MNA Reaches 10,000 Acres

MNA is thrilled to formally announce the protection of our 10,000th acre, a milestone MNA founders could only dream of.

Currently, MNA protects land in 58 of Michigan’s 83 counties. As the first land trust, and the only state-focused one in Michigan, MNA is proud to have a strong presence in the protection of special natural areas. From our first property in 1960, MNA has grown to protect land, habitat and species at 170 nature sanctuaries throughout both peninsulas, now and forever.

Boosting MNA’s land ownership into the 10,000 acre range is the recent acquisition of an easement on a 600-acre property in Oscoda County, resulting from a partnership among the J.A. Woollam Foundation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and MNA.

Although the number of sanctuaries has multiplied over the years, former President and Trustee Dick Holzman says MNA still has the same strong focus that it had during his time on the Board in the 1970s.

“Our goal has always been to acquire and protect exceptional habitats,” Dick says, “but at that time, we were talking about 20- to 40-acre parcels of land. We never thought 10,000 acres would happen. It’s amazing!”

Nearly sixty years after MNA began as a small birding group, the organization still values its roots while looking to the future. Executive Director Jeremy Emmi says the organization is looking toward acquiring more, and someday doubling the amount of, protected special natural areas.

“We’ve built the capacity of MNA to where we could protect more land each year, and we’re still headed in that direction,” he says. “It takes a lot of resources, a lot of time, and a lot of hard work, but through our incredible volunteers and donors, we’ve spent the time, done the work, and raised millions of dollars to protect land in Michigan.”

When it comes to why MNA continues to protect land throughout the state, the reasons are endless.

“We do it for nature itself, and we do it for humanitarian reasons so that future generations can enjoy it,” Jeremy says. “We do it because it helps protect species and habitat diversity and promotes all of the other functions that natural habitat provides.”

“Most of all, we do it for Michigan.”

For more information about MNA and our 10,000 acres, see the special section in the April newsletter and our website.

Adopt a Beach, Save the Great Lakes

By Angie Jackson

Together, the Great Lakes make up the largest freshwater body in the world. As many as 26 million people depend on water drawn directly from the lakes, which provide approximately one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply.

The Great Lakes are also home to some of the most beautiful and accessible shorelines in the country. From St. Joseph, Benton Harbor and Ludington in the west to St. Clair Shores, Bay City and Oscoda in the east, and all the way up to Marquette and the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan’s shorelines offer some of the best, close-to-home beach vacation destinations. While many of us have enjoyed the Great Lakes’ natural splendor, it is also our responsibility to help keep the beaches healthy and beautiful for generations to come.

Adopt-a-Beach, a program started by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, makes it easy for people to make a difference. The year-round program allows families, businesses and whole communities to adopt a beach along one of the Great Lakes shores. Adopters visit the beach multiple times each year to collect data on beach health, longshore current, litter conditions and water bacteria levels. Last year, the program facilitated cleanup events at 292 locations throughout the Great Lakes’ shorelines, and volunteers removed 31,295 pounds of trash.

First-time adopters are invited to training sessions on the Internet or in-person and can also view informational videos on YouTube. The information is recorded into a regional database and used to improve beach conditions.

Can’t commit to adopting a beach but still want to contribute to the cause? Volunteer at an upcoming Adopt-a-Beach clean up event open to the public in Muskegon and Ottawa Counties. Click here for more information.

Adopting a beach is just one way you can help protect Michigan’s special natural areas for future generations. MNA offers Protection Certificates, which allow you to endow a portion of Michigan’s natural land. For only $10 per 100 square feet, you can protect a portion of land forever. Certificates make great gifts for friends and family. To purchase a certificate online, visit the MNA store.

For more information on how you can get involved in these and other efforts to protect the environment, see the How You Can Help section on our website.

MNA Welcomes New Trustee

In March, MNA held the election for the Board of Trustees. Trustees Mary Ann Czechowski and Debby Igleheart were re-elected. MNA also welcomed a new Trustee, Aubrey Golden.

Aubrey, from Southeast Michigan, came to MNA as the current president of the Michigan Karst Conservancy. With an interest in nature that traces back to his early years as a boy scout, Aubrey values Michigan’s special natural features. He has an appreciation for stewardship activities and enjoys maintaining MNA’s sanctuaries at work days.

Recently, we sat down with Aubrey to ask him about his work with MNA.

How and when did you learn about the Michigan Nature Association?

I became interested in MNA because of the partnership MNA and the Michigan Karst Conservancy formed to protect the Mystery Valley Karst Conservancy and Nature Sanctuary. As president of the conservancy, I knew about MNA’s program. I learned more about the organization from MNA Executive Director Jeremy Emmi.
My initial interest was in the Michigan Karst Conservancy forming a partnership with MNA. We knew MNA was an organization also interested in the diverse aspects of nature in Michigan; as president of the conservancy, I knew about MNA’s program. I learned more about the organization from MNA Executive Director Jeremy Emmi. Once I became involved with MNA, I became very interested in the stewardship days.

