Michigan Nature Association Winter 2022 Volume 70 Issue 1
michigan nature Where Rivers and Forests Meet Following the Hart: The Story of a Rare Fern Teaching Dogs New Tricks to Save Rare Turtles
“Worm in the Mud” Photo by Jeremy Salo
Nature Needs Everyone and Everyone Needs Nature Help protect Michigan nature, for everyone, forever: • • • •
Join or renew your membership Become a monthly supporter Honor a loved one with a memorial gift Remember MNA in your will or estate plan
Use the enclosed envelope, call (866) 223-2231 or visit www.michigannature.org to contribute.
Michigan Nature Association www.michigannature.org
Features Where Rivers and Forests Meet
Q & A: Carrie Tansy, USFWS
There are reasons to be hopeful. We can recover species, the bald eagle and Kirtland’s warbler are two great examples. - Carrie Tansy page 33
In this Issue MNA 360
Teaching Dogs New Tricks to Save Rare Turtles MNA Joins Wilderness Campaign Welcome Michigan Forest Association Michigan Nature at Home
RAWA Gains Momentum in Congress Species Spotlight: Indiana Bat
Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary Black River Nature Sanctuary
Following the Hart: The Story of a Rare Fern
EPA Survey Includes MNA Wetlands
Conservation Superheroes: Paul & Sue McEwen Massasauga Collaboration Advances
Volunteers Make Swift Work Stickwork Sculpture Sparks Interest at Park
Recommended Reading from MNA
On the Cover: Regional Stewardship Organizer Nancy Leonard and husband Bill hike along Lake Superior at Keweenaw Shores Nature Sanctuary #2. Photo by Fauna Creative.
Help Sustain Michigan Nature
Become a Monthly Protector Today!
Michigan Nature Association 2310 Science Parkway, Suite 100 Okemos, MI 48864 (866) 223-2231 www.michigannature.org
Our Vision MNA’s Monthly Protector Program is a convenient way to help protect Michigan’s natural heritage and spread your gift out over a period of time. By authorizing MNA to automatically charge your credit card or checking account, in an amount of your choice ($10 minimum) every month, you provide sustainable support to help MNA acquire, protect and maintain critical habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species throughout the year.
We envision a future where Michigan’s rare, threatened and endangered species and imperiled natural communities thrive, and where they are valued by people of all walks of life who embrace and benefit from Michigan’s natural heritage.
Board of Trustees
Yu Man Lee President
Garret Johnson Executive Director
Kurt Brauer Vice President
Ruth Vail Treasurer/Secretary
Andrew Bacon Conservation Director
Aubrey Golden Trustee-at-Large
Rachel Maranto Stewardship Coordinator, L.P.
Garret Johnson Executive Director
Zach Pacana Regional Stewardship Organizer, E.L.P.
Robb Johnston Regional Stewardship Organizer, W.L.P. Bill Atkinson Regional Stewardship Organizer, Thumb
David Cartwright Kara Haas
Nancy Leonard Regional Stewardship Organizer, Keweenaw
Maureen McNulty Saxton Brandon Schroeder
Natalie Kent-Norkowski Land Protection Technician
Outreach & Education Julie Stoneman Outreach & Education Director Lauren Ross Communications & Events Coordinator
Photo by Randy Butters.
Donate Today Use the enclosed envelope, call (866) 223-2231, or visit michigannature.org to set up your recurring gift today!
Carol Schulz Finance & Administration Director
Lorenzo Kleine Membership Services & Administrative
Please direct questions about this magazine to Communications and Events Coordinator, Lauren Ross at email@example.com or 866-223-2231. © 2021. Except where used with permission, entire contents copyright 2021 Michigan Nature Association.
From the Executive Director As I write, 2022 is right around the corner and with it another milestone. Next year MNA will celebrate its 70th Anniversary!
Much has changed at MNA in recent years, but after seven decades of conservation it is also true that much remains the same. In fact, there are many echoes of MNA’s proud history in the contents of this issue of Michigan Nature Magazine. For example, when MNA began in 1952, its principal purpose was to advocate for the protection of habitat on public land. Founded as the Macomb Nature Association, initial efforts were aimed at the protection of a sensitive nesting area for terns at a public park in St. Clair Shores. And as MNA grew over the years it added its voice to calls for the protection of important natural areas on state and federal land, like the legislation passed by Congress in 1976 expanding the federal Wilderness Area designation for Isle Royale. Fast forward to today, and in this issue of the magazine we report on MNA joining more than one hundred conservation organizations, local businesses, educators, and community leaders calling for Congress to designate four new Wilderness Areas that will protect more than 40,000 acres of National Forest land in the western U.P. These areas are some of the last undisturbed wilderness left on the millions of acres of federal forest land in Michigan. Another echo of the past can be heard with our work on environmental education. In the early 1950s MNA sponsored “junior explorer” trips and traveled to local schools with a trailer full of samples representing Michigan’s flora and fauna. Today, our commitment to educating the next generation of conservation leaders is stronger than ever. Despite the pandemic we’ve been able to expand our Schools-to-Sanctuaries program and we’re looking forward to the return of our K-12 Field Trip Grants program when student health and safety can be assured. And of course, we continue to protect critical habitat for endangered species by acquiring land, combating invasive species, and carefully reintroducing natural processes like fire. In fact, in recent years we’ve added thousands of acres to our statewide system of more than 180 Nature Sanctuaries - and we have some very exciting projects in the works for the years ahead! The one great constant over MNA’s entire seventy-year history is the truly incredible support provided by its members, donors, and volunteers. It is often said, but bears repeating: none of this would be possible without your generous support. Everything found in the pages of this magazine begins with the support of people like you. As you read, listen for the echoes across seventy years of MNA history. Those that came before us left us a remarkable legacy. It’s now up to all of us to not only sustain that legacy but also build on it so that in time we, too, can pass our legacy on to future generations.
Our Values Integrity | Commitment | Collaboration | Diversity and Inclusiveness | Accountability and Transparency | Respect
michigan nature | winter 2022
Leave a Lasting Legacy
Include MNA in Your Will or Estate Plan By including MNA in your estate plans, such as a will, trust or other planned gift, you will join a group of dedicated people — our Guardians of the Future — who sustain MNA’s work and leave a legacy for many generations to come.
How to Help Secure Michigan’s natural heritage • • • •
Include a bequest to MNA in your will or estate plan Donate stocks, bonds or other securities Donate real estate or other property Invest in a charitable gift annuity
To learn more, please return the attached card, visit www.michigannature.org or call (866) 223-2231. Tax Identification Number: 38-6093404
James and Alice Brennan Memorial Nature Sanctuary Photo © Jason Steel
Make a Planned Gift to MNA
Michigan Nature Association
Photo by Jeremy Salo
Inside | MNA
People • Land • Legacy Teaching Dogs New Tricks to Save Rare Turtles On any average day at an MNA Nature Sanctuary, you would not expect to see a domestic dog running freely through the tall grasses, along the trails, or between the pines and beech trees. In fact, pets are expressly restricted from nearly all of our Nature Sanctuaries in order that the pristine natural features are less disturbed. But on a very special day in early July 2021, a handful of Boykin Spaniels could be seen at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary, bounding over logs and through the foliage, noses close to the ground in search of rare Eastern Box Turtles. Eastern Box Turtles are a species of special concern in Michigan, at risk of population decline from habitat loss and fragmentation. The state’s only truly terrestrial turtle, the Eastern Box Turtle relies on a mixture of both woodland and grassland habitats with adjacent water features throughout their lives. Fragmentation occurs when roads and farmlands cut through these two distinct features, creating areas where the turtles are at higher risk of predation and road casualties. Each year, MNA conducts surveys at several of our Nature Sanctuaries to understand the usage habits of several species of turtle, including the Eastern Box Turtle. But the turtles are often difficult for humans to locate effectively using only our eyes. And so after learning of these dogs through a partnership with Sarett Nature Center, which are specially trained to sniff out box turtles, we saw a unique opportunity to explore a new survey technique.
