The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, & Energy (EGLE) has issued a $100,000 grant to help protect wild rice, one of the state’s most culturally and ecologically significant native plants. The two-year grant from the Michigan Great Lakes Protection Fund to the University of Michigan (U-M) Water Center will support the collaborative creation of a wild rice stewardship plan at the request of the Michigan Wild Rice Initiative Team (MWRIT). The team includes representatives of EGLE; the state departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development, and Transportation; and each of the 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan.
Michigan’s wild rice, Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica, is native to the Great Lakes region and portions of Canada. Found in shallow waters of inland lakes, slow-flowing streams, and Great Lakes embayments, wild rice has ecological, social, cultural, and economic value in the state. This is especially true for Anishinaabe communities in the region, who know the plant as manoomin or mnomin. Once plentiful in places like northern Michigan, wild rice is under threat from climate change, habitat loss, uninformed harvesting practices, degraded water quality, and other factors.
The U-M Water Center, which focuses on collaborative, user-driven research, will partner with MWRIT to develop the Tribal-State Manoomin Stewardship Plan, engaging with the tribes to identify all elements of the plan and working with relevant decision makers to secure commitments and resources for implementation.
The project advances a priority recommendation in the 2016 Michigan Water Strategy for the state to work with federally recognized tribes and other stakeholders with an interest in preserving and enhancing wild rice resources across the state. Since the formation of the MWRIT in 2017, the group has been working collaboratively to protect, preserve, and restore wild rice and wild rice culture in Michigan through collaboration, education, research, policy, and stewardship, to enhance ecosystem health and benefit present and future generations.