The beautiful Ford Marsh coastal wetlands of Monroe County, Michigan are home to bald eagles and the American Lotus flower, and serve as a crucial flyaway area for migrating birds. Bordered by Sterling State Park and adjacent to Lake Erie, the area is made up of stunning forests, transitional meadows and marshlands. And although Ford Motor Company may be best known for its automobiles, this pristine area actually belonged to them. In February 2010, however, Ford and Automotive Component Holdings LLC decided to donate Ford Marsh to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the land would be properly monitored and protected for future generations.
The donation adds 242 acres to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses over 5,700 acres along 48 miles of shoreline and is one of only a few urban refuges in the country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is struggling to preserve natural treasures of this kind. Refuge manager John Hartig was thus grateful for Ford’s priceless donation. “We have lost over 90 percent of the coastal wetlands in this western Lake Erie region to development. The permanent conservation of this unique marsh will make a major difference in restoring and maintaining the ecological integrity of Lake Erie and North America’s only International Wildlife Refuge.”
Environmentalists and big businesses alike are praising the arrangement for showcasing public-private partnership at its best – and with Mother Nature in mind. For Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman, the donation was a fairly easy decision. With eco-friendly goals driving much of his company’s current mission, the wetlands donation stands as a testament to Ford’s increasing concern for America’s precious habitats. U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who helped facilitate the exchange, hopes the event will debunk the myth that “corporations and conservation cannot go well together.”
The wetlands, renamed Ford Marsh Unit, will now be under constant care and supervision; although the area has been jointly managed since 2005 under a cooperative agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now plans to initiate even more exciting projects at the refuge. Within the past decade, experts have been banding and monitoring bald eagles, and are now expanding their focus to manage invasive species and further develop individual habitats for fish, wildlife and plants. Since 2001, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge has made significant scientific contributions with respect to 30 species of waterfowl, 117 types of fish and 300 species of migratory birds – so it’s safe to say that Ford Marsh Unit is in competent hands.
For more information about the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, such as conservation plans, tours and how you can help preserve the land, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/detroitriver. And for further details on Ford’s mission to help protect the environment, from the wetlands to the test track, visit www.ford.com/our-values/environment.