Trustee Profile: Paul Messing

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Paul Messing with Executive Director Garret Johnson after receiving the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Paul Messing with Executive Director Garret Johnson after receiving the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Paul Messing joined MNA’s Board of Trustees in 2013 and has been an active member and volunteer at MNA sanctuaries in southeast Michigan for years. Paul began his work at MNA by leading hikes and distributing information about the Michigan Nature Association to the community. Now, in addition to joining the board, he serves as the steward at Lost Lake Nature Sanctuary and is the co-steward at Frinks Pond Plant Preserve and Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary. He was named one of MNA’s Volunteers of the Year at the 2012 Volunteer and Donor Recognition Dinner.

We took a few minutes to chat with Paul recently about his experiences with MNA:

1. When did you first learn about the Michigan Nature Association and what made you get involved? I first found out about a Michigan Nature Association Sanctuary (Anna Wilcox and Harold Warnes Nature Sanctuary) near my home in 2010 when I was researching the possibility of identifying tall trees in the area as part of the American Forests Big Trees program. An internet search yielded a link to the MNA website, and I became very curious about the Wilcox-Warnes sanctuary from the description. I visited shortly thereafter, and I was impressed by the nature of the sanctuary. The tall trees described on the website were so impressive in person. Leaves on the sprouting wildflowers were emerging on the early spring day. In 2011, after becoming a member, I met at the Wilcox-Warnes sanctuary for a workday to build sections of boardwalk and learn more about the sanctuary from the people that supported the organization.  I was instantly hooked by the enthusiasm of the volunteers and staff and what supporting the mission had to offer.

I quickly made it my goal to find out more about the other sanctuaries, and I worked throughout the year to visit sanctuaries and participate in various events that MNA offered.  These included the Spring Adventure offered that year and a hike at McGaw and Polovich sanctuaries. I also joined in on a workday at Saginaw Wetlands. After that, Bullard Lake Fen and Lefglen sanctuaries captured my attention to round out the year. In all, I had visited 18 sanctuaries that year, and was impressed by what I saw at every turn. 2012 was another great year as I continued adding to my stewardship roles, volunteer experience at many sanctuaries, and then finally being recruited to volunteer as a Trustee.

2. Is there anything you have accomplished or hope to accomplish since becoming a Trustee for the Michigan Nature Association?  My goal as a Trustee is to help the organization in its mission, especially as it relates to technology. I feel I bring a wealth of experience with my use of computers, and I hope to find ways to improve aspects of the organization in that respect.  I have enjoyed being part of a great team of knowledgeable Trustees. The responsibility to keep MNA a sustainable organization, just as we look to keep all of the habitats we steward sustainable, is all of our responsibility.  It is my goal to continue to support the organization in ensuring our mission continues.

3. What is special to you about the natural environment of Michigan?  Michigan seems to me to be a such a transitional, moderate climate; it’s certainly not tropical, nor arctic, but covered with some hilly terrain, wetlands, and even well drained areas. It harnesses such a variety of wildlife, be it our year-round birds or those migrating through.  It is also interesting how we are at one of the transitions between the conifer forests of the north and the deciduous forests more common to the south. All this helps me appreciate the place each species has in the environment. There are so many species of plants and animals to be discovered, some of which keep only a small piece of their range in Michigan.

4. What activities are you currently involved in for the Michigan Nature Association?  Besides Steward and Trustee roles, I have volunteered to mark boundaries at various sanctuaries. As I continue to try to transition from a novice birder toward an expert, I use Cornell’s eBird to report what I see or hear while hiking and volunteering at sanctuaries. I also enjoy trying to capture the wildlife through photography. It is such a great way share with others and for posterity the great variety of life out there.

5. What are some of the most memorable moments you have with the MNA?  Seeing many firsts at the sanctuaries, have been quite memorable. These include observing three rare ferns on a trip through the Eastern UP, and seeing Michigan’s only rattlesnake, the Massasauga, at two MNA sanctuaries last year. I also really enjoyed creating the design for a bridge that I helped to build at Kernan Memorial Sanctuary.  That was a real team effort and I was so proud to see the project completed.


Katherine Hollins, Bill McEachern, and Paul Messing stand on the completed bridge at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary.

Katherine Hollins, Bill McEachern, and Paul Messing stand on the completed bridge at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary.

Severe drought in California, new study on Asian Carp prevention and the Keystone pipeline: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares news stories related to conservation from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

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The new farm bill will expand crop insurance and other benefits for the agriculture business. Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst (The New York Times): 17 rural communities in California that provide water to 40,000 people could possibly run out of water soon. Officials are saying this drought is on track to be the worst in 500 years and it has already produced dry fields, starving livestock and dense areas of smog. Farmers are being forced to give up on planting and have had to sell animals because there is not enough water. Recreational activities like fishing and camping have been banned and water use is extremely limited among residents living there.

Study: Physical, electric barriers best defenses against Asian Carp (Detroit Free Press): A recent study has found that the most effective defense against Asian Carp reaching the Great Lakes is placing dam-like structures or less expensive electric barrier systems in Chicago waterways. Other methods that were considered are strobe lights, noise makers and depleting oxygen levels in the water, but these were deemed less effective. The study found that physical separation could prevent 95 to 100 percent of Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

Herbicides may not be sole cause of declining plant diversity (Science Daily): The declining plant biodiversity has often been blamed by herbicides, but other factors may be a cause. A study found that rare and common plant species had similar tolerances to three commonly used herbicides, which means they do not have a strong effect in shaping plant communities. During the time that herbicide use was on the rise, crop segregation and increased mechanical use were growing and diminishing habitat loss.

Report: Keystone pipeline would have minimal environmental impact (NBC News): A pipeline that would be used to carry crude oil from Canada to refineries in the United States was found to have minimal impact on the environment if it were to be constructed. There has been increased pressure on the president to approve the project, who will only do so if the project does not have a negative effect on the climate. Republicans, on the other hand, have been demanding for the approval of the project for a while because it will provide jobs, but climate and environmental concern are the main priority in the decision making process.

Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers (The New York Times): The Senate passed a farm bill on Tuesday that expanded crop insurance and other benefits for agriculture business. It is estimated to cut $17 billion from the budget of government spending over a decade. Anti hunger advocates and other critics, though, oppose the bill and say it would harm thousands of American households by causing them to lose money due to cuts in food stamps and they think that the industry does not need more support.

Additional land added to Evans Memorial Plant Preserve

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Charlotte C. Evans Nature Sanctuary. Photo from MNA Archives

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Two acres were added to the Charlotte C. Evans Memorial Plant Preserve in December 2013. MNA acquired the addition to the Wayne County sanctuary from The Nature Conservancy.

The addition of this land will protect the species that live there from the negative effects of human activities that have contributed to the overall reduction of prairie habitat in Michigan.

The sanctuary contains high quality unplowed lakeplain prairie and includes a mosaic of lakeplain wet and wet-mesic prairie. The site, which is a mix of prairie, swamp and oak ridges, is home to many species of threatened plants.

A hydrological regime has limited the number of non-native species on the new addition and has become a critical aspect to the maintenance of the communities found at the prairie. MNA’s stewardship team will evaluate the addition and determine the best course of action to continue protecting the critical habitat it contains.