Ecological Services of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a broad range of responsibilities in protecting fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. These resources include the lake sturgeon. This species, an ancient survivor from the dinosaur era, has at times been referred to as the bald eagle of the aquatic system. Stocks of lake sturgeon have been seriously depleted from historical abundance's in the Great Lakes, mostly from over harvest and the loss and degradation of reproductive areas. It is this latter cause of depletion that is being addressed within programs of Ecological Services and the East Lansing Field Office.

Fish and Wildlife Service programs within responsibilities of the East Lansing Field Office are Habitat Conservation, Environmental Contaminants, and Endangered Species. It is the Habitat Conservation and Environmental Contaminants programs that are most actively responding to lake sturgeon rehabilitation through habitat restoration. The process is challenging because of the significant changes and impacts that have occurred to river systems that historically provided spawning and nursery areas for this majestic fish species.

The development of hydroelectric and other dams on Michigan rivers severed most river spawning lake sturgeon from their historic spawning grounds. Highly regulated water releases which cut off flows during significant portions of the day were the norm for hydro operations. Industrial pollution, and soil deposition in addition to pesticide and herbicide runoff from poor agricultural practices, further degraded riverine spawning areas that were still accessible to the sturgeon. Road crossings and bridge construction also added new routes for sediments and other pollution to enter and blanket stream bottoms and degrade water quality. The destruction of wetlands by a cadre of development projects and agricultural practices have increased sediment and contaminant loading into the Great Lakes river systems. Wastewater discharges from cities and towns that are not treated by best available technology overload nutrients into aquatic systems and coat spawning areas with periphyton and other plant growth.

Mitigating or overturning many of these practices is a difficult process. The East Lansing Field Office has front line involvement and leads efforts to change many of the practices authorized or implemented by other Federal agencies that have destroyed or degraded lake sturgeon habitat. Much more work needs to be done, but the Field Office, working with others, has already accomplished many habitat enhancement goals in Michigan. Some of these include converting many hydro operations from peaking to run-of-river modes of operation; working with Federal, State and Local governmental agencies and private industries to modify project proposals to afford better protection to Michigan river systems; implementing effective erosion control measures in construction and agricultural projects and practices; protecting, mitigating and restoring wetland resources that are the cornerstone of high water quality and base flow conditions in our waterways; working with industry to clean up contaminant areas of concern; as well as many other achievements.

The East Lansing Field Office also partners with all other Divisions within the Fish and Wildlife Service to address issues that affect trust species. Lake sturgeon is one of these species. The importance of this species to the Great Lakes ecosystem cannot be overstated. You can learn more about lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes by visiting the link below.

Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Website Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Web site logo