Woodpeckers Need Our Help!

Red-headed woodpeckers used to be just about everywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. But these days the number of red-headed woodpeckers is about half of what it was fifty years ago. Volunteers are working on a new project to get people to help red-headed woodpeckers. They’re encouraging landowners to let dead or dying trees stand rather than cut them down:

You can’t miss Red-headed Woodpeckers. They have long beaks, bright red heads and snowy white breasts. And if you go to the right place, you can find a lot of them.

Photo by Scott Franke

Today they’re not hammering on trees – the sound most of us associate with woodpeckers – but they’re doing plenty of chattering.

This reserve in southern Minnesota looks a lot like how much of the Midwest used to look.

There are clumps of big oak trees here, separated by open areas of native grasses, shrubs and wildflowers. The biologists call it an oak Savannah.

And there are Red-headed Woodpeckers everywhere – about fifty of them on this 500-acre patch of ground.

“There’s a red-headed, and he’s got a baby with him. God, they’re beautiful. They are so beautiful.”

That’s Chet Meyers. After a career as a college professor, he’s now in charge of an effort to make more places where Red-headed Woodpeckers can build their nests and raise their young.

If they can figure out exactly what the woodpeckers like so much about this place, maybe they can come close to reproducing the same conditions other places.

Chet Meyers is marking every tree where the woodpeckers have nested.

Once the trees are marked, the group will catalog exact descriptions of each tree. They’re hoping to come up with a profile of the perfect home for Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Photo by Wayne Nicholas

“And we’re going to measure the diameter of the tree, how high the nest cavity is, the species of the tree, is it alive or is it dead, so we can get some data on what seems to be the preferred habitat.”

Once they’re pretty sure they know what the woodpeckers like, they’ll reach out to land owners. They’ll to try to get them to leave dead and dying trees standing.

That could work on old abandoned farms, where there are trees and open spaces. Or in cemeteries. Or around golf courses.

And Meyers says helping woodpeckers means helping other wildlife too.

“The woodpecker is called a primary nester, it digs the cavity. But flying squirrels, mice, snakes, bluebirds, tree swallows – there are lots of other animals that are secondary nesters. They can’t drill the hole. But they live there. So what we’re trying to do is preserve the habitat so the woodpeckers drill the hole and when they leave, something else will come in and live in it.”

The researchers think if you have dead or dying tree, that could be a home for a Red-headed Woodpecker. But usually homeowners are worried the tree could fall and damage something, Meyers says you can cut off the top and some of the bigger branches and leave the rest of the tree standing. They think the red-headed woodpecker will be just as happy.

Story Courtesey of the Environment Report

from the University of Michigan and Michigan Radio

A Looking Glass Sanctuary Dedicaton

This beautiful 14.5-acre sanctuary consists of southern floodplain forest and associated wetlands, as well as prairie habitat and oak uplands. It was dedicated on July 26, 2008

The land, named after the Looking Glass River that travels through the preserve, was generously donated to the Michigan Nature Association at the end of 2006 by the Fellowship for Today in East Lansing.

“We wanted the land to be a sea of green rather than development or buildings.”

– Grace Menzel, Fellowship for Today

Fellowship for Today is a New Thought spiritual community that worked in conjunction with The Allen and Edyne Gordon Foundation to contribute money toward preserving the land, and adding to MNA’s Bertha A. Daubendiek Sanctuary Preservation Fund to facilitate general maintenance of the property.

“We wanted to come together to leave a leg­acy for people after us…

that was the vision that drove us.”

– Minister Emeritus Beth Monteith Fellowship for Today

View of the Looking Glass River from the Sanctuary

Have You Seen This Photo Before?

Having been an organization for over 50 years, MNA has history. Sometimes you find that history in the places like you least expect it…

While working at the Alton D. McGaw Nature Sanctuary and the former MNA office / home of MNA Co-Founder Bertha Daubendiek we found this photo:

The photo was in an old MNA foler with many other pictures, but this one stood out. It has no sanctuary listed, no photographer and no date.

Today, camping is generally not allowed on our sanctuaries, but in the past there were a few properties that allowed viitors to camp overnight.

I think that it may be interesting to learn the history behind this photo, these people and their trip! So, if you know any part of their story please tell me about it by clicking “Share Your Story” at the top of the page. (As I recieve comments I will update this post)

Get To Know A Sanctuary- Goose Creek Grasslands

The 70-acre Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary is Located in Lenawee County near Cement City in the South-Eastern part of the state. The wet prairie, marsh and fen that make up the sanctuary are host to over 200 plant species(7 of which are list as rare) including native orchids, sedges, prairie flowers like Indian Paintbrush and many bog plants like buckbean.

The sanctuary is named after the clear, winding creek that runs through the valley, and for miles through the sanctuary. (The creek, trail and sanctuary boundary are shown on the map below)

Bird enthusiasts enjoy goose creek just as much as plant lovers because the sanctuary is home to 38 different species of birds. The combination of wet areas and open prairie draw a very diverse population, ranging from mallards to willow flycatchers to bobolinks; because the prairie land is so flat the birds’ songs can be heard across great distances.

Goose Creek is truly one of the last remnants of the vast prairie that once stretched through out Southern Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and MNA is proud to protect this beautiful reminder of what our landscape would have looked like in the 1800’s.

Fall Adventue October 10th-12th

The Michigan Nature Association is proud to extend you an invitation to our annual Fall Adventure, October 10th– 12th, 2008. 

This year we will be visiting six unique sanctuaries in both St. Clair and Huron counties.

