About Michigan Nature Association

The Michigan Nature Association is a non-profit organization that has been dedicated to preserving Michigan’s natural heritage since 1952. MNA protects more than 10,000 acres of land in over 170 nature sanctuaries throughout the state of Michigan, from the tip of Keweenaw in the Upper Peninsula to the Indiana/Ohio border.

Sanctuary Spotlight: Franklin F. and Brenda L. Holly

For decades, Frank and Brenda Holly visited the 80-acre family retreat in Mason County, just outside of Ludington. There is a small cottage near the southwest corner of the property that Frank and his family have been slowly building over the past several decades; the rest consists of hemlock and pine forest, featuring wetland and prairie fen. Mr. Holly’s grandfather, Henry Millwood, was a local farmer and artist who spent much of his spare time caring for this property. Mr. Holly explained, “Every year in early December, Henry would walk the mile-and-a-half from his farm, with saw in hand, to this place and look for a tall pine tree with a nicely formed top. Then, he would climb way up high on this tree and cut its top off and carry it home so that it could serve as the family’s Christmas tree for that year.”

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A small stream runs through the Franklin F. and Brenda L. Holly Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Lauren Ross.

The onsite wetlands are part of a much larger wetland complex which extends to the west and the southwest, and which drain into the North Bayou on Hamlin Lake. Exploring the vast forest of this property, one will find patches of sandy earth, ferns and cattails among the red maples, eastern hemlocks, and red and white pines. A small creek runs through the property, one of many in a network of arteries that wind up in nearby Hamlin Lake.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the donation of this unique property in northern Michigan. It also marks the time in which Henry Millwood would have visited the property in search of the perfect tree. In the past year, MNA has been working to develop a walking trail on the property that will serve as an educational opportunity for the local community in conjunction with a partnership with the local schools and community organizations.

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In the summer, the open spaces of the sanctuary become dense with a variety of ferns. Photo by Robb Johnston.

You can learn more about this unique sanctuary, and about the Holly Family legacy in the Fall 2019 issue of Michigan Nature magazine – coming very soon!

2019 Photo Contest Winners Announced!

We are excited to finally announce the winners in this year’s 9th Annual Photo Contest. This year’s photo contest saw more than 200 entries from over three dozen photographers. After much deliberation, the photo contest judges selected the winners based on their photographic and ecological qualities. The winning photographers were honored at our Annual Fall Recognition Dinner on Friday, November 15th. 

Congratulations to the following winners, and thank you to all who entered this year! These beautiful photos help us tell the story of why Michigan is so worth protecting and preserving for future generations.

Category: Flora & Fauna

Honorable Mention, Julia Schachinger for “Green Heron & Painted Turtle”

GreenHeron&PaintedTurtle Julia Schachinger - HM FF

3rd Place, Mary Rasmussen for “Predacious Diving Beetle Underwater”

Mary Rasmussen predacious diving beetle - 3rd Place FF

2nd Place, Martha Hitchiner for “Blue Racer on Tree Stump”

Martha Hitchiner blue racer - 2nd Place FF

1st Place, David Dalrymple for “Greater Yellowlegs”

greateryellowleg David Dalrymple - 1st Place FF


Category: Landscapes

Honorable Mention, Deb Traxinger for “Fall Swamp Sunrise”

Fall Swamp Sunrise Deb Traxinger - HM Landscape

3rd Place, Tom Ala for “Hungarian Falls”

Tom Ala - Hungarian Falls - 3rd Place Landscape

2nd Place, Jeremy Salo for “Misty morning in Brighton on the river”

Jeremy Salo - 2nd Place Landscape

1st Place, Paul Mrozek for “Fall Pond”

Namikong Pond, North Country Trail, Hiawatha National Forest, Em


 

Category: People in Nature

Honorable Mention, Randy Butters for “In the Light of Day”

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3rd Place, Nan Pokerwinski for “Shade”

Shade - Nancy Pokerwinski 3rd Place People

2nd Place, Greg Bodker for “Learning Nature”

Our future - Inquisitiveness

1st Place, Randy Butters for “On the Long Blue Edge of Summer”

On the Long Blue Edge of Summer - Randy Butters 1st Place People


 

Overall Winner

William Rowan for “Sandhill Crane Mother with Adopted Canada Goose Gosling.”

