The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is celebrating the completion of a project that restored 280 acres of marginal farmland to native wet prairie habitat northeast of Swanton.
To date, it is the largest effort in the region to return this type of rare wetland habitat to the landscape — one characterized by relatively flat land that seasonally holds water and supports diverse sedges, grasses, and shrubs. The restoration site, known as Sandhill Crane Wetlands, is part of TNC’s Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022 and is comprised of over 1,400 acres of diverse habitat types, including wet prairie, oak savanna and sand barren —some of the finest remaining in the region. Sandhill Crane Wetlands is situated between land protected by TNC and Metroparks Toledo, filling a critical gap and strengthening a 13,000-acre corridor of protected land throughout the Oak Openings Region.
The Sandhill Crane Wetlands are located in an area on Angola Road between Raab and Schwamberger roads.
Wetlands once dominated northwest Ohio, but have been reduced in size due to the installation of drainage infrastructure, agriculture, and land development, according to TNC. Today, less than 5%-10% of Ohio’s original wetlands remain.
Wetlands act as nature’s kidneys, and their loss has resulted in increased fertilizers and contaminants reaching Lake Erie, a vital source of drinking water for 11 million people. At the same time, climate change has led to rising temperatures and more severe rainfall events, a perilous combination as evidenced by recurring harmful algal blooms, which are toxic to people and wildlife.
“When you consider the loss in natural habitat that has occurred here, every chance we give nature to function the way it should, we can expect to see benefits to water quality and wildlife,” said Alexis Sakas, natural infrastructure director for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “What’s also significant, is that we’re improving the ability for our lands to become more resilient as we continue to experience impacts from climate change.”
The restoration process included halting artificial pumping, breaking drainage tiles, and recontouring the land to rebuild the natural terrain modified by years of plowing. The site was then planted and seeded with native vegetation to re-establish the native Oak Openings Region habitat: wet prairie, emergent marsh, oak savanna and sand barren. Funding for the multi-year effort was provided by the Maumee Area of Concern and Water Resource Restoration Sponsor Programs.
Sandhill Crane Wetlands will be opened to the public following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sunday, May 22.