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Transformation of an Industrial Brownfield into an Ecological Buffer for Michigan\'s only Ramsar Wetland of International Importance
Published: 02 November 2011 by MDPI in The 1st World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge spans 77 km along the Detroit River and western Lake Erie, and is the only international wildlife refuge in North America. A key unit of the refuge is the 166-ha Humbug Marsh that represents the last kilometer of natural shoreline on the U.S. mainland of the river and is Michigan\'s only Wetland of International Importance designated under the 1971 International Ramsar Convention. It is considered an internationally important wetland because of its ecological importance in the Detroit River corridor and the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Humbug Marsh serves as a vital habitat for 51 species of fish, 90 species of plants, 154 species of birds, seven species of reptiles and amphibians, and 37 species of dragonflies and damselflies. Adjacent to Humbug Marsh is an 18 ha former industrial manufacturing site (now called the Refuge Gateway) that is being remediated and restored as an ecological buffer for Humbug Marsh, and the future home of the refuge\'s Visitor Center. The site was operated as an automotive brake and paint plant facility for 44 years. The facility was closed in 1990 and remediated to Michigan criteria for industrial/commercial use. It sat vacant for 12 years before it was acquired by Wayne County in 2002 as the gateway to the international wildlife refuge. In 2006, Wayne County and many partners adopted a Master Plan to guide cleanup and restoration. Activities have included: cleanup and capping of contaminated lands; daylighting a creek and constructing a storm water pond and emergent wetland to treat storm water prior to discharge to the Detroit River; achieving a net gain of 6.5 ha of wetlands in a river that has lost 97% of its coastal wetlands to development; restoring 10 ha of upland buffer habitat; treatment of Phragmites along 4 km of shoreline; and treatment and removal of invasive plant species in over 20 ha of forested lakeplain habitat in Humbug Marsh. This project has been described as transformational for the region by restoring an industrial brownfield into high quality wildlife habitat that expands the ecological buffer of a Ramsar site. Further, this Refuge Gateway is being restored as a model of environmental sustainability for nearly seven million residents within a 45-minute drive. This paper will document results achieved, describe the unique public-private partnerships that are being used, and share lessons learned.
Keywords: Industrial brownfield, Ramsar wetland of international importance