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U.S. Geological Survey - Great Lakes Science Center

GLSC Partnership Receives Prestigious Department of Interior Award

PIC Award Recipients with Secretary Jewell

The Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative, a decade-long effort of the GLSC, has received a 2013 Department of the Interior (DOI) Partners in Conservation award, which is one of the highest recognitions bestowed on organizations by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

“The Department of the Interior is proud to recognize the accomplishments of those who are innovating and collaborating in ways that address today’s complex conservation and stewardship challenges,” Secretary Jewell said at the awards ceremony at the Interior headquarters in Washington, D.C., on January 16. “These partnerships represent the gold standard for how Interior is doing business across the nation to power our future, strengthen tribal nations, conserve and enhance America’s great outdoors and engage the next generation.”

Representatives from the Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative, including the USGS GLSC, Michigan Sea Grant, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Great Lakes Fishery Commission attended the 2013 Partners in Conservation Awards Recognition Event. A local presentation of award certificates is also planned for February 5, during the Annual Meeting of the Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative. The initiative was honored for its relevant new science that will assist resource managers in making decisions concerning the restoration of native aquatic species and their habitats in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. The initiative gained recognition for the international collaboration it fosters.

The Partners in Conservation Awards recognize outstanding examples of conservation legacies achieved when DOI engages groups and individuals representing a wide range of backgrounds, ages and interests to work collaboratively to renew lands and resources. The achievements of the Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative have been realized through the outstanding participation of diverse organizations on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

The St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, also known as the Huron-Erie corridor, are the international waters that connect Lake Huron to Lake Erie and provide habitat for over 65 species of fish. The region, which includes the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, is part of the central Great Lakes flyway for millions of migratory waterfowl. It contains some of the largest and most diverse wetlands remaining in the region.

Environmental changes in the corridor over time have resulted in the loss of habitat for fish and other organisms. The partners developed a plan to increase habitat for lake whitefish, lake sturgeon, walleye and other native fish populations, based on research suggesting that water flow, depth and temperature are important in the placement of spawning reefs. Pre- and post-construction monitoring demonstrated an immediate response by over 14 native fish species, including spawning by the commercially important lake whitefish, which was a first in over a century; use by the globally rare northern madtom; and spawning by lake sturgeon, which is listed as a threatened species in both Michigan and Ontario.

Seven additional fish spawning habitat projects are planned for construction in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers by 2015. With funding support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, over 20 acres of fish spawning habitat will be restored in these urban rivers by 2015.

The Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative (HECI) is an international, collaborative partnership including federal, tribal, state, provincial, local governmental and non-governmental participants. View the full list of partners here. In 2013, the HECI membership adopted the use of the St. Clair-Detroit River System Initiative (SCDRSI) to more aptly reflect the geographic focus of the strait itself rather than the adjacent lakes.

Photo (from left): Anne Castle, U.S. Department of Interior; John Dettmers, Great Lakes Fishery Commission; Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant; Kurt Newman, U.S. Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center; Sally Jewel, Secretary of the Interior; Rich Drouin, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Jim Boase, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Bill Werkheiser, U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS press release on receiving the award

DOI press release on the award event in Washington

Huron-Erie Corridor Initiative website

Photos of the Initiative

Habitat restoration video

News article and video

Project infosheet

Photo Credit: 
Department of the Interior

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