MNA’s Annual Members’ Meeting is Tomorrow!

We’re getting excited! The Annual Members’ Meeting is tomorrow, March 31, at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Join us from 1:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. to get updates from MNA and meet members and friends from across the state.

Featured speaker Dave Dempsey, author of Ruin & Recovery, Michigan’s Rise as a Conservation Leader, will talk about the role of land protection in Michigan’s rise as a conservation leader. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the meeting.

We’ll also be celebrating MNA’s 60th anniversary! Join us for anniversary cake and other refreshments.

This event is free for both members and nonmembers. For complete details, visit our website or call (866) 223-2231.

We hope to see you there!

The Plight of the Honeybee

By Emma Ogutu

Honeybees have been vanishing at a fast rate over the last five years, threatening Michigan’s multi-billion dollar agriculture industry. Many fruits, vegetables and animal crops depend on the bees for pollination.

A scientist investigates Colony Collapse Disorder. Photo: Washington State University

Since the initial report of their disappearance in the winter of 2006, scientists like Michigan State University’s Zachary Huang have been scrambling to unravel the mystery – dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. He offers his expertise to the Michigan Beekeepers Association.

His current research focuses on two possible culprits:  the parasitic nosema and varroa mites, whose effect on bees makes them susceptible to pesticides and reduces the lifespan and fertility of infant queen bees. In the last two decades, Varroa mites have wiped out wild honeybees and about a third of their managed kin in Michigan, according to MSU’s Agriculture Extension.

Other studies have linked the disappearance of honeybees to a parasitic fly or agricultural chemicals, but Huang is quick to point out that there’s no single factor responsible for the massive kill. “It’s a cumulative result on a number of factors,” he said.

Honeybee on Knapweed. Photo: Trish Steel, Wikimedia Commons

The clearing of natural habitats to pave way for more agricultural land or other developments coupled with the practice of planting single crops in large areas could also be major factors causing this phenomenon, according to the Huang. “When you clear natural habitats, you wipe out plants that provide food and other defenses to the bees, and when you plant a single crop in thousands of acres, you eliminate bees’ food diversity,” he said.

The loss of honey bees is quite insidious; sometimes up to 40 percent are lost in a winter season, according to MSU’s Agriculture Extension. “You never realize the immediate loss of a species because there are hundreds of thousands of species out there,” Huang said.  “That makes it even harder to predict the effect on crops.”

You can find honeybees and knapweed in several of MNA’s sanctuaries, including Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary, Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary and Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary. MNA’s policy is to remove invasive species, such as knapweed, so that they can be replaced with bee-friendly native species. Some plants such as late figwort, swamp milkweed and Culver’s root, can benefit from removal of knapweed while providing bees plenty of pollen and nectar.

MNA Asks for Reconsideration of Brockway Cell Tower

By Allie Jarrell

Lake Superior View from Brockway Mountain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In January 2012, MNA President Stephen Kelley sent a letter on behalf of MNA asking the Keweenaw County Zoning Board of Appeals to reconsider its decision to erect a 220-plus-foot cell phone tower on Brockway Mountain. Four MNA sanctuaries are on Brockway Mountain Drive, near the tower’s proposed location. MNA believes that the addition of the tower will unnecessarily injure and kill migratory birds, negatively impact scenic values and visitor experiences, and potentially result in a net negative economic impact.

Since 1973 MNA has been involved with conserving land in Keweenaw County, and now owns a total of 15 nature sanctuaries there including the four Brockway Mountain Drive properties. These sanctuaries not only conserve land, but promote tourism that would be negatively impacted by the 23-story tower. Scenic vistas will be interrupted by buildings and lights, and visitors will be confronted with the tower base, fencing and wires. In addition, migratory birds, such as eagles, falcons and hawks, are expected to suffer increased mortality rates, which is detrimental to a site that acts as a resting place for as many as 100 bald eagles on some days. Running electrical lines throughout the mountain will also cause further loss of rare plants and corridors for wildlife movement on the ground.

MNA urges the county to work to reduce the anticipated negative wildlife and scenic impacts, and to instead develop a solution that honors their claim to be “Michigan’s Scenic, Historic, and Recreation Wonderland.”

Brockway Mountain Drive Panorama. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lakeville Swamp Expanded by Siblings’ Donation

By Johanna Swanson

A gift from three siblings will expand a sanctuary and continue the generous legacy established by their family.

Stoney Creek in the Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary

Nearly two acres will be donated to the Michigan Nature Association’s Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County, coming from three siblings (Cynthia Bone, Kathleen Niemenski, and Raymond Witt) who inherited the property from their parents. In a unique twist, their great-uncle, Cecil Dunn, and his wife, Hazel, donated the original one acre in 1963 to create the sanctuary, and their grandparents, Gerald (Cecil’s brother) and Elizabeth Dunn, donated 22 acres to the sanctuary in April 1969, effectively doubling it from 21 acres to 43. In total, the Dunn family and their descendants will have contributed 25 acres to Lakeville Swamp.

Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary was the fifth property acquired by the MNA. It opened in September 1963 and with the two acre addition, encompasses 78 acres. The addition was approved by the MNA Board of Trustees, and the deal was finalized in March.