Manmade wetlands may ease sting of development
July 14, 1997
Web posted at: 6:01 a.m. EDT (1001 GMT)
From Correspondent Joan MacFarlane
SUMPTER TOWNSHIP, Michigan (CNN) -- A natural filter for the
environment, wetlands also are home to thousands of plants and
However, marshes are often lost to modern development. Michigan
hopes a new program will help replace some of the nature that
progress has destroyed.
Here in Sumpter Township, the Crosswinds Marsh grew from
farmland to wetland in about six years.
"It's had pretty good success as far as establishing wetland
vegetation (goes)," said Andrea Kline, a landscape architect. "We
have plenty of water on the site, and there's been over 105 species of
birds that have used the site."
The result of a Michigan state law that says developers must create or
set aside 1.5 acres of wetlands for every acre destroyed, Crosswinds
was created by developers during the expansion of the Detroit Metro
Airport, which destroyed 200 acres of natural wetlands.
"The purpose is so that the total amount of wetlands that provide
filtration for this ecosystem is not diminished and all the natural
features of wetlands are protected and enhanced," said Hurley
Coleman of Wayne County.
Time will tell
Michigan's Department of Natural Resources issues hundreds of
wetland replacement permits, but determining the success of the
marshes is difficult.
The real judge on how successful wetland replacement will be is
time. The DNR says at least three growing seasons are needed
before success can be measured.
It took nearly $19 million in federal and local funds to create
Crosswinds. Right now, it appears to be thriving, but no one can
guarantee its success. In fact, critics warn that when a natural wetland
is lost, it can never be completely replaced.
"It's because ... the wetlands have evolved over a long period, many
of these plants are highly specialized, many of the other organisms
rely on the other plants," explained Tony Reznick of the University
of Michigan. "And you can't create an incredibly complex
interlinked web of natural processes in an afternoon with a
bulldozer. It doesn't work."