|Abina Fix dropped her husband, Howard, off at the dentist's the other day and figured it would be a good time to gas up the car.|
She pulled into a nearby gas station and heard two hunters talking about the wild game they've seen recently. One of them saw four deer.
"Where?" his friend asked.
"You know where that land is out by the Fermi plant?" one asked.
"I do," said Mrs. Fix. "I own it."
The Fix land - about 65 acres of waterfront farmland and wetlands near the mouth of Swan Creek - has been a favored hunting ground by many for years, though it's private property.
That might change soon. The Fixes sold the land for inclusion in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, which will preserve the property for fish and waterfowl habitat and as an area where the American Lotus thrives.
"This land acquisition is an important milestone for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in that the refuge now includes over 5,000 acres," said U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Dearborn. "It is another outstanding example of conservation partnerships to protect wildlife and to further wildlife-compatible public uses like hunting and fishing."
The Fixes were on hand Monday afternoon when representatives of the refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local government, and Ducks Unlimited gathered at Loranger Square in downtown Monroe to announce the land deal.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work with Ducks Unlimited to restore wetlands for waterfowl on the property, which includes 25 acres of upland habitat and 40 acres of wetlands. Mr. Fix said about a mile of the property fronts Lake Erie and part of it has been farmed.
The wetlands are said to be part of a coastal embayment at the mouth of Swan Creek. In the early 1900s, it supported a commercial fishing business.
"Such wetland restoration is critical in Monroe County because we have lost to development over 90 percent of the coastal wetlands along the shoreline of Lake Erie," said State Rep. Kate Ebli, D-Monroe. "We also recognize the importance of this acquisition to maintaining our outstanding quality of life in Monroe County and to protecting our culture of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation."
Heather Braun, regional biologist with Ducks Unlimited in Ann Arbor, said the refuge is habitat for waterfowl at the crossroads of Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. Acquisition of the Fix property for the refuge "is a significant step forward in protecting and reclaiming these historic wetlands," she said.
The refuge has grown in size from about 300 acres when it was started seven years ago to 5,047 acres with the addition of the Fix property. "Most of the land is in Monroe County and most of the potential for its future growth is in Monroe County," said Dr. John Hartig, refuge manager.
He said gathering the resources to purchase the property for about $500,000 was a long process that spanned about 2½ years. He commended the Fixes for being willing to sell the property when private interests also were eying the land. "They've been patient with us and worked through it with us," he said. The property was purchased with federal funds from the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, Land and Water Conservation Fund Program and a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant administered by Ducks Unlimited.
Mrs. Fix, 80, said the property alternately had interested apartment and condo developers.
"It's incredible. We're thrilled," she said. "It would have seemed like a shame to put condos up there. I think this is the greatest thing."
Mr. Fix, 79, said the property is habitat for ducks, geese, rabbits and pheasants, as well as deer.
Steven Dushane, assistant refuge manager, said a "hunt plan" would have to be developed to determine whether hunting would be allowed on the property, what wildlife populations do exist there, and what the public access possibilities are.