Protecting and preserving the Great Lakes State’s precious water resources is truly a team effort. On the regulatory side, state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development take the lead. Private sportsmen and conservation groups – including but certainly not limited to Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Trout Unlimited, Michigan Steelheaders and Ducks Unlimited – are also important partners in helping keep our waters healthy for recreational use.
Water management and conservation practices include:
Once the presence of foreign invaders is confirmed, response plans are implemented. Resource managers might try netting to remove invasive species from a confined body of water, or they could use chemical treatment when populations are more widespread. For example, some Michigan rivers are regularly treated with a lampricide that kills the larvae of the invasive sea lamprey – a parasite that sucks bodily fluids from native fish such as salmon and lake trout. Treatments are conducted without significantly harming other animals or plants.
The 1966 introduction of Pacific salmon into the Great Lakes is a shining example of how fish stocking enhanced our waters and boosted recreation opportunities. Ecologically, the salmon returned balance to the lakes by introducing a predator to control the growth of invasive alewife populations. At the same time, salmon stocking created what has become a world-class fishery with immense economic importance. Another common fish-stocking example: In many inland lakes, the growth of bluegills is stunted due to a lack of food and habitat degradation. To restore balance (and, ultimately, create bigger, healthier bluegill) the state has planted predators such as walleye into lakes to thin bluegill populations and lessen competition.
Spearheading Michigan’s fish production efforts are six DNR-operated hatcheries, three permanent egg-take stations and numerous rearing ponds, many of which are operated in partnership with sportsmen’s groups.
In addition, farmers increasingly are using only the most productive land, letting acreage such as wetlands and riparian buffer strips return to their natural state. Wetlands are important to the environment. For instance, they provide a home for many wildlife species, serve as natural filters for sediment and toxins, and hasten groundwater recharge (the replenishment of underground aquifers that supply water for drinking and irrigating). Riparian buffer strips help to retain rainwater and intercept nutrients and soil before they reach our streams and lakes, causing sedimentation and eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients in a body of water).
Dams can congregate migratory fish, creating popular fishing spots. Dams can also serve as barriers to the spread of invasive species, such as lamprey eels. But generally speaking, dam removal is beneficial to a river’s health. Dam removal reconnects a river system to its main stream and tributaries, provides fish passage and wildlife access to new habitat, increasing opportunity for natural reproduction, and allows sediment load to move more efficiently through a free-flowing river system. In addition, removal means recreationalists, such as canoeists and kayakers, no longer have to portage around dams. Because of these and more benefits, the general trend toward removing dams is a national movement.