On October 16, WCMU Public Television (Mt. Pleasant) debuted a new hour-long documentary exploring the critical relationship between coastal wetlands and the quality of the Great Lakes. “Linking Land and Lakes: Protecting the Great Lakes’ Coastal Wetlands” chronicles the work of 15 universities and government agencies as scientists collect data to help restore an ecosystem that has been 50 percent decimated basin wide. In many areas, 95 percent of coastal wetlands have been destroyed.

WCMU partnered with the Central Michigan University Institute for Great Lakes Research in the production of “Linking Land and Lakes.” The institute administers two $10 million grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to collect a wide range of information on coastal wetlands and create a public database. The information is used to protect threatened coastal wetlands and restore wetlands that have been obliterated.

“These coastal ecosystems are critical to the overall health of the Great Lakes because they are the last line of defense for toxicants and pollutants coming off of the landscape,” Dr. Don Uzarski, director of the Institute for Great Lakes Research, said. “These systems improve the water quality of the Great Lakes while providing essential habitat for the fisheries that support our economy. This research provides critical data that aides managers and lawmakers in making informed decisions regarding management, protection and restoration of coastal wetlands. The systems act as ‘free-of-charge’ water treatment facilities that we could not afford otherwise.”

The WCMU production team traveled the entire Great Lakes basin over 18 months covering 5,000 miles in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. More than 40 coastal wetland scientists share their expertise in the documentary.

“’Linking Land and Lakes’ is one of the most aggressive projects ever undertaken by WCMU Public Television,” Steve Smith, producer, said. “The Great Lakes is the source of drinking water for 40 million people, and the quality of that water is linked directly to the role coastal wetlands play. Being embedded with research crews was crucial in adding context to the issue in a way that has never been presented.”

“Linking Land and Lakes” will be aired this fall on several other PBS affiliates around the Great Lakes.

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