Restoring Fish Habitat at Lake Shore Marshes

Project Summary: Ducks Unlimited restored 80 acres of Lake Ontario wetlands to improve fish and wildlife habitat and create outdoor recreational opportunities including canoeing, kayaking, sport fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.


Location:
Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area in Wayne County, New York

Invasive cattail stands have significantly altered the Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Invasive cattail stands have significantly altered the Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Description: The Lake Shore Marshes Wildlife Management Area is located near Lake Ontario in upstate New York, Wayne County. The wetlands here provide habitat for a wide variety of wetland and aquatic wildlife species, including snapping turtles, painted turtles, northern leopard frog, and several species of bird listed as threatened or endangered. Several migratory fish species, such as pugnose minnows, northern pike, largemouth bass, also use these wetlands as spawning sites. The variety of wildlife attracts anglers, hunters, and wildlife viewers. Unfortunately, this diverse ecosystem is currently threatened by the invasion of narrow-leaved cattail, a nonnative aquatic perennial herbaceous plant that outcompetes native plants and deprives wildlife of suitable habitat. The cattails grow in dense stands with roots that form thick, impenetrable mats that reduce the connectivity of the wetlands for both water flow and migrating wildlife. Cattail mats have severely reduced both the access to and availability of appropriate spawning sites for migrating fish.

Crews break through dense cattail stands to restore potholes for spawning fish. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Crews break through dense cattail stands to restore potholes for spawning fish. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Thanks to two grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the contributions of several partner organizations, Ducks Unlimited is working to restore spawning habitat and return Lake Shore Marshes to a more natural condition. Working across three wetland areas, crews have excavated 20 oxbows, or potholes, to serve as spawning sites for migratory fish. Crews have also created and widened channels through the cattail mats to increase the connectivity of the wetlands and provide passage for migrating fish. Excavated soils and other organic materials  created small mounds that increased the quality and variety of wildlife habitat. Primary restoration work was completed in March 2014. During the summer of 2014 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will monitor the restored sites to evaluate the project’s impact on native plant communities, hydrologic function, and wildlife communities.

Crews restored channels to provide migrating fish with access to spawning sites. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

Crews restored channels to provide migrating fish with access to spawning sites. Photo courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.

The project has restored a total of 80 acres of coastal wetland habitats, including almost 11 acres of potholes and 7,600 linear feet of migratory channels. In addition to enhancing the access and availability of spawning habitats, the project will encourage the recolonization of native plants and restore the area’s natural water flow. This improves the natural habitat for other species of wildlife, including mammals, amphibians, reptiles, waterfowl, and other water birds such as rails, herons, and black terns. These restored wetlands also increase the availability of recreational opportunities. Excavated channels allow small watercraft, such as canoes or kayaks to navigate the wetlands. The restored fish and wildlife populations will increase opportunities for angling, hunting, and wildlife viewing, industries that are significant contributors to the local economy.

Approximate cost of project: $174,784. Of this, $74,984 was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and $75,000 was provided by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant.

Resource challenges addressed: Invasive species, loss of fish and wildlife habitat, loss of spawning habitat, restriction of fish migration, altered hydrologic function of the wetlands, and loss of public access.

Key partners (public and private): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Constellation Energy, Friends of Northern Montezuma Wetlands Complex, and Northern Montezuma Audubon Society.

Types of jobs created: Contractors, biologists, heavy equipment operators, and general laborers.

Results and accomplishments: The project has created and restored 20 potholes that provide fish with spawning habitat, and has created channels through the cattail stands to provide passage to these sites. Eighty acres of wetlands have been restored, including almost 11 acres of spawning sites and 7,600 linear feet of migratory channels. Excavating channels has naturalized the flow of water and improved connectivity through the wetlands, and removing invasive cattails has encouraged the colonization of native plant species. The naturalized wetlands have improved habitat for native species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Naturalizing conditions has also improved opportunities for recreational activities, including canoeing, kayaking, sport fishing, hunting, and wildlife viewing.

Website: http://greatlakes.fishhabitat.org/content/fish-habitat-enhancement-lake-shore-marshes-wildlife-management-area-ny

Originally published on April 29, 2014

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