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Published: Tuesday, 10/25/2005

Wildlife sanctuary to add 70 acres in Monroe County

MONROE - A $300,000 grant has been awarded to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge that will add 70 acres in Monroe County to the refuge and restore natural habitat near the Fermi II nuclear power plant.

The funding, announced yesterday by U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D., Dearborn), was awarded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and will be matched with donations from a number of federal, state, and nonprofit organization sources.

"The Detroit River Refuge is creating a new paradigm of conservation, enhancing quality of life and helping to attract and retain the next generation of employees for businesses in the region," said Mr. Dingell, who spearheaded the move by Congress to establish the refuge in 2001.

Included in the grant will be $100,000 that will be used to restore the Lagoona Beach habitat at the Fermni II plant.

Additionally, $200,000 will be used to buy about 70 acres in the northeast corner of Frenchtown Charter Township.

"It's a unique coastal wetlands area and uplands right at the mouth of Swan Creek. It's very exciting," said John Hartig, who manages the refuge.

The refuge now encompasses about 2,100 acres, much of which is in Monroe County. Supporters, led by Mr. Dingell, a lifelong conservationist, continue to push for land acquisition along the coastline.

"Our goal is to keep after this," Mr. Hartig said.

Mr. Dingell teamed with U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) in 2003 to get legislation passed extending the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge near Port Clinton west along the Ohio Lake Erie coastline toward Monroe County.

The plan, Mr. Dingell and Miss Kaptur hoped, was to eventually connect the two areas in a seamless wildlife habitat. Yesterday's announcement moves that plan closer to fruition.

Last year, 409-acre Humburg Marsh was added to the Detroit River refuge. The marsh became the refuge's largest non-populated wetland, where hundreds of species of birds and diving ducks migrate each fall.

Mr. Dingell has said that he hopes one day to establish a refuge office in the Humburg Marsh area. Eventually, he envisions student biologists earning credits while plying the marshes and wetlands, establishment of hiking trails, and formation of a citizens' group to keep the refuge growing and protected.

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