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Report: Great Lakes only region to gain wetlands

| Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, 6:24 p.m.

MONROE, Mich. — Honking geese soar overhead in a V formation, buffeted by bitter gusts off nearby Lake Erie, while flocks of mallards bob along the shore. Even blanketed in snow, the sprawling wetland in southeastern Michigan is a magnet for water birds — one reason a public-private project is under way to improve it.

Crews are building levees, canals and pumps that will regulate water levels and upgrade fish passageways in a 946-acre section of Erie Marsh, making it a better home for wildlife and limiting the spread of invasive plants.

It's an example of decades-old efforts by government agencies and private groups to rebuild Great Lakes coastal wetlands such as swamps, bogs and marshes that have been depleted by development. A federal report released in November suggests the work is beginning to pay off.

The eight-state Great Lakes region — extending from western New York to eastern Minnesota— was the only section of the country where coastal wetland acreage increased during a five-year period when scientists took extensive measurements with satellites and field photography.

Replacing wetlands is a primary goal of an Obama administration program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that is focusing on the region's biggest environmental problems.

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