$1 million grant for St. Martin Island

GARDEN – The Nature Conservancy was awarded a $1 million grant from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to protect, restore and enhance coastal wetlands and associated upland habitats, including St. Martin Island, located about 11 miles from the tip of the Garden Peninsula.

The project area is a key bird migration corridor that extends from the northern tip of the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin to Michigan’s Garden Peninsula and includes the Grand Traverse Chain of Islands, according to The Nature Conservancy.

The NAWCA funding is being matched with $3.4 million in contributions from The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Door County Land Trust and private landowners.

“The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has been a critical partner in protecting the wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat, especially for waterfowl and wetland-associated birds, as well as many benefits to people including water purification, flood control, ground water replenishment and places to enjoy the outdoors,” said Helen Taylor, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan.

Half of the grant will go toward The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of St. Martin Island, which occurred in November 2013. One of the larger islands in the Grand Traverse chain, St. Martin Island provides critical stopover habitat for birds that migrate through the Great Lakes each spring and fall, as well as habitat for fish and other wildlife.

The Conservancy acquired nearly 1,244 acres, or 94 percent, of the island from the Fred Luber family of Milwaukee. The Lubers have owned and cared for their land on St. Martin Island since the 1980s. They sold it to the Conservancy for $1.5 million, a price substantially below fair market value, making a gift of more than 60 percent of the land’s value, or $2.85 million, in order to see it protected, according to The Nature Conservancy.

The remainder of the grant will be used by the Conservancy and partners to purchase an additional 76 acres of wetland habitat in Door County and other parts of the Green Bay watershed and enhance 553 acres of coastal habitat through removal of Phragmites, reed canary grass and other non-native invasive plants.

“We are increasingly losing Great Lakes coastal habitat to development and invasive species,” said Jeff Knoop, director of land protection in the Upper Peninsula for The Nature Conservancy. “Partnerships like this one, together with a strong, fully-funded NAWCA grant program are critical to protecting our remaining coastal habitats while we still can.”