Kernan Memorial and Thelma Sonnenberg Memorial sanctuaries protect Whiskey Harbor, a haven along the coast of Lake Huron, and its diverse migratory bird population on the tip of Michigan’s thumb.

Photo by Meghan Good

– The Saginaw Wetlands Nature Sanctuary is home to the rarest plant community in Michigan, the lake plain prairie. MNA recently acquired 60 additional acres adjacent to the existing sanctuary, joining our site to an even larger state protected wetland area. The sanctuary is home to many grassland birds, waterfowl and rare plant species.

– The Pine River runs through James and Alice Brennan Memorial Sanctuary, a wonderful floodplain forest with a diverse population of wildflowers. The sanctuary was donated to MNA by the Brennan family who owned and protected the land for over 100 years.


– The Alton D. McGaw Memorialfeatures an elaborate stairway that leads down into a spring-fed wetland which is home to several native plants including Jewelweed and Joe-pye weed. The sanctuary is also located adjacent to the former MNA office and home of MNA Co-Founder Bertha Daubendiek.


– The Elmer P. and Irene Jasper Woods Memorial has all the characteristics of a mesic northern forest including stands of hemlock trees and sparse white pines. The sanctuary is quite unique because the humus rich soil supports species that rarely thrive in southern parts of the state. 


Throughout the adventure we will be staying at the Holiday Inn Express in Bad Axe, MI. This hotel features an indoor pool and whirlpool, high speed Internet access and a full continental breakfast each morning.

The total cost for the weekend is only $225.00; this includes two nights of lodging, meals, charter bus transportation (the bus will pick up participants in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Novi and ImlayCity) and a wonderful weekend in the woods with new and old friends.

If you have any questions, need more information or would like to register please call the MNA office at 517-655-5655 or email Paul Steiner, psteiner@michigannature.org.

Space is limited and will go fast, so please register today!

Endangered Species Act May Be Weakened

Parts of the Endangered Species Act may soon be extinct.

The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants.

New regulations, which don’t require the approval of Congress, would reduce the mandatory, independent reviews government scientists have been performing for 35 years, according to a draft first obtained by The Associated Press.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said late Monday the changes were needed to ensure that the Endangered Species Act would not be used as a “back door” to regulate the gases blamed for global warming. In May, the polar bear became the first species declared as threatened because of climate change. Warming temperatures are expected to melt the sea ice the bear depends on for survival.

The draft rules would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.

“We need to focus our efforts where they will do the most good,” Kempthorne said in a news conference organized quickly after AP reported details of the proposal. “It is important to use our time and resources to protect the most vulnerable species. It is not possible to draw a link between greenhouse gas emissions and distant observations of impacts on species.”

If approved, the changes would represent the biggest overhaul of the Endangered Species Act since 1986. They would accomplish through regulations what Congress has been unable to achieve: ending some environmental reviews that developers and other federal agencies blame for delays and cost increases on many projects.

The changes would apply to any project a federal agency would fund, build or authorize that might harm endangered wildlife and their habitat. Government wildlife experts currently perform tens of thousands of such reviews each year.

“If adopted, these changes would seriously weaken the safety net of habitat protections that we have relied upon to protect and recover endangered fish, wildlife and plants for the past 35 years,” said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming initiative.

Under current law, federal agencies must consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to jeopardize any endangered species or to damage habitat, even if no harm seems likely. This initial review usually results in accommodations that better protect the 1,353 animals and plants in the United States listed as threatened or endangered, and determines whether a more formal analysis is warranted.

The Interior Department said such consultations are no longer necessary because federal agencies have developed expertise to review their own construction and development projects, according to the 30-page draft obtained by the AP.

“We believe federal action agencies will err on the side of caution in making these determinations,” the proposal said.

The director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, H. Dale Hall, said the changes would help focus expertise on “where we know we don’t have a negative effect on the species but where the agency is vulnerable if we don’t complete a consultation.”

Responding to questions about the process, Hall said, “We will not do anything that leaves the public out of this process.”

The new rules were expected to be formally proposed immediately, officials said. They would be subject to a 60-day public comment period before being finalized by the Interior Department, giving the administration enough time to impose them before November’s presidential election. A new administration could freeze any pending regulations or reverse them, a process that could take months. Congress could also overturn the rules through legislation, but that could take even longer.

Between 1998 and 2002, the Fish and Wildlife Service conducted 300,000 consultations. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which evaluates projects affecting marine species, conducts about 1,300 reviews each year.

The reviews have helped safeguard protected species such as bald eagles, Florida panthers and whooping cranes. A federal government handbook from 1998 described the consultations as “some of the most valuable and powerful tools to conserve listed species.”

In recent years, however, some federal agencies and private developers have complained that the process results in delays and increased construction costs.

“We have always had concerns with respect to the need for streamlining and making it a more efficient process,” said Joe Nelson, a lawyer for the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, a trade group for home builders and the paper and farming industry.

In 2003, the administration imposed similar rules that would have allowed agencies to approve new pesticides and projects to reduce wildfire risks without asking the opinion of government scientists about whether threatened or endangered species and habitats might be affected. The pesticide rule was later overturned in court. The Interior Department, along with the Forest Service, is currently being sued over the rule governing wildfire prevention.

“This is the fox guarding the hen house. The interests of agencies will outweigh species protection interests,” said Eric Glitzenstein, the attorney representing environmental groups in the lawsuit over the wildfire prevention regulations. “What they are talking about doing is eviscerating the Endangered Species Act.”

Story courtesey  of

The Environment Report

from the University of Michigan and michigan Public Radio

and CNN.com