A specially trained Boykin Spaniel gently holds an Eastern Box Turtle it found prior to the turtle being returned to the sanctuary. Photo by Lauren Ross.
Welcome Michigan Forest Association! In August, MNA welcomed the Michigan Forest Association (MFA) as the newest addition to our collaborative conservation space, joining MNA, Michigan Audubon, American Bird Conservancy, the Mid-Michigan Land Conservancy, the Kirtland Warbler Alliance, and the Michigan Wetlands Association at our headquarters in Okemos. MFA’s mission is to inspire and empower people to sustainably manage, conserve and enjoy forests through education, advocacy and fellowship. Among many other educational tools, they publish a quarterly magazine and monthly newsletter, and create videos on a variety of topics for both adults and youth. MFA’s staff and volunteers also host field workshops across the state, including opportunities for the Women Owning Woodlands Initiative. Considering that over half of Michigan’s forests are privately owned, MFA is a tremendous resource for those who wish to responsibly steward their land. “We are thrilled to find a home in this conservation center established by MNA,” says MFA Executive Director, Dr. Georgia Peterson. “It opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities for collaboration with MNA and the other organizations in this shared space - we look forward to exploring them!” 10
michigan nature| winter 2022
Inside | MNA
MNA Joins Wilderness Campaign to Protect Over 40,000 Acres MNA is part of a growing and diverse network of over 100 environmental, outdoor recreation, academic, political, and business organizations supporting federal wilderness designation for some of Michigan’s last, truly wild places. Designation requires congressional action, which would provide the highest level of federal land protection for four areas totaling between 40,000 and 60,000 acres (depending on how final lines are drawn) within the one-million-acre Ottawa National Forest in the western Upper Peninsula: The Trap Hills, Ehlco Area, Norwich Plains, and Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Addition. Wilderness designation protects these areas for biological diversity, not resource extraction, while still providing opportunities for their respectful use, enjoyment, and economic benefit. Find out more about these areas and the campaign at keeptheupwild.com.
Photo by Fauna Creative
Bringing Michigan Nature to Your Home In early 2021, MNA launched a new series of events exploring the rich natural history of Michigan. The “Michigan Nature at Home” virtual speaker series hosts experts from around the state who share topics with viewers including historic inventions inspired by the state’s unique natural features, how research helps us be better stewards of the land, tips and experiences in creating artistic conservation images, and more. Presenters have included Michigan Notable Author James McCommons speaking about his recent biography of George Shiras III, who paved the way for modern-day trail cameras in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Michigan Technological University Research Professor, Dr. Rolf Peterson, provided valuable insight into the research being conducted on the relationship between Isle Royale’s wolves and moose in the world’s longest-running predator-prey study. We also heard from wildlife photographers Greg Bodker and Josh Haas, who each provided valuable tips for creating better photos while respecting the needs of wildlife. A Michigan Natural Features Inventory ecologist, Jesse Lincoln, delighted our audience with stories of how his conservation work is enhanced and informed by art, and award-winning filmmakers Chris Zuker and Jason Whalen gave viewers a sneak peek of a few films they have been creating for MNA. These presentations have helped us reach a broad audience, beyond the borders of the state, inspiring people to care about and experience Michigan’s incredible nature from home. MNA looks forward to providing continued informative programming in the coming months and years. View recordings of these presentations and check for newly announced events at michigannature.org.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Online | MNA
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Gains Momentum in Congress The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is gaining momentum in the current Congressional session with significant bi-partisan support. Without raising taxes, the vital legislation would direct $1.3 billion annually in existing federal revenues to states and tribes for proactive, voluntary efforts to prevent vulnerable wildlife from becoming endangered across the U.S. For Michigan, that would mean an unprecedented increase in funding from around $1.3 million annually to approximately $27 million to implement Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan and help non-game Species of Greatest Conservation Need through habitat protection, restoration, and other strategies. RAWA is an extraordinary opportunity and, if passed and signed into law, would represent the largest investment in conservation funding in more than a generation. Given that 1/3 of all wildlife species in the U.S. are at risk of extinction, according to the National Wildlife Federation, and that there are 12,000 identified Species of Greatest 12
michigan nature| winter 2022
Conservation Need (over 300 in Michigan) addressed in states’ Wildlife Action Plans, RAWA could help more species recover, keeping them out of the “emergency room” of the federal Endangered Species Act where 12,000 species of plants and animals are already listed as threatened or endangered. MNA supports RAWA and extends our sincere appreciation to Congresswoman Dingell for continuing to push this legislation forward. We last reported on this vital federal legislation in the Fall 2019 issue of Michigan Nature magazine. At that time, it was introduced in the House, but never in the Senate. Fast forward to a new session of Congress and the bill (HR 2773) has been reintroduced in the House by Michigan’s own Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jeff Fortenbury (R-NE) with the bipartisan support of 125 co-sponsors to date, including a majority of our state delegation. This year, a companion bill, S2372, was also introduced in the Senate with 27 co-sponsors at this writing, including Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Black-crowned night heron. Photo by Billy Rollo, courtesy MDNR.
Online | MNA
Species Spotlight: Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) Photo by Adam Mann, USFWS.
Bats are one of Michigan’s most mysterious mammals. Commonly seen dashing through the dusk sky, their silhouettes are well-known. But less well-known are the minute details that distinguish the various species of bat found in the state. The Indiana Bat, for example, is distinguished from other more common bats by an elevated ridge on the structure that supports the back margin of the tail – a detail the regular observer is likely to miss. And, unlike some other of Michigan’s bats, the Indiana bat hibernates in caves through the winter, rather than migrating south. This makes them vulnerable to the leading cause of population decline among bat species, White-nose syndrome (over a million bats have died from White-nose syndrome since its first detection in 2006). The Indiana bat has been listed federally as an endangered species since 1967, and although no known populations of them currently reside on MNA Nature Sanctuaries, efforts to conserve habitat suitable for this species continue.
Join the Conversation Connect with MNA, share photos, watch videos, and stay in touch! Use the social media links below to join the conversation.
Nature News Straight to Your Inbox Sign up to receive MNA’s emails for updates on the latest happenings in the field, upcoming events, and important nature news from around the state and country. If you’d like to join the email list, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. MNA does not sell or share email addresses, and you may unsubscribe from the list at any time.
Your Gift Makes a Difference Use your smartphone camera to scan the QR code below and learn about your giving options. With your support, MNA will be able to continue to protect the finest natural areas in Michigan.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Sanctuaries | MNA Every Sanctuary Has a Story...
Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary is one of MNA’s many inlandlake sanctuaries, protecting roughly 60 acres of lakeshore where the Thornapple River enters the Thornapple Lake in Barry County. The densely forested sanctuary would be a tempting destination for hiking and exploration if not for the wet terrain making trails impractical. This type of habitat, which floods every spring, is known as a floodplain forest (see feature story pg. 20). The Thornapple River, a major tributary of the Grand River which drains into Lake Michigan, travels nearly 90 miles through primarily agricultural land, and is disrupted at several points by man-made dams built to control its frequent flooding. From the tributary east of Charlotte until it joins Thornapple Lake, the river flows freely though with the appearance of a creek. This floodplain forest area is therefore an important part of the landscape. Floodplain forests serve an important role in maintaining natural water quality as pollutants get filtered out of the floodwaters through the soil. They also provide critical habitat for several rare birds, such as Baltimore Oriole, Cerulean Warbler and American Woodcock. The saturated soils of floodplain forests thaw earlier in the spring than surrounding soils, creating a unique opportunity for early migratory birds to find food on their way to summer breeding grounds. The area around the lake, however, has become heavily developed over the years with waterfront homes and neighborhoods that intersect the shoreline. The development impacts the ability of waterfowl and other species to use the lake for feeding and breeding. Concerned with the overdevelopment of the lakeshore, Richard and
Rosemary Shuster donated the land that has become Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary in 2009. Many of MNA’s Nature Sanctuaries are known for being incredible destinations for hiking with spectacular overlooks, abundant spring wildflowers, and more. But sanctuaries like Thornapple Lake are a reminder that prioritizing the protection of Michigan’s rich natural heritage is just as worthwhile.
Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary is most easily accessed by water, its low banks provide ample opportunity to view the abundance of life on the forest floor from your canoe or kayak. Photo by Lauren Ross. 14
michigan nature| winter 2022
Sanctuaries | MNA Every Sanctuary Has a Story...
The Rookery: Black River Nature Sanctuary There are few sights as magnificent to behold as watching a massive bird with a 6-and-a-half-foot wingspan emerge silently from the water’s edge, then float gracefully over the treetops and into the distance. The Great Blue Heron, North America’s largest heron species, is an unmistakable presence along Michigan’s rivers and lakes. Perhaps surprisingly, these massive waterfowl nest in trees – and it is for this reason that MNA’s Black River Nature Sanctuary was preserved. An historical presence of a heron rookery along the Black River in Van Buren County prompted the Bouton and Mortensen families to donate the more than 100-acre sanctuary nearly 30 years ago. The floodplain and mesic southern forest habitats within the sanctuary provide excellent opportunities for herons to nest high in the tree canopy, safe from predators. The lack of human visitation to the sanctuary has resulted in minimal threats from invasive species and other ecological disturbances. Although the surrounding land is primarily agricultural, the section of the Black River within the sanctuary remains in good condition with many meanders and several oxbow ponds. These hydrological features contribute to the sanctuary’s overall ecological diversity, providing habitat for both terrestrial and aquatic species including Cerulean warbler and Blandings turtle. The state threatened Showy Orchid which is known to occur in both floodplain forests as well as mesic southern forests, may also be found among other more common spring ephemerals at this sanctuary, a testament to the undisturbed condition of the land. In 2014 MNA worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service – Partners for Fish and Wildlife program to plant trees on 2.5 acres of the sanctuary.
A Great Blue Heron sits on its nest at an MNA Nature Sanctuary in Southwest Michigan. Photo by Fai Chen
Black River Nature Sanctuary Sanctuary Facts: Size: • 102 acres Habitats:
• Floodplain Forest • Mesic Southern Forest
• Great Blue Heron Notable • Blandings Turtle Species: • Showy Orchid Notable Landscape • Oxbow ponds Features: Galearis spectabilis. Photo by Aaron Strouse. michigan nature| winter 2022
Special Feature | MNA
Following the Hart: The 200 Year-Old Story of the American Hart’s-Tongue Fern German botanist Frederick Pursh got his big break in 1807. The 33-year-old was hired with $60 in Philadelphia to catalog and illustrate plants from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. But before Pursh began that endeavor - which would actually end with him running off to Europe with many of those specimens and publishing there - he was committed to a plant collection trip. His journey - sometimes on foot, sometimes by carriage - included a discovery that publications would recount for centuries to come. On July 20, 1807, in a valley west of Onondaga Lake, New York, Pursh found American hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium var. americanum) tucked into the large limestone rocks. A resemblance to the European variety caught his eye. “I thought the most of Asplenium scolopendrium - this fern which I don’t find mentioned by any one to grow in America I always had a notion to be here; and indeed I was quit enjoyed to find my prejudice so well founded in truth [sic],” wrote Pursh in his journal.
The site was lost, then found, threatened by quarrying and timber harvest, and stressed by invasive species and weather patterns. It’s also been surveyed, researched extensively, boosted with captivegrown plants, and received the best care science can bestow upon it. Plus, it’s protected into the future as Split Rock Unique Area. That may be the original American hart’s-tongue fern tale, but a recent review shares similar advances across much of the plant’s range — primarily a narrow band stretching from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, through south-central Ontario and into Central New York. As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends the plant be removed from the federal threatened species list. If finalized, the decision would close a 31-year chapter in a story certain to continue. Of harts and minds Ferns have their roots far, far into the world’s past. They are among the earliest plants recorded, their existence stretching back about 400 million years. Roughly 70 species of ferns exist in New York alone.
American hart’s-tongue fern has a tropical appearance, with shiny undivided fronds. Photo by John Wiley, USFWS.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Special Feature | MNA
While not showy like their flowering relatives, they have enjoyed a certain snob appeal. One 19thcentury botanist insisted that “the beauty of form and texture of ferns requires a higher degree of mental perception and a more cultivated intellect for its proper appreciation.” Don Leopold begs to disagree. “You don’t need to be a Ph.D. to appreciate” the American hart’stongue fern, said the distinguished professor and ecologist at the State University of New York in Syracuse. “The hart’s-tongue fern is really one of the most beautiful native plants you’d ever see.” The American hart’s-tongue fern has a shiny, tropical look to its evergreen, strap-like fronds; at the furled stage the fronds bring to mind Fruit by the Foot candy, rather than the scroll of a fiddle. Long, tongue-shaped leaves inspired the name, referring to a deer’s tongue, specifically that of a red stag or “hart” in medieval times. The backside of the leaf bears cinnamon-colored sacs called sori. The shade-loving fern most often grows in the crevices of calcium-rich limestone under mature maple forests. The New York state botanist in 1917 described the habitat there as “cool, densely shaded, mossy rock strewn gashes in the earth’s crust,” evidence of “the rugged forces of nature which have so deeply impressed their power upon the visible landscape.” The fern has drawn fans like American photographer H. E. Ransier, who in 1926 wrote: “Richer than millionaires! Happier than Kings! Envied by multitudes! May be said of hobnobbers with Hart’s-tongue.” Ransier was involved in one of the first attempts to save the fern. In 1924, operations were well underway to create a quarry in Jamesville, New York. The fern was not alone in its devotion to limestone. Three of its populations were in the path of explosives. It was one of a handful of quarries that would influence the plant’s future. “Fern enthusiasts did their best to save what they could,” said John Wiley, the Service’s lead biologist for the species. So they moved them. Upwards of 700, maybe even 1,000, plants were replanted in nearby sites. Ransier even offered American Fern Society members “living specimens… at 25 cents and postage. Immediate application is imperative.”
