Missisquoi wetlands designated for protection - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Missisquoi wetlands designated for protection

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A small corner of Vermont has just been recognized as globally important and unique by an international convention designed to protect wetlands.

The wetlands at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Swanton are waking up after a long, cold winter. "Yes, it's actually louder than it was last week. Every day something new happens," said Ken Sturm, the Refuge's Manager.

The refuge and Missisquoi Delta are home to thousands of species of animals and plants, including the largest silver maple floodplain forest in the state. It is also contains the Maquam Bog, which is the largest bog in Vermont -- home to a rare pitch pine plant community. These are just two of the reasons why this region was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

"In the U.S. a lot of the wetlands designated as Ramsar sites, like Missisquoi, already have some measure of state or federal protection, and in this designation it's not just the refuge that has been designated as the Ramsar site, but three other state wildlife management areas surrounding the refuge that make up the complex of the Missisquoi wetlands that have been designated," said Sturm.

This first-in-Vermont designation covers 7,665 acres that include the Refuge and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Maquam, Carmens Marsh and Rock River Wildlife Management Areas. It provides habitat for approximately 20,000 waterfowl during migration, and is home of the largest great blue heron rookery in Vermont, as well as home to an abundance of amphibians and fish. Sturm estimates all the nesting heron, osprey and at least two bald eagles and their chicks will consume hundreds of pounds of fish every day all summer long.

There are 2,000 other designated Ramsar sites worldwide, including the Everglades and San Francisco Bay. "That is one of the neat things about the Ramsar designation. It also helps us spread the word outside both allowing people locally to realize what a gem they have in their backyard, but also to be able to explain to people all over the U.S. and world how important this little corner of Vermont is from an ecological integrity and biodiversity standpoint" said Sturm.

The designation does not come with any money, but it can enhance opportunities for grant funding to manage and restore habitats on these lands to make sure they endure for future generations to enjoy.

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