Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Created

WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2002 (ENS) - Legislation creating the first international wildlife refuge that includes part of the United States has been signed into law by President George W. Bush. The President's signature officially establishes the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

The Detroit River on the Michigan-Canada border has lost over 95 percent of its coastal wetland habitat and has been designated a Waterfowl Habitat Area of Concern by the Canadian and American governments.

"Establishing this International Wildlife Refuge will do a lot to provide this special place with the protection that it needs," the President said when announcing the new refuge last week.

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Stream fishing in Michigan (Photo courtesy Michigan Travel Bureau)
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources recognize the Detroit River as having one of the highest diversities of wildlife and fish in all of the Great Lakes.

This area is a prime waterfowl migration corridor and is considered a special place for sportsmen, birders, and boaters.

An estimated 300,000 diving ducks stop in the river to rest and feed during their fall migration from Canada. At least 65 species of fish live in the Detroit River, including millions of walleye.

"This innovative legislation enhances public-private partnerships for conservation and habitat restoration. I want to thank the many area businesses and groups that developed the conservation vision for the refuge," President Bush said.

Michigan Senator Carl Levin said in support of the legislation on the Senate Floor in May, "This is a river that we need to protect. Fish and wildlife habitat in the Lower Detroit River continue to be destroyed and degraded. It has been estimated that over 95 percent of the historical, coastal wetlands along the river have been lost to development. This legislation would protect remaining high quality habitat before they are lost to further development and rehabilitate and enhance degraded ones."

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Sampling sediments in the Detroit River (Photo courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
The legislation authorizes the secretary of interior to acquire American lands adjacent to the Detroit River in order to protect its wildlife and habitat.

It authorizes the President and secretary of interior to negotiate with Canadian officials to create a Detroit River International Wildlife Corridor in the lands adjacent to the river, including both American and Canadian lands.

In 1998, the Detroit River was designated an American Heritage River which will assist the community in a revitalization effort. It is anticipated that the Detroit River will receive a Canadian Heritage River designation making it the first international heritage river system in North America.