EGLE Grant to Support Native Wild Rice Stewardship
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes Bureau and Great Lakes Energy announced Wednesday that a $100,000 grant will be made available to help protect wild rice, one of the plants the most culturally and ecologically significant indigenous peoples.
The grant money will come from Michigan’s Great Lakes Protection Fund and will go to the University of Michigan Water Center to support the creation of a Wild Rice Stewardship Plan at the request of the Michigan Wild Rice Initiative team, which will include representatives from EGLE; the state departments of natural resources, agriculture and rural development, and transportation; and each of the 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan.
Native to the Great Lakes region and parts of Canada, Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica are found in the shallow waters of inland lakes, slow-flowing streams, and bays of the Great Lakes. There was once a lot of wild rice in Michigan, but the plant has disappeared due to climate change, habitat loss, misinformed harvesting practices, degraded water quality, and other factors.
According to Jon Mauchmar, environmental specialist for the Odawa Indian Bands of Little Traverse Bay and a member of the initiative team, once wild rice is lost, it is extremely difficult to restore it.
“The environmental quality of the areas is very particular, so it’s not something that can be planted necessarily in a wide variety of places that need very specific environmental parameters to survive and be able to reseed,” Mauchmar said.
Wild rice has ecological, social, cultural and economic value in Michigan, especially to the area’s Anishinaabe communities, who know the plant as manoomin or mnomin.
“Wild rice, or manoomin, has been very important to Anishinaabe communities for a long time,” said Dani Fegan, wildlife program assessment biologist for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and co-chair of the initiative team. “Many Anishinaabe communities mention the manoomin in their migration stories as one of the reasons they decided to stay here (after) migrating west from the east coast. Since then, manoomin has served as a very important subsistence food and is often considered more of a relative than just a food crop. Super valued for, yes, those food qualities of subsistence but also being on the water, harvesting the manoomin is an opportunity for communities to come together and do something really important to them. And many people also use the manoomin in their ceremonies.
In addition to its cultural significance, wild rice is an important food source in ecosystems and often indicates good water quality, according to Fegan.
The water center will partner with the initiative team to develop the Manoomin Tribal State Stewardship Plan, working closely with Michigan tribes to develop the plan and secure commitments and resources to Implementation.
The initiative team was formed in 2017 to protect, preserve, and restore wild rice and wild rice cultivation in Michigan through collaboration, education, research, policy, and stewardship, in order to improve ecosystem health and benefit present and future generations.
The plan will promote increased collaboration between tribal and state agencies and more coordinated research, protection, and restoration of wild rice in Michigan.