Ransier and others shipped plants as far west as California, north to Maine and south to Missouri. The fern enthusiasts’ hearts were in the right place, if not their science. “We wouldn’t advise that now,” said New York biologist Mike Serviss — the potential to spread invasive species and all that. There’s little data about any of the shipped plants, according to Serviss. And records suggest the New York plantings did not survive. Following the hart Botanists considered New York to be the stronghold for the species for many years. Discoveries from the predictable to the perplexing would reveal otherwise. In 1989, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory recorded the fern in four populations in a single county. The nonprofit Michigan Nature Association had already acquired property to protect some of these plants, having been alerted to their existence in 1964. It’s since acquired more. Biologists identified four more populations by 1993. By 2012, two more. Then, for the first time, they did a full count of plants at the two MNA sites. Turns out they are the largest populations in the U.S. The state is now estimated to be home to thousands more plants than New York — more than half the plants in the country. “To protect the ferns in our care, MNA is primarily concerned with michigan nature| winter 2022
Special Feature | MNA maintaining the forest to the best of its ability in order to maintain the very specific microhabitat conditions required for this species to persist,” said Andrew Bacon, the MNA Conservation Director. That includes ensuring adequate shade, addressing invasive species, and helping the forest maintain diversity to improve resiliency amid climate change. Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to nine American hart’stongue fern populations. The U.S. Forest Service has given forest stands containing the fern special treatment, ensuring routine monitoring and protection from activities that could negatively affect the populations. Robert Leibermann recently became a botanist for Hiawatha, where a fern with a fancy name caught his fancy. “I think it’s very enigmatic,” Leibermann said. “… My job as botanist will be to continue to stress the importance of it, and try to make sure it is protected.” Canada perhaps marks the most significant advances in recording populations. The first comprehensive assessment — not completed until 2000 — uncovered more than 70 populations with several having thousands of plants. The number of populations jumped to 109 in 2016, and 112 in 2020. Turns out Canada is home to more than 85 percent of the global American hart’s-tongue fern population. The fern had yet one more secret. Laura Baumann of the National Park Service uncovered it. The biological science technician works nowhere near the known populations in eastern North America. She’s in New Mexico.
The young furled fronds of the American hart’s-tongue fern bring to mind Fruit by the Foot candy, rather than the scroll of a fiddle. Photo courtesy New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP)
In 2017, she was counting bats in basaltic lava flow caves in El Malpais National Monument. Using climbing gear, she dropped into a couple of caves they don’t regularly monitor. Seeing a body-sized crack between them, she checked it out.
Baumann said. “… I’ve been really excited about how excited other people are getting about it.” So how did the fern get to New Mexico? Probably not by Ransier’s shipments, Serviss said.
“There were all these plants on the ground,” Baumann said. Plants where usually only moss occurs. “Seeing leafy vegetation in a cave feature like this was pretty wild.”
It’s possible the fern once had a much larger range during and following the last glacial age, but as the climate changed, the fern found proper habitat only in certain sinkholes, caves and steep-sloped basins, he said. Hence sites in Tennessee, Alabama and New Mexico.
Two years after her cave adventure, Baumann reached out to experts to give her discovery a name. Initial assessments point to the American hart’s-tongue fern. In-depth genetic analyses will be underway soon. “It’s been pretty validating because I don’t consider myself a botanist,”
Indeed, not long after its discovery, scientists recorded the plant in Mexico. Experts know little about the population in Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey in northeast Mexico in Nuevo Leon, and aim to learn more.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Special Feature | MNA The Service now reports 145 populations in the U.S. and Canada, and potentially more in Mexico. More than half of these populations have some sort of protection. “The most important thing when it comes to most species’ conservation is making sure they’re protected within their habitat,” Serviss said “… It helps not only that species but it helps all those other plants and wildlife in the area.” The Service’s next step is to work with partners to develop a monitoring plan for the species and to begin a peer and public-review process to propose delisting due to recovery, and then make a final decision. In the latest review of the species, finalized in July 2020, the agency notes that “considerable efforts have been conducted” toward recovery. That includes confirmation of stable populations, a first-time estimate of the entire population north of Mexico and a comprehensive status assessment capturing the species’ genetics, ecology, life history and propagation methods. The agency predicts that the core populations around the Great Lakes will remain large and well-distributed for at least the next 30–50 years, even if a few populations elsewhere are lost.
“With $350,000 in federal funding the last ten years or so, at least five masters theses, several journal articles, a lot of work on understanding ecological and propagation, a dedicated group of stakeholders… you can get to recovery,” said Wiley, the Service’s lead biologist for the species. But recovery isn’t the end. Around 50 plants at Sonnenberg Gardens, grown at SUNY-ESF from spores of Alabama plants, await a drive to their new home in a cave entrance at a former fern site at the Service’s Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alabama. Tennessee would benefit from captive-reared plants, too. Serviss and colleagues were unable to find plants mature enough from which to collect spores, but just this spring they were able to bypass the spore reproduction process and culture them from tissue. They hope this could be a strategy for Tennessee’s population. Clearly, more chapters lie ahead in the ongoing 200-year-old tale of the American hart’s-tongue fern.
Reprinted with permission from a blog originally published by U.S. Fish and Wildlfe Service North Atlantic-Appalachian Region.
Photo courtesy NY OPRHP. michigan nature| winter 2022
A floodplain forest contains a vast array of plant and animal life throughout the seasons. Photo by Robb Johnston. 20
michigan nature| winter 2022
Where Rivers and Forests Meet Michigan’s floodplain forests are rapidly disappearing. That spells trouble for the rare, threatened, and endangered species that have evolved to exploit the natural rhythms of springtime floods where rivers and forests meet. Climate change is expected to only make matters worse with heavier rains and more extreme flooding events.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Feature | MNA In southern Lower Michigan, the populated landscapes
of farms, homes, and towns create predictable, right-angle patterns of human settlement when viewed from above. But winding across and through those straight line grids of roads, crops, and developed blocks, sinuous corridors trace the paths of streams and rivers. A kayak or canoe trip down one of those rivers, with trees on either side, can feel a million miles away from the human altered surroundings that may lie mere yards beyond the forested riverbanks. These corridors often harbor something really important, a dynamic natural community called floodplain forests. As defined by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), floodplain forests are deciduous or deciduous-conifer forests found in the bottomlands along low-lying areas adjacent to larger streams and rivers. Their dynamism comes from the streams themselves periodic flooding, scouring, erosion and sediment deposition follow the rise and fall of water levels, creating diverse microhabitats that are used by a wide variety of wildlife.
Land Plus Water = Diversity Land meets water in a floodplain forest. When that stream or river tops its banks, it reshapes the bottom lands with tree falls, migrating river channels, new sediment deposits or erosional scour. These actions create fluvial landforms such as natural levees, backswamps, oxbow ponds, and terraces - all associated with a particular type of vegetation.
“These forests are
often very important stopover or even nesting sites for declining neotropical migratory birds.” Rachel Maranto, MNA Stewardship Coordinator
Floodplain forests are found adjacent to third order or larger streams and rivers throughout Michigan, but more extensively in the Lower Peninsula and with greater species richness in southern lower Michigan, according to MNFI. The rivers themselves tend to follow meltwater or outwash glacial channels, and were important to Indigenous people for settlement, trade and travel.
