EGLE Director and staff visit the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Wild Rice Restoration Project at Lake Tawas


As part of Michigan Indian Day, today’s story from MI Environment chronicles a recent visit by the EGLE Director to Lake Tawas, where the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is undertaking a wild rice restoration project. Michigan Indian Day is celebrated on the fourth Friday in September to honor the significant contributions Native American tribes have made to American history, especially in the state of Michigan.

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Director Liesl Clark and several other EGLE personnel recently joined the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe environmental team and Staff Sgt. arms of Tribal Council Dave Merrill, Jr. during a visit to the Wild Rice Restoration Project at Lake Tawas.

Katie Hager, Environmental Outreach Specialist for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, explains the Wild Rice Restoration Project at Lake Tawas to EGLE Director Liesl Clark and others.

An important part of the wild rice restoration project is the control of invasive species. This involved hand-removing individual Eurasian watermilfoil plants from the lake bed in Tawas to protect wild rice – square foot by square foot.

The tribe now has equipment available on a specially fitted pontoon that includes giant vacuum hoses that bring weeds onto the boat for automated bagging and ramps that prevent fragmented weeds from escaping the area for sow and spread to other places. This method helps preserve wild rice in a way that does not use harmful chemicals to control invasive species.

“I am so grateful to the Saginaw Chippewa tribal leaders and environmental staff who hosted my EGLE colleagues and I for a beautiful day on Lake Tawas,” said Director Clark. “Witnessing the largest bed of wild rice in the state, learning about the central place wild rice plays in the culture and history of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, and spending time with good people who share a strong commitment to the environment has been very fulfilling and rewarding.We look forward to our continued work with Tribal Nations and the Michigan Wild Rice Initiative to help protect and restore the manoomin in Michigan.

Wild rice, also called manoomin, has ecological, social, cultural, and economic value in the state, especially and specifically to Native Americans in the region. The tribes see themselves as guardians charged with protecting the wild rice.

Unfortunately, there are many threats facing the manoomin, such as climate change, development, and invasive species. Preserving Michigan’s Water Heritage: A Strategy for the Next Generation (Water Strategy) recognized the importance of manoomin in 2016, when it recommended that the state work with federally recognized tribes and other stakeholders with an interest in preserving and enhancing of manoomin resources across the state “to uplift the recognition, protection and restoration of native wilderness. rice stands throughout the state. (Recommendation #11). In 2018, these groups came together to form the Michigan Wild Rice Initiative which brings together specialists and managers from the 12 federally recognized tribes, several state departments and federal agencies, and others to share information, coordinate approaches and increase awareness of wild rice. conservation and restoration.


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