Celebrate Michigan Trails Week with MNA

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Michigan Trails Week gives people the opportunity to explore Michigan’s natural beauty on motorized, non-motorized and water trails throughout the state. Michigan Trails Week is September 21-28 and celebrates different events and volunteer opportunities in communities all over Michigan.

Governor Rick Snyder made this week an official event in 2012. Over fifty organizations participated, hosting volunteer opportunities, events and activities on Michigan’s trails. The Michigan Nature Association will host multiple activities during the week, including an opportunity to volunteer and hikes through scenic sanctuaries.

boardwalk

The Red Cedar River Plant Preserve boardwalk. Photo from MNA archives.

On September 26, MNA is holding a volunteer day that includes conducting renovations on the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve near Williamston. Improvements to the boardwalk will provide visitors with year-round accessibility to the floodplain. Volunteers can enjoy the scenery of this floodplain while they work, as the area is home to species such as marsh marigold, blue beech and blue flag iris. The renovations go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

MNA is also hosting two field trips to sanctuaries in the Upper Peninsula during Michigan Trails Week.

On September 28, guests can enjoy the beauty of Lake Perrault while also learning about mosses, epiphytes and liverworts in the fragile Robert T. Brown Nature Sanctuary in Houghton County, near Painesdale. The trip begins at 11 a.m. and is led by Janice Glime, researcher and retired professor. To RSVP for this trip, send an email to nancy@einerlei.com.

The Olson Falls. Photo by Mike Zajczenko

The Olson Falls. Photo by Mike Zajczenko.

MNA and the Falling Rock Café will also host a hike through Twin Waterfalls Memorial Nature Sanctuary on September 28* near Munising. Hikers will get the chance to see astounding views of the sanctuary’s natural waterfalls and sandstone cliffs. The hike begins at 10 a.m.

*[Ed. note: the Twin Waterfalls hike has been cancelled due to road construction. Keep an eye on the MNA event calendar for updates.]

For more information on the volunteer opportunity at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve and the trips to Robert T. Brown Nature Sanctuary and Twin Waterfalls Memorial Nature Sanctuary during Michigan Trails Week, visit the MNA website’s event calendar.

Bald eagles, decreasing lake levels and an illegal fire: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

A bald eagle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A bald eagle. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Bald eagles: A conservation success story (Mother Nature Network): Bald eagles in the United States are making a recovery. A pesticide called Kepone nearly wiped out the species in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the bald eagle has slowly been making a recovery, and was taken off the endangered list in 2007. Invasive species and other pesticides still threaten the bald eagle, but restoration efforts are ongoing. Bald eagles reside all across the United States, but are thriving the most along the James River in Virginia.

Great Lakes panel still waiting for legislative action on lake levels (Journal Sentinel): The Great Lakes Commission is still waiting on a request passed in 2007 to have the U.S. and Canadian governments figure out how to slow down the water flow in St. Clair River, which is heavily dredged. This would raise water levels on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The water levels of these lakes today is almost two feet lower than they would be if not for human interaction in St. Clair River. Some officials suggest an adjustable system that would allow the water flow to open or slow down on the river.

USFS: Hunter caused huge wildfire near Yosemite (Detroit Free Press): An illegal fire set by a hunter in Yosemite National Park is what caused the massive wildfire that covered 371 square miles and cost $81 million to contain. The hunter has not yet been arrested, as investigations are still going on. The U.S. Forest Service had banned fires in Yosemite National Park outside of controlled camping areas because of the high risk of wildfire. Officials say the wildfire is now 80 percent contained, having destroyed 111 structures since it started.

Climate change may speed up forests’ life cycles (Science Daily): A study conducted by a Duke University team suggests that in response to global warming, the life cycles of tree species are speeding up. One professor at Duke University, James S. Clark, said because of climate change, there are longer growing seasons for the trees and hotter temperatures. Studies conducted on 65 tree species in the 31 eastern states of the U.S. suggest that there is a higher rate of turnover in warmer climates. There are more young trees. Scientists believe eventually trees will migrate to cooler climates by seed dispersal.

Pollution in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee swells to near-disaster levels (Mother Nature Network): Lake Okeechobee in south Florida is one of the largest lakes in the United States, and is also one of the shallowest. At nine feet deep on average, the lake is potentially an environmental disaster because of its rising water level. Heavy downpour has caused the lake to rise to 15.5 feet, which some fear is too high. Already, the inflated lake has sent polluted runoff into nearby water systems. The polluted runoff is assisting the growth of toxic algae, which can kill many freshwater organisms. The pollution in the lake is also hurting tourism to the area and real estate prices.

From The Archives: Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary

Prior to the publication of Michigan Nature magazine, MNA sent out quarterly newsletters to members and supporters. We will be taking a look at some of the newsletter’s feature stories in our new From the Archives series. 

