MNA Braves the Cold, Still Working in Winter

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 mschultz@michigannature.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.

Trustee Ballots Are Out

Attention MNA members:

It’s time to decide who will guide MNA through the coming years. As we determine who will serve on the Board of Trustees, we recognize that without their leadership, MNA’s growth wouldn’t be possible.

Check your mailbox for a ballot and biographies of the Trustee candidates. Mark the box next to the candidate(s) you wish to vote for and return the stamped envelope to MNA by March 1 at 5 p.m. You may vote for up to three people.

Results of the election will be announced at the annual Member’s Meeting on April 9.

Thank you for your help in deciding who will lead MNA into the future. If you have any questions about the election, contact the MNA office by emailing michigannature@michigannature.org or calling 517-655-5655.

Skiers Enjoy Trail, Sanctuaries

By Angie Jackson

Nearly two dozen people braved the cold in the U.P. on Jan. 9 to participate in a cross-country ski outing hosted by MNA.

The event, held at the Eagle Harbor Conservation Area in Keweenaw County, encouraged participants to enjoy the outdoors and experience three of MNA’s sanctuaries.

Five MNA stewards led the group on a 6-mile loop to Great Sand Bay along Lake Superior.

“I found it particularly rewarding that so many people participated,” said steward Nancy Leonard, noting that a good portion of the crowd had never skied on the Eagle Harbor Township trail before and knew little about it.

And those already familiar with the trail had the opportunity to learn more about the surrounding sanctuaries, Leonard added.

“It was great to have the opportunity to familiarize them with the three MNA sanctuaries that happen to be strung together along the trail,” Leonard said, referring to Eagle Harbor Red Pine Dunes, Dean Webster Memorial and Cy Clark Memorial.

Eagle Harbor Red Pines Dunes consists of 25 acres of sand dunes and connects to Cy Clark Memorial, which stretches 37 acres and is covered in cedar, black spruces, red maple and other plants. The Dean Webster Memorial is 12 acres.

Some participants, such as Mary Eckhart of Chassell, said they enjoyed learning about MNA and intend to become members.

Stewards will lead a snowshoe hike at Keweenaw Shore and Upson Lake Nature Sanctuary on Sunday, Feb. 13, from 2-4 p.m. Email Nancy Leonard at nancy@einerlei.com if you are interested in participating.

Check out coverage of this event in the Mining Gazette.

Hogs Gone Wild: The Dirt on Feral Swine

By Jake McCarthy

Throughout much of the world, swine function as part of a healthy ecosystem. The recent emergence of feral swine in Michigan, however, has many people trying to figure out how to get rid of yet another uninvited visitor.

With the state moving to declare feral swine an invasive species, it appears efforts to eliminate the population will soon ramp up, but what exactly is it that has people seeing red over feral swine?

Firstly, they aren’t native to Michigan. Feral swine currently causing concern are either pigs that escaped from livestock operations or wild boars imported from overseas to provide recreational hunting opportunities.
The wild boar is native to much of Europe and Asia, where it serves an important role as both predator and prey. In Michigan, though, they face few predators and pose serious threats to both the environment and agriculture.

A primary concern about feral swine is that, as voracious foragers with few enemies in Michigan, they may overrun native species that depend on a similar diet. Feral swine are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders. They dig up large tracts of land searching for roots, nuts and berries, having a negative effect on agriculture, water and soil quality. They are very efficient reproducers with large litters, a short gestation period, young age of maturity and the potential to have two litters in one year. Feral swine also harbor parasites and diseases that pose a threat to people, pets, livestock and wildlife.

Feral swine ravaged the habitat at MNA’s Timberland Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County approximately two years ago by uprooting plants and trees. Due to their recent presence in southeast Michigan, these swine have the potential to affect the following sanctuaries: Red Cedar River Floodplain, Joan Rodman Memorial, Swan Creek, Saginaw Wetlands and Kernan Memorial.

The wild boar is native to much of Europe and Asia, where it serves an important role as both predator and prey. In Michigan, though, they face few predators and pose serious threats to both the environment and agriculture.

At the same time that Michigan is seeking ways to eliminate feral swine, the animals are valued and even protected throughout much of their native range. Once threatened in Europe and Asia due to hunting pressure, recent resurgences in wild boar populations have been welcomed in England, Germany and Russia. In eastern Russia, boars are important prey for the threatened Amur Tiger. In Europe, they’re food for gray wolves and help keep rodent and deer populations in check.

