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A John Deere 210G Excavator mounted on a marsh buggy lifts a tamarack tree that had been towed within reach by a March Master. The excavator is damming drainage ditches with trees and mud on 23,000 acres owned by Ecosystem Investment Partners, which is creating a wetland mitigation bank

Midwest Amphibious Equipment: Helping to Reclaim and Restore Wetlands

In environmentally conscious areas, such as upper Minnesota, preserving the natural ecosystem is of the utmost importance. Areas like this participate in mitigation banking, a system of credits and debits devised to ensure that ecological loss is compensated for by the preservation and restoration of wetlands, natural habitats, streams, and so on, in other areas so that there is no net loss to the environment. In 2009, Steve Gilbertson began wetland mitigation with wild rice patties that he owned in northern Minnesota. To that end, wetland credits were created to replace wetlands that were being developed.

In 2012, Gilbertson sold his wetlands to Baltimore, Marylandbased Ecosystems Investment Partners (EIP) who took charge of the wetland credits and is now the manager of their Minnesota wetland restoration banks: Deer River, Palisade, and St. Louis County.

Gilbertson’s company, Midwest Amphibious Equipment (MAE), was formed in January 2016. Amphibious machines were purchased to work on the most recent project in St. Louis County - the Sax-Zim bog project. This restoration project consists of 23,223 acres and a 36-square-mile area.

The mix of spongy peat land and spruce forest that make up the Sax-Zim Bog, just an hour northwest of Duluth, is one of the most important birding sites in North America. It is known as a wintering area for Great Gray owls, Northern Hawk owls, and Rough-legged hawks. More than 240 species of migrant and breeding birds and other wildlife frequent this area.

Much of the bog is now full of low-lying tamarack and black spruce but was originally unprotected and much of it cleared and ditched from 1915 through the 1930s to ready it for agricultural use. The bulk of the land was never suitable for farming and, as a result, whole tamarack trees and mud to plug ditches and slow the flow of water across the land. This recreates the original peat bog covering. By restoring the wetlands, the plant communities and wildlife will be greatly benefitted.

MAE’s equipment fleet used to undertake this reinvigoration of the wetlands includes four John Deere 210G excavators with Kori amphibious bottoms, one John Deere 750K LGP dozer and one John Deere 250D excavator, and three Marsh Master MM2s used for personnel, fuel, and equipment transport.

The company also uses this equipment to provide experienced contracting services. Using marsh buggy excavators or marsh masters machines, they can efficiently work in wetlands as their excavators float and can complete the job in less time and more efficiently than traditional excavator methods. MAE has the ability to do the following jobs:

  • Wetland restoration
  • Ditch clearing or filling
  • Pipeline work
  • Utilities
  • Swamp work
  • Right of way clearing
  • Environmental remediation
  • Forestry
  • Highway
  • Construction
  • Phone and cable lines

MAE likes McCoy for their excellent uptime and hometown parts and service. They are also fans of John Deere’s JDLink™. “This is something I thought I would NEVER use,” Gilbertson said. “I found I can actually manage the entire job and fleet from my computer at my home office. My operators know I must monitor the project so I get very good production from them,” he explained. “I am also able to monitor our progress, and monitor my service and fuel needs.”

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