More than $20M awarded to tribal-led watershed restoration project in Northern Michigan

What’s happening: The years-long effort to preserve and restore a series of fragmented multi-tribal fisheries and wildlife populations in northwest Michigan received a significant boost recently, this thanks to a more than $20 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The project, the Tribal Stream and Michigan Fruitbelt Collaborative, first launched in 2016 and has since completed more than 60 stream restoration projects throughout Northern Michigan.

What it is: The Tribal Stream and Michigan Fruitbelt Collaborative includes more than a dozen nonprofit organizations and government agencies, and is led by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians. The Collaborative has been working to preserve and restore the watersheds and wildlife of northwest Michigan, from Carp Lake River and Maple River in the north to Betsie, Boardman, Manistee, and Platte rivers in the south.

See for yourself: The “Restoring Aquatic Ecosystem” documentary focuses on the project, and first aired on WCMU Public Television in October 2022. The nearly 30 minute program is currently available on YouTube, found here.

What’s next: Per the RCPP award description, “one objective of this project is to rectify 29 problematic stream crossing structures throughout the (1836 Treaty of Washington) Ceded Territory. Furthermore, the local waterways and wildlife corridors face additional threats from escalating development pressures. Particularly concerning are the areas proximate to water bodies jointly managed by tribal governments for both commercial and subsistence purposes. To ensure the protection of vital groundwater supplies and to maintain the viability of these pivotal wildlife corridors, a second objective will be undertaken safeguarding 3,700 acres with perpetual conservation easements which will significantly limit development and maintain rainwater infiltration.”

Big news: The $20,359,756 award for the Tribal Stream and Michigan Fruitbelt Collaborative was announced in a package of more than $5 billion in USDA initiatives awarded to rural projects nationwide, and currently being championed by President Biden. A rundown of those initiatives and awards is available on the USDA website.

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