What activities are you currently participating in with MNA?
I’ve been involved in a number of events with Regional Stewardship Organizer Katherine Hollins and have attended almost every event of hers this fall and winter. I’ve enjoyed being out in the field removing invasive species and helping to maintain sanctuaries. Stewardship activities have been my primary involvement since my greatest interest lies in MNA’s stewardship program. It’s one thing to have sanctuaries, but it’s another thing to do stewardship at those properties.

Do you have a favorite sanctuary or plant preserve?
Mystery Valley is my favorite, obviously because we developed a management plan to protect one of the most unique features of the state. I’ve visited several other sanctuaries in the state, but Mystery Valley – with its disappearing river, unique flora and cracks – is one of the most unique properties protected by MNA.

What is your background and are you from Michigan?
I have lived in southeastern Michigan (Detroit and Oakland County) since 1948. I am married to Martina and have 2 sons – Lucas and Thomas. I taught in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District for 34 years and also served for several years as the President of the Walled Lake Education Association during my tenure in the district; I have been retired since 1999. I currently represent the Waterford Township Board on the Drayton Plains Nature Center Advisory Board. I attended Union College in Kentucky, where I studied English and political science and had a minor in biology and received both my bachelors and Master’s degrees.

When did you first become interested in nature and the natural environment?
My interest in nature traces back to the time I spent as a Boy Scout in the 1950s in Detroit. I enjoyed working on outdoor projects, hiking and wondering why nature was the way it was.

What, to you, is special about the state of Michigan?
The fact that there are so many unique, and sometimes little known, karst features throughout the state is very special to me. I’m especially interested in how varied Michigan’s landscape is. You can go from mountains in the Upper Peninsula to sand dunes along the lakes. These aspects prove how diverse Michigan is, and how special.

What, to you, is special about MNA?
MNA has accumulated so much land. Saving 10,000 acres of land, and more importantly varied land, is incredible. MNA has its stamp on the Upper Peninsula and western, northern and southern Michigan. It’s important that MNA is not an organization that just focuses on one thing; it focuses on the totality of the state’s landscape.

Remembering Edna Newnan, a Valuable MNA Leader

Edna Newnan was more than a volunteer at MNA. She was an essential force.

During her work with the organization, which began in the 1960s, Edna served as President, board member and co-editor of “In Retrospect,” a book that covers the early history of MNA. Published in 1988, the book is a constant reminder of Edna’s love for nature and her efforts that always went above-and-beyond. Her work helped MNA better protect Michigan’s special natural areas, and resonates the importance of protection and stewardship throughout Michigan.

MNA Executive Director Jeremy Emmi remembers Edna as incredibly good-natured, intelligent and inquisitive.

“She was always reading and learning more,” Jeremy says. “She had such a complete and total love for the outdoors.”

And even when her term as a board member and President came to an end, Edna remained active in MNA’s Mission, working particularly hard on a statewide land protection campaign that ran from 2004 through 2007.

Edna earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oakland University in 1967 and a Master’s of Arts from the University of Michigan in 1974. She also undertook ministerial studies and Marygrove College. As a naturalist, Edna studied under Walter Nichols of the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Her compassion for conservation led her to become involved in environmental causes and apply that knowledge to her work at MNA. Edna also enjoyed traveling, dog breeding, bird watching and yoga.

Edna will be remembered by many for her loyalty, selfless leadership and concern for others. MNA will always remember her for her dedication and generous service to the natural world.


At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered and threatened plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

American Burying Beetle
By Yang Zhang

American burying beetles, also known as carrion beetles, are known for burying the carcasses of small animals, such as moles, birds, and snakes. They rely on carrion as a food source and for reproduction purposes. Thus, they are regarded by nature enthusiasts as master scavengers and one of nature’s most efficient and fascinating recyclers that return valuable nutrients back to the soil.

Physical Appearance:
Identifying an American burying beetle is easy; it is about one-and-a-half inches long with a shiny black body and bright orange markings. A large shield-like area, called the pronotum, connects its head and wings. A large orange marking on the pronotum is the beetle’s most distinctive feature shared with other beetles. It also has an orange marking on its head (triangular on females and rectangular on males) and scallop-shaped orange markings on its wing covers. A club-like antennae with notable orange tips can detect a dead animal from up to two miles away.

Preferred Habitat:

Understanding what habitat the American burying beetle prefers is quite tricky. As reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the beetle has been found in various types of habitats including oak-pine woodlands, open fields, oak-hickory forests, open grasslands and edge habitats. The beetle’s habitat preference, especially reproductive habitat, is still not fully understood. However, research indicates that because the beetles require rotting bodies of small animals to feed on and reproduce, carrion availability may be the greatest factor in determining where the species survives.

Life Cycle:
American burying beetles are usually active at night, live for only one year and typically reproduce once. They bury themselves in the soil to overwinter when the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature gets warmer, male beetles look for carcasses in which to mate and reproduce.

