Benzie County Wetlands:
Whether you enjoy a sunset boat ride on Crystal Lake, watch songbirds at the feeder, stalk trout on the Betsie River, or are employed by a restaurant or retail shop, you directly benefit from Benzie County's wetlands. These vital water-soaked parcels, disregarded for so long, are in fact the principal natural systems that purify the County's lakes, streams, and groundwater, provide wildlife habitat, nurture sport fisheries, and reduce flooding.
Yet, in spite of their proven value to Benzie County's environment and economy, our wetlands are in trouble. The Michigan Land Use Institute estimates that 3 acres of wetlands in Benzie County are lost each year to commercial and housing development. Much of the development is in violation of state and federal wetland protection laws.
Moreover, the County has not been prosecuting violators. Between 1993 and 1996, the state Department of Environmental Quality reported nine violations to Benzie County for prosecution. None of the cases was taken to trial.
The Michigan Land Use Institute launched the Benzie Wetland Protection Project to begin addressing this problem. This report, prepared with the assistance and close oversight of specialists who have worked in the field for years, provides Benzie residents with an introduction to wetlands and how to safeguard them.
In preparing the report one central lesson became evident: advances in scientific understanding and government regulations are only part of a complete program for wetland conservation. Protecting these irreplaceable resources also requires the active support of landowners and citizens.
The Michigan Land Use Institute is eager to help you learn more. Call on us. If we don't have the information you need, we'll help you find it. Every one of us, from the trained biologist to the average citizen, has a stake in protecting vital wetland resources.
This report was compiled and published by the staff of the Michigan Land Use Institute. We wish to thank all of the individuals, groups, and government agencies that helped us bring together the data, organize our thesis, and review the final product.
We are particularly indebted to Wilfred Cwikiel of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council in Conway, Michigan, a nationally recognized wetland expert and advocate. Wil is the author of two widely-acclaimed books, Michigan Wetlands, Yours to Protect and Living With Michigan's Wetlands: A Landowner's Guide, which served as the basis for our research and presentation.
We also extend special thanks to:
Greg LaCross, an ecologist who teaches at Northwestern Michigan College, for helping with the field identification of Benzie County wetlands;
The staff at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, for their assistance in describing Benzie County's wetland preserves;
Matt Johnstone, a Land and Water Management Analyst for the Department of Environmental Quality, who oversees Benzie County and contributed insight and expertise to our research; and
Gwen Frostic, Benzie County's noted wildlife artist and poet, who donated the lovely nature prints displayed on the cover and throughout the report.
Our thanks also go to Thomas Carr, and Rolf and Kathy Stadheim, Michigan Land Use Institute members whose generous financial support helped make this report possible.
What Are Wetlands?
Wetlands are unique and varied ecosystems. They share the common aspect of being too wet to be considered upland and too dry to be considered "deep water." Standing water is not always visible in a wetland, and most of Benzie County's remaining wetlands are forested.
egetation and soil are the key factors of determining wetlands, which are directly related to the amount of water present. If water exists in the ground for a long enough time during the growing season, plants that grow there will be specially adapted to survive in wet conditions and the soil will take on wetland characteristics.
Michigan contains a wide range of wetlands, classified in the broad categories of marshes, swamps, and bogs. Wetlands are filters, sponges, shelters, pantries, nurseries, time capsules, classrooms, and areas for recreation and inspiration.