National Parks playing role in restoring Great Lakes

The National Park Service has a big role to play in the restoration of the Great Lakes.

About $18 million of federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds was obtained by the park service for restoration projects within the Great Lakes watershed. Attendees at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference on Thursday heard about several successful examples on park service properties and projects that are underway.

One project at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will restore a wetland area that was negatively impacted by development. Once the project is complete, the new vegetation and restored hydrology will prevent nutrients and pollutants from entering Lake Michigan.

“Ultimately the purpose is to reconnect this watershed which was highly degraded,” said Naureen Rana, Midwest program manager, National Parks Conservation Association. “It was ditched and drained for agriculture, for industrial development, and urban uses.”

At the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, seven projects are being considered to restore wetlands, fight invasive species and curb excess sedimentation. The projects would add to the current resource protection efforts of the park, which encompasses one-fifth of the length of the Cuyahoga River.

“We play a critical role in helping to contribute to the recovery of the Cuyahoga River and the Area of Concern,” said Kevin Skerl, an ecologist at the National Park Service.

Meanwhile, at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding is supporting the efforts of scientists to find out why birds are dying of avian botulism. More and more fish and birds are washing up on the beaches, said Emily Tyner, a graduate student at the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Although much more needs to be studied about the disease, Tyner said, invasive species that have changed the ecology of Lake Michigan appear to be playing a role.

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