Every Sanctuary Has a Story: Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary

by Katherine Hollins, Regional Stewardship Organizer

Published in the July 2011 edition of the MNA newsletter

Harol Warnes

Harold Warnes

The Anna Wilcox and Harold Warnes Memorial Nature Sanctuary is a wooded oasis amidst the suburban jungle and open agriculture in Macomb County. In addition to providing important habitat for various flora and fauna, the sanctuary serves as a wonderful spot for people to take their families out for recreation or for nature enthusiasts to study species amidst the hustle and bustle of Shelby Township.

The sanctuary was originally part of an 1833 land grant from President Andrew Jackson. It never left the possession of the Wilcox and Warnes families before being donated to the MNA in 1975 by Harold Warnes. Historically, the southern two-thirds of this 44.8 acre sanctuary were never grazed and only faced selective logging. The northern portion was last farmed in 1957, and now serves as a perfect example of a successional forest. As you walk the trails, you will notice the young forest, thick with undergrowth, gives way to a more open, mature forest to the south.

“It’s an exceptionally special place,” says Kurt Jung, an MNA Trustee and nature enthusiast. After he attended a recent Wilcox-Warnes volunteer day, Kurt encourages everyone to walk through the old woods of Wilcox-Warnes “with its commanding oak and tulip trees and quiet stream.”

Margaret Moran, long-time steward of the sanctuary, fondly remembers spending time there over the past decades. “The trees are gorgeous there, and I am thrilled with the birds. I once watched a turkey vulture stalk around picking up sticks and saw a great horned owl on a nest. I especially enjoy listening for the ethereal song of the wood thrush,” she says. “I hope those things will last in the sanctuary as they last in my memory.”

Fall colors at Wilcox-Warnes. Photo by Jeff Ganley.

Fall colors at Wilcox-Warnes. Photo by Jeff Ganley.

Without Harold Warnes’ generous land donation, MNA may never have acquired a sanctuary in Macomb County.

And although the stately tulip poplars may first draw your attention, keep an eye out for American beech, red maple, white ash, various oaks, basswood, yellow birch, black cherry, shagbark hickory, sassafras, pin cherry, prickly ash, spicebush, serviceberry and flowering dogwood trees and saplings. Spring wildflowers including trillium, dwarf ginseng, foamflower, hepatica, may-apple, and showy orchis can also be found here, along with fringed and bottle gentians later in the year.

You can spend time here searching for frogs and salamanders that make their homes in the vernal pools throughout the sanctuary, or study creek ecology and rest near our excellent bridge. As our Trustees, stewards, staff and members urge, please come out to learn about this lovely forest sanctuary and the communities it supports.

For a schedule of upcoming events, visit the MNA website.

Feeling lonely in a crowd: MNA’s second most visited sanctuary needs some love

By Katherine Hollins, Regional Stewardship Organizer

The Mighty Ash

The Mighty Ash

The Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary is MNA’s second most visited sanctuary. Situated within the Fenton city limits, it’s surrounded by people and development. Almost 5 miles of trails crisscross the 155 acre property. Several Eagle Scout projects have been completed here, helping provide easier access over wet areas.

Lots of folks from near and far like to visit the sanctuary to enjoy the peaceful pine plantations, bird watch, walk their dogs (yes! this is one of a very few MNA sanctuaries that allow leashed dogs), study the wildflowers, or take in the sad beauty of our mighty open-grown ash tree that succumbed to the emerald ash borer and is slowly returning back to the earth. Dauner Martin is an oasis in an asphalt desert, and people love it!

Birdwatchers look toward the canopy

Birdwatchers look toward the canopy

Unfortunately Dauner Martin receives a bit of abuse as well. Trash walks in and doesn’t walk back out, unleashed dogs threaten ground-nesting birds and frighten unsuspecting hikers, nighttime revelers decide it’s a good place to start a fire (at least one of which escaped, burning a portion of the sanctuary), and the benches, meant to create a space for rest and contemplation, spontaneously disappear. About this time last year, someone decided to test out their hatchet skills and felled on one of our young trees for no reason.

In an effort to engage the community around Dauner Martin and to build a stronger, more positive presence at the sanctuary, MNA is forming a Friends of Dauner Martin group, and is seeking volunteer Ambassadors to serve as links to the community and to help on special projects.

If you enjoy walking the trails, assisting with management, or talking with others about the sanctuary, you can attend a kick-off meeting on Wednesday October 2nd from 6-8pm at the Fenton Community Center. There, you can learn more about the sanctuary, get some training, and sign up for particular Ambassador positions. Please pass the word on to anyone that you think might be interested.

Ambassadors are needed to walk the trails and report issues they see, communicate the rules of the sanctuary to visitors, help with management tasks such as invasive species removal, recruit additional volunteers, and answer questions from visitors. All levels of commitment are welcome.

If you can’t make the meeting but would like to learn more, contact Katherine Hollins by email at khollins@michigannature.org or by phone at 517-525-2627.

A hearty group of volunteers pause for a photo during a work day

A hearty group of volunteers pause for a photo during a work day