Wetland demonstration draws in local farmers, seen as a solution to manage runoff
Wetlands act like nature's kidneys. They filter out fertilizer runoff from farms, prevent flooding, and serve as habitats for native plants and waterfowl.
According to the Ohio EPA, more than 90% of Ohio wetlands have been degraded through draining or filling. But at Bill Agle's farm in Clark County near I-70, he has reclaimed some of that, he has about 10 acres of wetlands under a USDA easement program.
There’s some shallow flooding surrounded by native sedge grasses and some spring flowers that are starting to come out.
Agle restored the patch of land through a USDA wetlands reserve program. He said the process took about five years.
“It was basically just going to grow up into weeds if I didn't decide not to do it. So I thought it made more sense to have a managed wetland and have the proper plants back there,” Agle said.
At a Tecumseh Land Trust sponsored demonstration on wetlands, Nate Weber with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the program's goal is to restore a habitat for rare native plants and waterfowl and to make use of land a farmer would otherwise have not farmed.
“The measure of that success is going back, five or 10 years after restoration is finished and seeing what those plant communities look like, seeing what type of wetland habitat that we have,” Weber said. “You’re increasing wildlife habitat and the local environment. You're improving water quality.”
Weber said the program on average accepts 20 farmers per year. After the restoration and wetland easement is established, the farmer receives a payment for enrolling their land.
The practice of restoring wetlands in recent years has been seen as a way to mitigate chemical runoff from nearby farms into waterways that lead to lakes or rivers. Wetland restorations is whats largely improved the water quality of Grand Lake St. Mary’s in Auglaize County — which had been the site for harmful algae blooms.
For now, Agle said he’s glad he turned to the program, he said in return, he's seen more wild birds and Ohio Native flowers come back.
“There's certainly all kinds of migratory birds, ducks and geese back there. There's a big lake just across the interstate and they fly back and forth between our property and over there. But yeah, there's a lot of waterfowl back there,” Agle said.
Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.