By Angie Jackson
At MNA, we believe conservation is a yearlong commitment. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that our role conserving Michigan’s natural habitats is on freeze. Staff and volunteers find many ways to keep busy at sanctuaries when the temperature drops- they just make sure to dress warm and bring along hot cocoa!
What do we do in the dead of winter?
1. Brush pile burns
If you don’t need it, burn it. We burn brush piles to make it easier to conduct prescribed burns at our sanctuaries. In low-nutrient ecosystems such as prairie fens, brush piles are a source of Nitrogen and can be disruptive to the ecosystem. It’s best to remove woody growth in the winter because there’s less potential for wildfire, and some blazes can be massive. There are tentative burns scheduled at Goose Creek Grasslands, Lefglen Nature Sanctuary and Campbell Memorial Plant Preserve, and volunteers are always needed. If starting a fire in the name of Mother Nature sounds interesting, contact regional stewardship organizer Matt Schultz for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Control woody invasive plants
Invasive species suck. But thanks to our trusty team of stewards and volunteers around the state, pesky invasives don’t stand a chance at MNA’s sanctuaries. Ruthlessly extracting uninvited visitors protects from competition and habitat destruction, a major threat to the quality of many sanctuaries. The primary culprits are glossy buckthorn, honeysuckle and dogwood. To find out about volunteer days near you and help rid our natural areas of these troublesome species, view our event calendar.
3. Measure browse pressure
While we love herbivores, their hefty appetites can impact the diversity of our sanctuaries. To prevent animals such as deer and rabbits from turning our flora into a 10-course meal, we actively measure browsing on trees and shrubs. Monitoring browse pressure is a suitable task for winter because there’s typically more available field time due to chilly weather. If you’re interested in finding out more, keep a look out for the browse pressure article in the April newsletter.
4. Monitor boundaries
As the temperature falls so do the leaves, which makes landscape visible and convenient for boundary marking. One of the main responsibilities of MNA volunteer stewards is to annually check that sanctuary boundary markers are in place. Bare trees allow for a clear view of woody areas, but with one drawback: it’s easy for posts to become hidden in the snow. If being a steward sounds rewarding, join the dedicated MNA team! Click here for more information.
For a list of recreational activities such as winter hikes, snowshoeing and ski outings, check out our calendar.