“The species richness in the floodplain forests found in places like MNA’s McCulley-Bastian Nature Sanctuary along the River Raisin in Lenawee County is a special conservation focus,” says Rachel Maranto, MNA’s Stewardship Coordinator. “Several rare plants species are found here, and nesting prothonotary warblers - a neotropical migratory bird of state special concern - have been spotted. And I especially love that you can often find really big trees in a floodplain forest, those that have been spared from logging that occurred to make room for nearby agriculture or development.” Rich floodplain forest biodiversity can be found in other MNA Nature Sanctuaries, including habitat for both common and rare species. For
Key Concept Ordering Streams and Rivers Floodplain forests are defined as bottomlands adjacent to streams and rivers of third order or higher. But what is an order? Stream order is used to classify the size of the water body. First order streams are typically the smaller, outermost tributaries of a river system. Two first order streams can merge to become a second order stream and two second order streams flow into each other to become a third order stream as the tributaries grow the river’s size and current strength. Typically, first through third order streams are the brooks and creeks in the upper watershed or headwaters of a river system. Medium sized streams are third through sixth order, and very large rivers constitute six through 12th-order rivers - think Mississippi at 10th order and the Amazon as 12th. (Source: Stream Order: A Classification of the Rank of Streams and Rivers) A Prothonotary warbler sings while perched on a maple branch at MNA’s McCulley-Bastian Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Richard Fanning. 22
michigan nature| winter 2022
Feature | MNA example, one sanctuary includes an active Great blue heron rookery along with documentation of three state-listed neotropical migratory songbirds during nesting season - Lousiana waterthrush, Cerulean warbler, and yellow-throated warbler. In another, state endangered copperbelly watersnakes are found. “These forests are often very important stopover or even nesting sites for declining neotropical migratory birds,” says Maranto, “Often they are the last forested bastion in a lot of agriculture dominated landscapes and are therefore valuable for a variety of plants and animals.” Since Indiana bats (see Species Spotlight, p. 13) are found within a relatively short distance from McCulley Bastion, Maranto adds, there is a good chance they may be found at the sanctuary as well. And although species diversity may be richer in southern Michigan, floodplain forests can be found in northern Michigan, including the Fred and Ethel Walker Memorial Nature Sanctuary along the Manistique River in the Upper Peninsula’s Schoolcraft County. Here, these forests are also important for neo-tropical migrating birds such as the black-throated green warbler, scarlet tanager, and ovenbird. On the west side of the state, the floodplain forest community along the Coldwater River at the Dolan Nature Sanctuary in Kent County contains a large population of state endangered Virginia bluebells. “It is a spectacular site when the bluebells bloom in the spring,” says Robb Johnston, West Michigan Regional Stewardship Organizer for MNA. “They are a rare treasure, a fleeting springtime gift, drawing photographers and nature lovers alike to experience the vivid blue carpeted forest floor.”
Johnston also celebrates the rich diversity of other spring ephemerals that share time and space with the bluebells to complete Dolan’s vernal palette: spring beauty, toothwort, wild leek, trout lily, and golden ragwort to name just a few. “The trees grow to giants and tip ups abound, lending a wild, primeval character to the lush riot of green on the forest floor,” he adds, “And Dolan rises further yet in my estimation due to its trails, allowing visitors easy access to the beauty and stillness of the floodplain forest. “ True to its name, the Coldwater River is a cold water trout stream with noted mayfly hatches, a prime trout food. The floodplain forest at Dolan helps protect that fishery as trees along the banks shade the river to moderate and cool temperatures in summer months. A Priority for Wildlife Hatching insects also mean more food for birds, especially early in the spring as migratory songbirds move through the state. Because of the importance to birds and other wildlife, including a number of animal Species of Greatest Conservation Need, floodplain forests are one of eight priority habitats named in Michigan’s congressionally mandated Wildlife Action Plan (WAP), which addresses conservation strategies for Michigan’s rarest wildlife. Focal species in the WAP include the state threatened Cerulean warbler, a migratory songbird that nests and feeds high in forest treetops, preferring mature, bottomland forests
A Great Blue Heron hunts along the Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Lauren Ross michigan nature| winter 2022
Feature | MNA over upland forests. The federally and state endangered Indiana bat also finds a home in floodplain forests, as does the federally threatened and state endangered copperbelly watersnake, the latter with occurrences only in a few southern Michigan counties. Threats to these impressive habitats are an all too familiar list invasive plants and animals, hydrological modifications (levees, impoundments, channelization, dams), including those brought by climate change, habitat loss due to industrial, residential and agricultural fragmentation, and incompatible timber management. For those reasons, floodplain forests are both globally and state ranked as vulnerable. Needed conservation actions include protecting existing floodplain forests such as those found at McCulley-Bastian, Dolan, and other MNA Nature Sanctuaries. But protecting upland buffers and adjacent wetlands is another important strategy, according to the WAP, as is managing invasive species, reforestation, education for landowners, and even assessing the intactness of floodplain forests to better determine their distribution and health status. The state WAP also lists actions needed for the focal species, such as protecting known summer roosting locations of the Indiana bat and acquiring more data on the elusive cerulean warbler.
Cardinal flower, lobelia cardinalis, are a striking contrast to the heavily green forest floor. Known for attracting hummingbirds, the plant grows well in very wet soil. Photo by Robb Johnston.
1. Dolan Nature Sanctuary
2. Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary
3. Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve
4. McCulley-Bastian Nature Sanctuary
5. Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary
Barry 1 5
State Wildlife Action Plan priority areas for floodplain forest 3 conservation (in light green) are spread through much of 4 2 southern lower Michigan. Many of MNA’s Nature Sanctuaries exist within this area (dark green dots) and a few even contain MNFI herpetologist Yu Man Lee holds a spotted salamander while monitoring a vernal pool at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. Photo by Fauna Creative. this special habitat type (dark green squares)! 24
michigan nature| winter 2022
Feature | MNA
“We’re building the tools ... to bring the wonder of vernal pools to learners of all ages.” - Dr. Georgia Peterson, Natural Resources Extension Specialist
Wildflowers carpet the forest floor along the Dowagiac River at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Kurt Jung.
A Green Fringe of Benefits For sometimes being no more than a narrow, green edge along a river, the magnitude of floodplain forest benefits belie their seemingly limited size. Besides important habitat, they provide organic matter as sources of energy for aquatic organisms, woody debris for aquatic habitats, and store floodwaters. In the reverse, when water flows across the land to a river, the floodplain forest serves as a buffer, absorbing both the quantity and the energy of that flow while filtering pollutants. Hence, the floodplain forest at McCulley-Bastian, for example, helps to protect the water quality of the River Raisin and Lake Erie, which is threatened by extensive development of land for agriculture in the region and the intensive nutrient inputs through fertilizer and sedimentation that result. MNA’s contributions to protecting floodplain forests extend beyond land protection. The Nature Sanctuaries are often sites for scientific research, conducted by academics and community scientists alike, as well as place-based education and stewardship for those who visit. Exploring a floodplain forest at an MNA Nature Sanctuary is sure to open up new worlds and understanding of a fascinating natural community. Another great way to benefit from a floodplain forest? Head to the river for a float in a canoe or kayak on any warm day for a soul-healing
experience - a nature immersion in a quiet, twisty corridor, flanked by the cool shade of those forests in the floodplains, shielded from the straight lines of civilization. Where to Visit Floodplain Forests Several MNA sanctuaries in Lower Michigan provide great opportunities to explore floodplain forests including: • • • •
McCulley-Bastian Nature Sanctuary, Lenawee County Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve, Washtenaw County Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary, Cass County Thornapple Lake Nature Sanctuary, Barry County (best viewed by canoe or kayak from a nearby public boat launch, see pg. 14) • Dolan Nature Sanctuary, Kent County Floodplain forests can also be found in many riverside public parks as these areas were either avoided by development because of their propensity to flood or because communities intentionally dedicated sections of river corridors as parkland and open space to assist with flood control. Great examples of floodplain forests can be found at Eliza Howell Park and Rouge Park along the Rouge River in the City of Detroit.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Research | MNA
EPA Includes MNA Wetlands in National Survey
Field crew member Katie Quesnell collects vegetation to be analyzed in the research project. Photo courtesy U.S. EPA.
