Inland Fish and Wildlife Department grew 4,216 hard stem plants to plant in areas where the cattail harvester removed hybrid cattails. In addition, a native plant nursery delivered another 9,240 hard stem bulrush plants to the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe this fall. These plants were then transplanted along with the plants grown by the department. Over the coming years, staff will continue to monitor migratory bird use of the wetlands to evaluate the effectiveness of invasive plant treatments, identify areas of importance to wildlife and focus future restoration efforts.
By Dawn Marsh
Marquette Ecological Services