Native Plants
Wild Rice Management and Restoration

 

Wild rice (manoomin) is the “food that grows on water”, whose presence fulfilled the prophecies foretold in the Anishinaabe’s migration from the east.  It is used in our daily lives, ceremonies, and feasts (Our Manoomin, Our Life).  It is also recognized as a preferred source of food for migrating waterfowl and has high ecological value for both wildlife and fish habitat.  It can also help to maintain water quality by securing loose soil, tying up nutrients, and slowing winds across shallow wetlands.  The amount of wild rice in the western U.P. has declined from historic levels due mainly to water fluctuations from hydro dams and degradation of water quality from logging and shoreline development over the past century.  In 1991, there wasn’t any wild rice present in our area, although historically it was thought to have been here and on lakes in areas named “Rice Lake”.  In 2003, The Keweenaw Bay Tribal Council affirmed the community’s interest in a wild rice program on the L’Anse Indian Reservation (KBIC Integrated Resource Management Plan).

 

Our original focus was on three wetland systems:  Sand Point Sloughs, Pinery Lakes, and Mud Lakes.  In 1999, we expanded to include Robillard Impoundment.  In the last 10+ years KBIC has planted thousands of pounds of wild rice seed at 13 sites within Baraga County.  Wetlands that have had wild rice present in the last 5 years are surveyed annually.  Seeding each year is dependent on seed available, and varies from year to year.  Human and natural disturbance and consumption of wild rice by wildlife, mainly waterfowl, has impacted establishment and abundance of wild rice in seeded areas.  Huron Bay has a possible 35 acres of wetlands with favorable conditions for wild rice, the largest site bordering the reservation. In 2011 there weren’t as many plants but we had unusual seiche activity which may have uprooted many of the plants.  This continues to be a promising area which we planted in Fall 2012.  Our long term goal is to develop harvestable self-sustaining wild rice populations on the reservation and within the ceded territory for future generations.

The Manoomin Project

 

Wild Rice Habitat Study (EPA Great Lakes Tribal Initiative Funding 2016-2018)

The purpose of this two year study was to assess the quality of wild rice habitat in the Western Upper Peninsula or Michigan. Funding was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under a Tribal Initiative funding program.  This project supports KBIC in continuing efforts to rehabilitate a culturally significant resource in the Lake Superior basin.  The project area for the Wild Rice Habitat Study is the 1842 Treaty Territory. While there are several wild rice waters within the boundaries of the L’Anse Reservation, majority of the restoration areas are located off reservation under State or Federal jurisdiction, but within the Ceded Territory (Map).  The State of Michigan, U.S. Forest Services, Lac Vieux Desert Band of Chippewa Indians (LVD), and Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission have been important partners in wild rice restoration. 

Recent studies are focusing on the aquatic and sediment environmental factors which are conducive to wild rice growth (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2008; MPCA, 2017).  Wild rice is becoming an “indicator species” that with its presence or absence gives information on the relative water quality in a body of water (University of Minnesota, 2008).  Regional collaborative efforts concerning wild rice are being made between Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, University of Minnesota, and tribes and agencies in Michigan and Wisconsin.  Wild rice studies include testing of the surface water surrounding the plant, the pore water that is within the interstices of the sediment at the wild rice roots, and the sediment itself.  Recent studies are showing the deleterious effects on rice of sulfide and methylmercury in the pore water (Pastor et al, 2017), the relationship between sulfate in surface water to sulfide in the pore water (MPCA, 2017), and the increases in nutrients and mercury in relation to sulfide (Myrbo, et. al., 2017).  Tribes in this region are actively working to protect and restore wild rice beds in water bodies that will support them.  This study will add to the body of existing knowledge, be shared with other groups, and provide information for actively managing wild rice lakes to promote increased production and enhance conditions for natural production in order to improve waterfowl habitat and to provide a culturally important resource for the Community.

A final report developed for this two year project can be reviewed HERE.