In September, MNA’s Rocky Point Wetlands Nature Sanctuary in Chippewa County was surveyed as one of many randomly selected wetland sites across the nation to take part in an annual vegetation and soil survey in 2021. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) is intended to increase our knowledge about the ecological health of wetlands in the U.S. The surveys, which have been conducted annually since 2011, “encompasses both tidal and nontidal wetlands ranging from the expansive marshes of our coasts to the forested swamps, meadows, and waterfowl-rich prairie potholes of the interior plains” according to the EPA NWCA website. Rocky Point Wetlands Nature Sanctuary, as part of MNA’s more than 1,000-acre Munuscong Lake Conservation Area, protects an important stretch of relatively undisturbed and biologically diverse coastal wetland and minimally fragmented forests between Lake Munuscong and the Gogomain Swamp along the St. Mary’s River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Rocky Point Wetlands was chosen to serve as one of several wetland reference sites, according to Mari
michigan nature| winter 2022
Nord, Field Lead of the team that conducted the survey. “Reference sites are very important as they are considered the least disturbed condition and can serve to set the standard to which other wetland sites are compared.” The data collected by the field team gets submitted electronically to the HQ/Lab and then goes through a level of quality assurance checks before being analyzed to determine the overall health of the wetland. The information gathered from field observations and soil and vegetation samples provide information that is essential to documenting the current status and, ultimately, trends in wetland quality. MNA is proud to contribute to national science research through partnerships like those with the U.S. EPA – the lessons gleaned from these partnerships contribute both to conservation broadly as well as to our own sanctuary management practices. Learn more about the sites being surveyed in the NWCA at epa.gov/national-aquaticresource-surveys/what-national-wetland-condition-assessment.
Research | MNA
Right: Topographic map showing wetland detail of Rocky Point Wetlands Nature Sanctuary. Map copyright 2013 National Geographic Society. Below: Haircap mosses grow on a mound at Rocky Point Wetlands Nature Sanctuary. These mosses prefer bogs and other wetland habitats. Photo courtesy U.S. EPA.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Naomikong Pond Photo by Paul Mrozek 28 michigan nature| winter 2022
Help Michigan Nature and Receive Income for Life A charitable gift annuity is a planned gift that can support MNA while providing steady, annual payments — an annuity — for you and up to one additional beneficiary for a lifetime.
Consider a charitable gift annuity When you transfer an irrevocable gift to MNA, we commit to making a fixed annual payment during your lifetime. The remainder of the gift then passes to MNA. The benefits include the security of additional income, potential tax savings, and the satisfaction of knowing your gift will benefit MNA long into the future. To learn more, please return the attached card, visit www.michigannature.org or call (866) 223-2231.
Make a gift for nature that pays you back
Michigan Nature Association
michigan nature| winter 2022
Stewardship | MNA Conservation Superheroes...
Celebrating Paul and Sue McEwen As the City of Fenton continues to grow, places such as Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary seem to stay the same. The sanctuary evokes a sense of stillness, abstracted from the hustle and bustle of everyday life - a constant in a time of rapid development. This peace stems from dedicated stewarding from folks like Paul and Sue McEwen. Paul and Sue first began volunteering with MNA over a decade ago as a way to give back to the natural areas that they’ve enjoyed over the years. They helped former Regional Stewardship Organizer Katherine Hollins establish a Friends Group to help keep up with the demanding maintenance needs of the sanctuary. The combined volunteer hours between the two are evident at nearly every turn of the nearly 4.5 miles of walking trails found in the sanctuary. Paul and Sue have regularly hosted volunteer work days during their time with MNA, encouraging local trail users to join them in their efforts to repair boardwalks, maintain trails, remove invasive species threats, and survey for rare species in the sanctuary’s vernal pools. As Sanctuary Stewards, Paul and Sue have greatly contributed to MNA’s mission of protecting habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species in Michigan, as well as serving as ambassadors in the community - spreading MNA’s message throughout the Fenton community. So while growth may be good for the City, staying the same is good for the Sanctuary. MNA’s Board of Trustees honored Paul and Sue’s contributions by awarding them the Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award in November 2021.
Paul (far left) and Sue (far right) McEwen with a group of volunteers at Dauner Martin Nature Santuary. Photo by Katherine Hollins.
Massasauga Collaboration Advances The 2021 summer issue of Michigan Nature included an exciting announcement of a multi-year grant award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to aid in the conservation and recovery of priority Eastern massasauga rattlesnake populations in the state. The Eastern massasauga is Michigan’s only venomous snake, but its population decline led to a ‘threatened’ listing under the federal Endangered Species Act and identification as a species of greatest conservation need under Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan. MNA is coordinating and facilitating the project with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory and Grand Valley State University. This summer, the project partners began population surveys and monitoring. MNA conducted habitat management and restoration at areas occupied by the Eastern massasauga, including at sites in addition to MNA Nature Sanctuaries. “We were able to work with Springfield Township in Oakland County and the North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy to undertake prescribed burns and invasive species management Photo by Jennifer Moore. Coutresy MDNR. on property adjacent to the township’s Long Lake Fen,” said Andrew Bacon, MNA’s Conservation Director. “These kinds of collaborations are key to the recovery of the massasauga and made possible by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant as we can address habitat restoration beyond our own property borders to benefit the rattlesnake. 30
michigan nature| winter 2022
Education | MNA
Stickwork Sculpture Sparks Interest at City Park In September, MNA participated in the Opening Celebration of an exciting new stickwork sculpture at the City of Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park. Sidewalk Detroit, a Detroit arts nonprofit and member of the Eliza Howell Park Partnership (EHPP) that includes MNA, commissioned nationally-known artist Patrick Dougherty to create an engaging and interactive sculpture. Made entirely of natural materials, it puts a nature spotlight on a beautiful 250-acre urban park along the Rouge River.
Over a period of three weeks, volunteer neighbors, artists, and the general public worked alongside the environmental artist to harvest overgrowth from several parks Photo by Zach Pacana in and around Detroit, then helped with the installation. The stickwork is expected to last up to two years as it naturally decays, a terrific way to connect visitors to ecology and natural cycles through art in a park setting. Check out this wonderful sculpture at Eliza Howell Park- and kudos to our partners at Sidewalk Detroit for commissioning this inspiring naturework and promoting EHPP’s mission of connecting visitors to the park’s natural wonders in such a unique way!