Rowan_1 - William Rowan - Overall Winner

MNA Earns National Recognition

One thing that unites us as a nation is land: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. For more than 65 years, MNA has been doing just that for the people of Michigan. Today, MNA announced it has renewed its land trust accreditation – proving once again that, as part of a network of over 400 accredited land trusts across the nation, it is committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in its conservation work.

“Maintaining accreditation is one of the many ways MNA is committed to conservation excellence,” said Garret Johnson, MNA’s Executive Director. “It means our conservation work and business practices meet the highest professional standards within the national land trust community. Earning the accreditation seal, a true mark of distinction, speaks volumes to our members, donors, and the public about our ability to uphold their trust and protect important natural lands forever.”

MNA provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded renewed accreditation, signifying its confidence that MNA’s lands will be protected forever.

Accredited land trusts now steward almost 20 million acres – nearly the size of the entire state of Michigan. MNA first achieved national accreditation through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission (LTAC) in 2014, and after review of MNA’s application for renewal this spring, the LTAC announced on Wednesday that MNA had successfully earned its first renewal. Accreditation is renewed every five years, and MNA is proud to have earned this designation.

“It is exciting to recognize MNA’s continued commitment to national standards by renewing this national mark of distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 400 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

MNA is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census. A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits can be found at http://www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About MNA
Established in 1952, the Michigan Nature Association is a non-profit conservation organization committed to the protection and maintenance of special natural areas throughout the state. Through stewardship, MNA works to protect the rare and endangered plants and animals that reside in these areas, and promote a program of natural history and conservation education. For more than 65 years, MNA has worked to acquire and protect more than 175 nature sanctuaries from the northern tip of the U.P. to the Indiana/Ohio border. In 2019, MNA received an inaugural Planet Award from the Consumers Energy Foundation to protect rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals in eight counties across southern Michigan. For more information on MNA and current initiatives, visit www.michigannature.org.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents 1,000 member land trusts supported by more than 200,000 volunteers and 4.6 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices.

The Alliance’s leadership serves the entire land trust community—our work in the nation’s capital represents the policy priorities of land conservationists from every state; our education programs improve and empower land trusts from Maine to Alaska; and our comprehensive vision for the future of land conservation includes new partners, new programs and new priorities. Connect with us online at www.landtrustalliance.org.

Sanctuary Spotlight: Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Those familiar with Michigan history will know of the bootlegging activities that took place on the shores of Lake Huron between Michigan and Canada during the Prohibition Era. Local Huron County lore tells of a place along this shore that was popular with bootleggers due to its limestone shoreline – ideal for speedboats looking to drop their loads quickly. This place was called Whiskey Harbor. Three miles to the north, the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse may have aided these bootleggers in locating Whiskey Harbor. Though not all completed their journey, as evidenced by several shipwrecks offshore, and neighbors having reported finding whiskey bottles washed up on shore.

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Leopard Frog at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Ganley.

Though a cabin once dotted the landscape, this piece of land has never been developed; bypassed by major roadways like M-25, a dirt road was only extended near this property in 1957. Then, in October of 1989, MNA purchased the lot with a bequest of Mr. William J. Kernan, Jr.’s estate. The more than 45 acre Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary has protected critical wetland and shoreline habitat since that day, as well as protecting a piece of Michigan’s rich history.

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A group of visitors peer across Whiskey Harbor at the Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Katherine Hollins

Birders know the property as a great place to spot migratory and shore birds, as the mud flats provide ideal habitat for frogs, which some birds can feed on as they pass through. There is also an incredible amount of plant diversity between limestone cobble shore, the uplands of the southern mesic forest, and varying riparian land from a creek that runs through the sanctuary to Lake Huron.

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An 1837 Government Surveyor’s map of the area around Whiskey Harbor.

The Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary also offers researchers the opportunity to study how land use within a watershed affects coastal wetlands. MNA is proud to protect Michigan’s natural heritage with unique lands such as those found at Whiskey Harbor. You can learn more about this work, and find a sanctuary near you at michigannature.org.

