The property, on the south shore of Sandusky Bay, over 600 acres of wetlands—a marsh of water and vegetation that harkens to the swamp that was northwest Ohio before humans transformed it into something more hospitable, yet potentially damaging to the ecosystem. Years of neglect left the once lush acreage in poor health but Eric Kraus has set out to change that.
“It’s kind of funny—people will say, ‘You bought how many acres… of what?’ It’s not a traditional real estate transaction,” Kraus said. “But like traditional real estate, it really comes down to location and physical characteristics. And this property was much like the home on the corner lot that is ideally located, but has been neglected for quite some time.”
Kraus is the president, founder and coordinator of Standing Rush, LLC, which he calls a “conservation real-estate company,” focused on the preservation and restoration of biologically significant locations. The entity’s first and current project is the coastal wetlands of Erie County, acquired in 2015.
The issue of ecological conservation has been a lifelong passion for Kraus. “I definitely was an outdoor enthusiast as a kid,” Kraus said. “Born and raised in Toledo, but all my schooling was biologically focused, and I really got interested in habitat restoration and restoration ecology in high school and college.”
Kraus obtained a B.S. in Biology from St. John’s University in Minnesota before returning home to a job with Toledo Metroparks. For the past 20 years, he has worked for a variety of organizations throughout the northwest Ohio area, including as a volunteer for the Black Swamp Conservancy in Perrysburg.
“This specific project arose, and quite honestly my initial hope was this would be something that an existing entity like Black Swamp could act on. But it had to happen quickly—this particular transaction, the property was financially distressed. And so, my wife and I organized Standing Rush specifically to address this particular site.”
Evolution and pressure
For the past three years, Standing Rush has steadily made incremental improvements to the land, from the reconstruction of an earthen dike to improve water flow, to the seeding of new plant life to attract different types of waterfowl.
“This particular site has probably been wetlands since the last ice age— we’re talking a long, long time. But it’s gone through an incredible evolution from pressures like European settlement of this area,” Kraus said.
But Kraus quickly adds, that he is not opposed to all real estate development. He is in favor of responsible development, mindful of the needs and importance of ecological preserves, like the one Standing Rush is focused on, to the long-term health of the environment— and the people who need a healthy planet on which to survive.
“We have taken a resource that is really unbelievably valuable and have dwindled it down to, literally, a single digit percentage of what used to exist,” Kraus said, referring to the wetlands.
“The vision I try and give people is, prior to European settlement, northwest Ohio had a wetland complex that was bigger than the Everglades in Florida. And for a whole variety of justifiable reasons, that land use has changed so much that over 95-plus percent of that wetland is gone. And so I think that the preservation and conservation of the remaining habitat is so critically important.”
For more information on Standing Rush, LLC or to contribute, visit standingrush.blogspot.com.