Volunteers Make Swift Work With Audubon Volunteers Jim Rossman and Paul Rice are highly valued by MNA staff for their willingness to tackle projects requiring a higher-than-normal set of building, carpentry, and construction skills. So when we decided to erect a chimney swift tower on the grounds of our office building in partnership with Michigan Audubon, they responded with an enthusiastic “yes”! The tower - and others like them - are a part of Michigan Audubon’s efforts to increase awareness for chimney swifts and to slow a steep population decline in recent decades. A bird that favors urban areas, the swifts nest and roost in traditional brick chimneys with open caps. They feed by catching flying insects but cannot perch upright, only on a vertical surface that allows some perches on a rough surface. Using plans from the Chimney Swift Conservation Association, but adding their own modifications, the tower took shape in Jim’s workshop over the winter of 2019-2020. The COVID pandemic prevented installation until this fall. “We hope to provide chimney swift habitat,” says Julie Stoneman, MNA’s Director of Outreach and Educations, “but the tower itself is a wonderful educational tool that compliments our native bird, bee, and pollinator landscaping. It’s great to work in partnership with Michigan Audubon and we cannot thank Jim and Paul enough for the hours dedicated to constructing and installing the tower.” “Michigan Audubon is excited to partner again with our neighbors in Okemos, Michigan Nature Association, to enhance our office grounds with valuable education and conservation tools that attract more birds and other valuable pollinators” said Michigan Audubon Executive Director Volunteers begin installation of a chimney Heather Good. “The addition of a chimney swift tower is ... a great outreach and education tool swift tower at MNA office. that will convey more ways we can conserve birds in urban places.” michigan nature| winter 2022
Booknotes | MNA Recommended Reading The Rise of the American Conservation Movement Dr. Dorceta Taylor Duke University Press Paperback, $31.95
In this sweeping social history Dorceta E. Taylor examines the emergence and rise of the multifaceted U.S. conservation movement from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. She shows how race, class, and gender influenced every aspect of the movement, including the establishment of parks; campaigns to protect wild game, birds, and fish; forest conservation; outdoor recreation; and the movement’s links to nineteenth-century ideologies. Initially led by white urban elites—whose early efforts discriminated against the lower class and were often tied up with slavery and the appropriation of Native lands—the movement benefited from contributions to policy making, knowledge about the environment, and activism by the poor and working class, people of color, women, and Native Americans. Farranging and nuanced, The Rise of the American Conservation Movement comprehensively documents the movement’s competing motivations, conflicts, problematic practices, and achievements in new ways.
New & Noteworthy Finding the Mother Tree
Suzanne Simard Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group Harcover, $24.49
In her first book, Simard brings us into the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths - that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are creatures connected through undergroundnetworks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.
A Backyard Prairie
Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World Kathryn Aalto Timber Press Paperback $24.95
Kathryn Aalto celebrates 25 women whose influential writing helps deepen our connection to and understandingof the natural world. These inspiring wordsmiths are scholars, spirtual seekers,conservationists, scientists, novelists, and explores. Part travel essay, literary biography, and cultural history, Writing Wild ventures into the landscapes and lives of extraordinary writers and encourages a new generation of women to pick up their pens, head outdoors, and start writing wild.” Featured writers include Dorothy Wordsworth, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Gene StrattonPorter, Mary Austin, and Vita Sackville-West. Nan Shepherd, Rachel Carson, Mary Oliver, Carolyn Merchant, and Annie Dillard. Gretel Ehrlich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Diane Ackerman, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Lauret Savoy. Rebecca Solnit, Kathleen Jamie, Carolyn Finney, Helen Macdonald, and Saci Lloyd. Andrea Wulf, Camille T. Dungy, Elena Passarello, Amy Liptrot, and Elizabeth Rush.
michigan nature| winter 2022
Fred Delcomyn and James Ellis Southern Illinois University Press Paperback, $23.28 Fred Delcomyn and James Ellis document their journey and reveal the incredible potential of a backyard to travel back to a time before the wild prairie was put into plow rows.
The Life of the Lakes
B. Schroeder, D. O’Keefe, & S. Dann University of Michigan Press Paperback, $19.95 The Life of the Lakes examines the complex portrait of the Great Lakes fishery, including the history of the fishery’s exploitation and management, the current health of the Lakes, and the outlook for the future. Co-author Brandon Schroeder is a member of MNA’s Board of Trustees.
Voices | MNA
“There are reasons to be hopeful. We can recover species, the bald eagle and Kirtland’s warbler are two great examples.”
Assistant Field Supervisor Michigan Ecological Services Field Office U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Tell us a little bit about the Field Office’s endangered species work. Our field office implements wildlife trust responsibilities under Federal law, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), where we work on recovery planning and implementation efforts for listed species. We work with lots of partners, including organizations like MNA, to identify and implement the on-the-ground actions that are needed to reduce threats and reduce risk of extinction. How did you start in your career and what is your role at the Michigan Ecological Services Field Office? My dad was a wildlife biologist, and I was always interested in science. As an undergrad, I was initially interested in cell/molecular biology, but when I took Ecology, I immediately switched to a wildlife focus. After an internship with the Field Office and receiving my Master’s in environmental toxicology with a wildlife emphasis, I was brought on as a biologist, served as the Endangered Species Coordinator, and recently moved into a new role as Assistant Field Supervisor.
MNA is a great partner for species recovery work in many ways. The greatest threat to our threatened and endangered species is increasing habitat loss and fragmentation. MNA both protects and manages important habitat and has been an active partner at the table for as long as I’ve been at the FWS. It is a most effective conservation strategy for many imperiled species and groups like MNA play a really important role, also helping people stay connected to nature and wildlife while conveying the value of protecting imperiled species. Those things make a real difference.
“MNA is a great
partner for species recovery work... MNA both protects and manages important habitat...”
What else are you are currently working on? I’m excited about our new outreach program to Lansing area schools to introduce the value and role of freshwater mussels, including the endangered snuffbox mussel. We talk about the animals they find in the river, the watershed, and how they can make a difference. Their excitement at seeing these animals is just wonderful. We are also introducing students to conservation careers, many young people don’t know it’s an option.
MNA is currently working on a USFWS Recovery Challenge Grant with our partners, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory and Grand Valley State University. What do you hope to see from our work?
What gives you hope for rare, threatened, and endangered species?
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake, which is listed as threatened under the ESA, still has many populations in Michigan. It is critical to develop the science we need to develop more effective recovery strategies. The grant will help answer questions about needed habitat management, landscape connectivity, and other strategies. We hope to apply what we learn to other massasauga populations throughout Michigan, as well as throughout the species’ range in other states.
There is no shortage of challenges! But there are reasons to be hopeful. We can recover species, the bald eagle and Kirtland’s warbler are two great examples. But we couldn’t ask to be at a more critical junction in time - what we do today will shape the opportunities for future generations tomorrow. If we do things right, the future conservationists will have more pieces of the puzzle to work with. So we have to do all we can in this moment, take action, and take our best shot. michigan nature| winter 2022
Legacies | MNA
Doug Welker: Passionate Champion for Wild Lands There are those who leave a legacy by leaving gifts of land or money. Doug Welker’s legacy is of a life dedicated to protecting wild lands and inspiring others to do the same. According to those who knew him, his contributions over the years have been many as an active steward in the place he and his wife, Marjory, chose “as the ideal place to live” - the Upper Peninsula - given their love of an outdoor life. Doug served on boards of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition and the Friends of the Land of Keweenaw, and started the local Peter Wolfe Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. Most recently he served as a chief architect for the “Keep the U.P. Wild” campaign (see pg. 11) to protect over 40,000 acres in the Ottawa National Forest in the western U.P. as federally designated wilderness areas. Doug loved to share his passion for the outdoors with others; according to Marjory, “he simply really liked being out in the woods and wanted and hoped for others to do the same.” Doug was a seasonal wilderness ranger for a number of years for the U.S. Forest Service. His expertise and knowledge of the National Forest lands under consideration for wilderness designation was an invaluable contribution to the campaign. His enthusiasm for the initiative reflected a deep love and respect of those lands and of the importance of saving places for nature’s sake.
Photo courtesy Marjory Johnston.
By all accounts, a true champion of conservation was lost when Doug passed away unexpectedly this past summer. For the many lives he touched, including for some of us at MNA, the highest tribute we can pay is to channel his passion and advocate for the things that we had in common with him: protecting wild places. MNA plans to pay tribute to Doug by planting a tree in his memory at a place he loved. And we will continue to advocate, along with other conservation partners, for federal wilderness designation as part of the Keep the U.P. Wild campaign - four areas Doug treasured within the Ottawa National Forest. His enduring spirit guides the way.
