Work at Hennepin got started in 2001 after TWI purchased the floodplain site that once supported two lakes
(Hennepin and Hopper) as well as wetland, prairie and fen communities. Since the 1920s, however, the land
had been pumped dry to permit corn and soybean cultivation. TWI turned off the pumps, allowing precipitation
and groundwater to refill the lake beds. In response, the adjacent wetlands and marshes quickly sprang back
Frogs, birds and plants returned after nearly a century’s absence. The sounds of Western chorus frogs,
American toads and spring peepers were also heard. Muskrats and beavers began reshaping the landscape, and
state-threatened bird species, such as the pied-bill grebe and black tern, magically appeared.
Meanwhile, a more modest effort is underway in Hingham, Massachusetts to resuscitate a 15-acre salt marsh
that spans a narrow peninsula called World’s End. It’s not a big undertaking as restoration ventures
go, but salt marshes are endangered ecosystems, and every marsh that can be revived can yield environmental
benefits. The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), the non-profit land conservation organization which owns the
land, hope to inspire similar projects along the East Coast.
A once-thriving salt marsh was drained for agriculture in the early 1600s by the first European settlers,
who installed two dikes to keep saltwater out of the area. In 2003, TTOR took steps to reverse some of the
centuries-long damage inflicted by humans. The first priority, restoring tidal flows into and out of the
former marsh, was accomplished by installing four-foot by eight-foot concrete culverts in the middle of each
dike. Since then, dense stands of phragmites, an invasive reed, have retreated, making way for native salt
A popular destination for hikers and picnickers, World’s End now offers unique opportunities for witnessing
a wetland restoration in progress, says TTOR ecologist Andy Walsh. “People can come here to see a coastal
zone in transition-a salt marsh coming back to life.”
NGO Minireviews are written by Steve Nadis, a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts who has worked for the Union of Concerned Scientists and the World Resources Institute. His articles have appeared in Nature, Scientific American, the Atlantic Monthly and other magazines. He was a 1997/98 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.