After finding a carcass, the male releases pheromone from the tip of its abdomen to attract mates. Beetles often fight among themselves over the carcass (males fighting males and females fighting females) until one pair wins. The pair buries the carcass, mates and the female lays eggs on the carcass. The larvae feed on the carcass for about a week, and sometimes both parents digest the flesh and regurgitate liquid food for the larvae to consume. The larvae crawl into the soil to develop, and then emerge 45-to-60 days later.

List Status:
Historically, American burying beetles existed in the eastern half of North America from southern Ontario, Canada and the northern peninsula of Michigan to the southern Atlantic coastal plain. The number and range of the species has declined so drastically that the beetle is only known to be present in four states: Nebraska, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

The reason the American burying beetle has disappeared from many areas remains a mystery. However, declines could be attributed to habitat fragmentation and loss, carcass limitation, pesticide use and disease. Increased lighting at night due to human development is also plausible because it could disrupt the beetle’s night activities, thus possibly interfering with reproduction.

Although presumed extirpated in Michigan until rediscovered, the beetle has been known to inhabit areas near Kalamazoo, Detroit and Marquette. MNA has ideal habitat for this species at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary, Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary and Echo Lake Nature Sanctuary, among others.

Protection Efforts:
The American burying beetle plays an important role in the environment. It recycles carcasses and returns valuable nutrients to the soil, and it is also an indicator species of a healthy environment.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an established recovery plan prioritizes tasks necessary in saving the beetle. These priorities include protecting and monitoring existing population, maintaining captive populations and conducting ecological studies.

How You Can Help:
Open your eyes while walking in nature. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is trying to identify possible populations of the beetles in the state. If you think you spot an American burying beetle, take a photo and note the date and location of the sighting including the county, township, section and the nearest road intersection, and draw a map indicating the directions. Please send the information to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division, Natural Heritage Program, PO Box 30180, Lansing MI 48909-7680.

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered and threatened species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.

Hoo Goes There?

By Anna Graham

Not many of us think of Michigan as a winter destination. However, there are a number of species that flock to Michigan when the weather gets cold. Most notable of the migrants may be the various owls that spend winters in Michigan.

Both short-and long-eared owls seek refuge here from their summer range in Canada, generally migrating to the far southern part of the state. Long-eared owls bear a resemblance to the great horned owl and hunt primarily at night, while short-eared owls frequent open fields or marshes and can be seen hunting by day.

Snowy owls live in the extreme north during the summer months but migrate to areas throughout Michigan at the southern extreme of their range. These are the great white owls often featured in photos of the Arctic. They are liable to roam in open areas searching for rodents or other birds and can often be seen during the daytime. It is not uncommon to spot snowy owls by roadsides in the Upper Peninsula, near cow pastures or fields where livestock are kept and vermin feed on their grain.

Great grey owls may occasionally make it as far south as the U.P. during the winter, although they only migrate from their northern range when food is scarce. At more than two feet long with a wingspan up to 52 inches, they are the largest of the North American owl species and prefer to inhabit the edges of woods.

Boreal owls, a smaller, forest denizen, sometimes spend winter in the Upper Peninsula. The northern saw-whet will make it as far south as northern Indiana and Ohio. Both species prefer mixed conifer and deciduous woods and primarily eat rodents. A last occasional owl visitor to Michigan in the winter is the northern hawk owl, a medium-sized owl with a call similar to a snipe’s winnow call, or for that matter, the call of the boreal owl. Click here to hear the northern hawk’s call.

During especially harsh winters or when populations of small animals for food are scarce, any of these northern owl species may flock south in large numbers. Such migrations are called irruptions. Some owls will even remain at the southern extreme of their range to breed during the following season, and this is your best chance to spot them. Keep your eye on bird watching websites, like the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory website, for information on what species can be found when and where in the Upper Peninsula.

Visit one of MNA’s sanctuaries during the fall or winter if you want to add an owl to your must-see life list, and keep in mind that you will generally hear an owl before you see it. You will likely find the great horned owl and possibly the long-eared owl at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, James Dorian Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Garden Brook, Upson Lake Nature Sanctuary and Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Happy owl watching!

MNA To Host Youth Nature Education Day

Join MNA on Saturday, March 26, for an educational youth event in Shelby Township.

The event will take place at the Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary on Schoenherr Road, south of 26 Mile Road, and will give youth a hands-on experience in making nature more accessible.

From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., kids will have the opportunity to work with MNA volunteers to replace boardwalk in trail systems at the sanctuary. Aside from building boardwalks, participants will take part in environmental education activities with topics including forest conservation, river ecology and insect identification. Lunch will be provided.

The event is made possible by a $10,000 grant from Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), to improve trails and install a parking area at the sanctuary, which will allow residents to visit the area and learn about nature without having to leave the Detroit Metropolitan Area.

The Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary is home to 45 acres of undisturbed woodland adjacent to a heavily-traveled roadway in Macomb County. It has been protected by MNA since 1975.

Some parking is available. Please contact the MNA office at 517-655-5655 for more information.