In Michigan, though, many consider the feral swine to be a nuisance species. Later this year, feral swine will likely be declared an invasive species, which would make them easier to control. Hunters have been encouraged to kill any feral swine they see while hunting in Michigan for several years. Hopefully, efforts such as these will help reduce the impact feral swine have on Michigan’s wildlife and landscape.

Sources: Department of Natural Resources and Environment, United States Department of Agriculture

JoAnn Hinds: A Woman, A Company, A Mission

By Tina Patterson

JoAnn Hinds found her passion for nature as a child when she, her three sisters and her dad spent fall weekends walking the unspoiled areas north of Roseville. These early memories are the foundation on which JoAnn built a life of appreciation for nature.

Despite her busy schedule as the President and CEO of Diamond Die and Mold Company in Clinton Township, JoAnn sets aside time for long walks in the woods, bike riding and sharing her love of the natural world through volunteer work with organizations like MNA.

JoAnn is not your standard volunteer, though. To protect and preserve the natural areas she loves, she has formed a unique partnership with MNA that goes above-and-beyond what a single volunteer is capable of. When there is a stewardship project that needs to be completed at the Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary near her tool and die plant, she gives her employees the day off with full pay and they donate their time to MNA.

This generous and creative use of resources creates goodwill all around: Diamond Die employees enjoy spending the day outdoors, MNA benefits from having trained craftsmen and JoAnn is gratified to know she is making a difference in the natural areas she loves.

For more information about JoAnn and her work, check out the January newsletter.

MNA Welcomes a Trio of Talent

MNA is pleased to welcome three talented and environmental-savvy interns to the communications department this winter. As the brains behind MNA communication and promotion, these interns won’t be fetching coffee or making copies. Drawing from their diverse backgrounds and experiences, they will be your leading ladies when it comes to the freshest environmental news, event coverage and the latest social media tools. They’re a friendly group, too, so feel free to contact them with ideas or just to say hello!


Angie Jackson

As a yoga instructor who enjoys rock climbing, camping, running and traveling, Angie is thrilled to join the MNA team as the News Editorial Intern and blog manager. A journalism undergraduate at Michigan State University with an interest in magazine writing, Angie’s responsibilities include bringing news to MNA members and the public, editing the newsletter and managing the blog. Angie strives to preserve life in everything she does, and believes that humans are equal parts of, not superior to, the environment. Her ultimate dream is to move to Colorado, take weekend rock climbing trips with her dog, teach yoga and write for a magazine or newspaper.


Danielle Sheley

Danielle, a public relations undergraduate at Central Michigan University, has a passion for working with nonprofit organizations, and is dedicated to making the world a better place for future generations. Thus, it’s only fitting that she is MNA’s Communications Intern. Danielle hopes to use social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, to help educate the public about MNA’s importance. She craves change and adventure, and her interests include traveling, being active and spending time with her family. Once she graduates in May, Danielle sees herself working in communications for a nonprofit that improves the environment or society in general.

Yang Zhang

Yang, a writing intern, graduated from Michigan State University in December with a master’s degree in environmental journalism. She is from Xi’an, China, and is passionate about nature. When she’s not digging up the latest news on our environment, she enjoys reading and jogging. By covering MNA events and writing news stories, Yang hopes to gain valuable experience in public relations and learn skills in event planning and project management.

If you have interesting or fun ideas for the blog, or are interested in contributing to our news efforts, please contact Angie by emailing ajackson@michigannature.org. If you are more interested in events, or are interested in helping out with the promotion of MNA and the environment, please contact Danielle by emailing dsheley@michigannature.org.

A Heart for Nature: Remembering Glenna Levengood

Glenna Levengood, a lively woman and longtime member and donor, made a lasting imprint on MNA. She and her husband, W.C. “Lefty,” first became involved with MNA in 1970. Together they sold property to MNA for below the market value to avoid rising property taxes.

Glenna and Lefty didn’t stop there, though. Inspired by the message in Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” they became advocates for preserving nature. They continued to purchase adjacent land, combining it with the original property donated to MNA.

The donated land became MNA’s 200-plus-acre Lefglen Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County, which was named by combining Lefty and Glenna. The sanctuary remains home to some of the most diverse animal and life in any MNA sanctuary.

Unfortunately, Glenna passed away peacefully at her home in Grass Lake, Mich., this past November. She will be greatly missed, but she is remembered as an avid horsewoman, 4-H leader, prodigy in the fine arts, dog lover and passionate friend. She is survived by her husband of nearly 67 years and beloved pets, Tizzy, Cutie Pi and Chi.

A donation in Glenna’s memory and for the ongoing preservation of sanctuaries such as Lefglen can be made to MNA. To contact the office, e-mail michigannature@michigannature.org or call 517-655-5655.