Memorials and Honoraria
May 31, 2020 - October 31, 2020
Donations given in memory or honor of MNA members and friends appear here in tribute. To learn how you can honor a loved one, call (866) 223-2231 or visit www.michigannature.org.
In Memory of:
Bart Babcock by Susan Babcock Otto Bennink by Ruth Baker Kathy Bowler by Amanda VanderKooi James Williams by David Adler by Haliey Kimball by Janet Ames by Julie and Rick Zussman by Mark Kowalsky by Samuel Nuxoll by Cecilia Jacobson by Betsey and Paul Hage by DeLynne O’Toole by Emily Mayer by John McLaren by Deborah Rubin by David Saperstein and Susan Knoppow by Eric and Stacey Rolf 34 michigan nature| winter 2022
by Letitia Waitkus by Peter Alter by Laraine Wright Merritt Brown by Christopher and Margaret Gale by Joseph Thorne Angell by Linda Bosma by Elena and James Meadows by Wendy Patton Leino by Kenzi and Jonathan Pridgeon by Ryan Ginta McNally Robert and Viola Brown by Erik Brown and Barbara Weinstein John Budreau by Ruth Baker Dr. Jean Burnett by Walter and Ann Eschtruth by Suzanne Pavel Charles Goodrich by Ann Biek
by Paul and Mary Moore by Donna Sageman by Arthur and Carol Springsteen by Kimberle Roehm by Lauren and Don Spaulding by Barbara Groner by Aric and Trisha Nesbitt by Daniel and Stacy Burton by Nancy Goodrich Bruce LeBlanc by Dave Wege Jim Schmidt by Susan Babcock Donald Simula by Ruth Baker Curtis Vail by Linda and John Harris Mr. Mangalasseril Allan Mrs. Constance Fidler Raymond Gonzales Robert Green Charles Fred Hartley
Mrs. Engracia Jones Joseph Juett Rosestelle Kogan Ms. Virginia McChesney Dr. George Mogill Elmer Mueller, M.D. Sheldon Rose Mrs. Isabel Vander Carol A. Vettraino Gottfriend VonLinsowe by Dr. Lewis Rosenbaum
In Honor of:
Alan Degraw by Sharon DeGraw Marla Moiseev by Ruth Baker Cindy and Dickie Selfe by Pat Claeys and Lewis Ulman
“The work MNA has done is simply irreplaceable... MNA is protecting the soul of Michigan” Dave Dempsey
award-winning author of Ruin and Recovyer: Michigan’s Rise as a Conservation Leader
Photo by Deb Traxinger 35 michigan nature| winter 2022
Photo by Michigan Nut Photography
MNA’s Statewide Network of Nature Sanctuaries For over 65 years, MNA’s members, donors and volunteers have built an unparalleled statewide network of nature sanctuaries. Today there is at least one MNA nature sanctuary in 59 of Michigan’s 83 counties.
Handford Memorial Twin Waterfalls
Allegan County Allegan Valley Wade Memorial
Alpena County Colby Peter Memorial Gull Island Grass Island Bird Island Morris Bay
Harvey’s Rocks River Bend Four Macomb County Carey Memorial Huron County Ladies Rocky Point Wetland Sonnenberg Memorial Pepperidge Dunes Vermilion Point Saginaw Wetlands Trillium Ravine Clare County Kernan Memorial Beck Memorial Alta Warren Parsons
Branch County Kope Kon
Campbell Memorial Pennfield Bog Fish Lake Bog Flowering Dogwood
Dowagiac Woods Riley-Shurte Woods Radebaugh Memorial Wilding
Cedar River Green River
Baraga Old Growth Lightfoot Bay
Thornapple River Thornapple Lake
Benzie County Hart
Red Cedar River
A Looking Glass Frinks Pond Sanctuary
Martin Bay Three Wilderness Islands Bertha K Daubendiek
Dauner Martin White Cedar Swamps Zahrfeld Memorial
Pat Grogan Briggs Cox Memorial Munuscong Lake Hillsdale County Lake Superior Sarah Jane’s Lake Huron Sand Dunes Hobert Memorial Zeerip Memorial Sand Creek Prairie Soo Muskeg Schafer Family at Roach Houghton County Point Robert Thorson Brown Carlton Lake Wetlands Rockafellow Memorial
Jackson County Columbia Lefglen
Kalamazoo County Wilkie Memorial Flowerfield Creek Barton Lake Palmer Memorial Brewer Woods
Kent County Dolan
Dean Webster Memorial Estivant Pines Upson Lake Keweenaw Shores I Keweenaw Shores II Klipfel Memorial
Rooks Memorial Echo Lake Hylton Memorial Myrtle Justeson Memorial Gunn Memorial Mason County Grinnell Memorial Franklin F. and Brenda L. Holly Eagle Harbor Red Pine Midland County Dunes Bullock Creek Cy Clark Memorial Black Creek Monroe County Redwyn’s Dunes Swan Creek Gratiot Lake Overlook Montcalm County John J. Helstrom Krum Memorial Mariner’s Preserve at Silver Muskegon County River Falls Five Lakes Muskegon Ruth E. Johnson Memorial
Petite Wetland Zucker Memorial
Martin Beland Miller Robert Powell Memorial Willow Lake Prairie Slough Goose Creek Grasslands McCulley-Bastian Broehl Memorial 1 Broehl Memorial 2 Tiffin River
Bullard Lake Fen Lyle and Mary Rizor Hudspeth Memorial H.E. Hardy Memorial
Brooks Oak Pine Barrens Karner Blue Newaygo Prairie
Lambs Fairbanks Clifford and Calla Burr Memorial Lakeville Swamp Timberland Swamp Yntema Wildlife Oasis Rose Center Wetlands Brandon Township Morgan Porritt Big Valley
Ogemaw County Lost Lake
Theodore Hunt Memorial
Two Hearted River Swamp Lakes Moose Osceola Woods Refuge Oscoda County Trout Lake Kenneth R. Luneack
Stratton Memorial Beaver Dam Fred Dye Scherer Epoufette Bay Bois Blanc Island Beavertail Point Michigan Meridian Hiawatha
Otsego County Frost Pocket
Presque Isle County Mystery Valley Karst Spitler Shore
Leatherleaf Jack Pine Bog Jackson Memorial
Fox River Huntington Memorial
Wilcox Warnes Braastad
Walker Memorial Cedar Lake Manistique Dune and Swale
Chen Memorial Prairie Ronde Savanna Hildegard Wintergerst
St. Clair County
Van Buren County
Leonatti Memorial Louis G. Senghas Polovich Memorial Bertha A. Daubendiek Trillium Trail Galbraith Ray Memorial McGaw Memorial Jasper Woods Memorial Brennan Memorial Edna S. Newnan Alice W. Moore Woods St. Clair Lakeplain Forest
St. Joseph County Prairie Banks White Pigeon River Sauk Indian Trail
Wood Duck Domain Phillips Family Memorial Black River Butternut Creek Hultmark Memorial Barvicks Sand Dunes Bankson Lake Bog Great Bear Swamp
Joan Rodman Memorial
Michigan Nature Association 2310 Science Parkway, Suite 100 Okemos, MI 48864 www.michigannature.org
“MNA has made an extraordinary commitment to excellence, permanence, and trust.” Land Trust Accreditation Commission On renewing MNA’s accreditation in 2019
michigan nature| winter 2022