Celebrating Bat Week 2019

by Sarah Royalty Pinkelman & Michigan Nature Association

Word has spread about the essential pollinating behavior of bees and the seed-spreading habit of birds, but the bat, the only flying mammal, is also a significant player in the ecology of animal and plant mutualism. In warmer climates, bats play a similar role as bees and hummingbirds, drinking nectar and pollinating blooms that produce fruits like the banana and agave. Colder climates like Michigan provide a home for insectivorous bat species that consume a significant number of insects that harm humans and plants alike.

Michigan has nine different bat species, but Michiganders most often encounter the little and big brown bats. We see them at dusk gulping insects at a voracious pace, eating from 600 to 1,000 per hour. A mother supporting her young can eat more than her body weight in insects in a single night.

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A big brown bat at the Leslie Science & Nature Center. Photo courtesy Sarah Royalty Pinkelman

In fact, bats such as big browns feed on specific mosquito species that are vectors for many diseases, including Eastern equine encephalitis. Michigan’s bats also help clear the air of corn and soybean crop–eating insects. While healthy bat populations save the farming industry billions of dollars a year in pesticide use, their benefit to Michigan’s ecology is priceless; by reducing the need for agricultural pesticides, eating disease-carrying insects, and holding a key spot in the nocturnal food web as predator and prey, they’re an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.

Like many species across the globe, bat numbers are declining. Two Michigan species are endangered (the northern long-eared and Indiana bat) and others may follow. A top threat is White-nose Syndrome (WNS), or Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Dr. Allen Kurta, an Eastern Michigan University researcher, has called it the most devastating wildlife disease North America has faced since European arrival. More than 6.7 million bats have been lost to the disease continent-wide since its arrival in New York in 2006. The disease repeatedly wakens hibernating bats, draining their energy in winter when there’s no food available. Most infected bats die from starvation. Dr. Kurta cites an 83% decline in bats since the arrival of WNS.

There are several ways to support our bat populations, and habitat protection is primary. For example, in winter bats hibernate in caves, structures, and abandoned mines, and it is vital to respect the signage at these sights. There are a number of steps you can take at home to help bats, learn more about these and International Bat Week at batweek.org.

The Michigan Nature Association works to protect habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species across the state. By protecting habitat for target species, we are benefiting the broader population of plants and animals that call Michigan home. Join us on October 24th, 2019 at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve in Williamston, Michigan with a bat expert from the Bat Association of MSU for our Bat Week Walk, exploring what makes a good bat habitat, and learning more about this ecologically important species. For more information about this event, contact us at michigannature@michigannature.org or 866-223-2231.

bat week walk photo by Keith Saylor

The Michigan Nature Association & Bat Association of MSU will be holding a Bat Week Walk at MNA’s Red Cedar River Plant Preserve on Thursday, October 24th, 2019.

Sanctuary Spotlight: Two Hearted River

Michigan’s Two Hearted River was made famous in the 1920s short story by Ernest Hemingway, Big Two-Hearted River. As chronicled in the story, the river has historically provided excellent trout fishing opportunities. You may have even heard of the Michigan beer of the same name. The river is fed by five main tributaries – Dawson Creek, and the North, South, East, and West Branches, the last of which is where you will find MNA’s Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary.

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The Two Hearted River meanders through the southern end of the Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Rick Baetsen.

Located in the northwest section of Luce County, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this very remote sanctuary protects a variety of rare plant and animal species and their habitat, such as the indian pipe flower, pitcher plant, moose, and pine martin.

Acquired in September 2000, this sanctuary was one of the last that MNA founder Bertha Daubendiek was involved in purchasing, and one that she felt passionately would be a beneficial addition to MNA’s statewide network of sanctuaries.

Surrounded to the east and south by The Nature Conservancy’s Two-Hearted River Forest Reserve, and to the north and west by Lake Superior State Forest, this MNA property protects dry northern forest, as well as hardwood conifer swamp habitat, both of which are listed as vulnerable natural communities with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Combined with these other conservation lands, MNA’s Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary plays a role in protecting nearly 200,000 acres of unbroken land, and contributes to the overall health and diversity of the ecosystem.

Learn more about this and other sanctuaries at michigannature.org

Singing Insects Indicate Ecosystem Diversity

It is an unmistakable sound on late summer evenings with windows wide open–the hum, chirp, trill and buzz of insects. These are the night singing insects, described by Dr. Carl Strang as the cicadas, katydids, crickets and three subfamilies of grasshoppers in which males produce sound displays so females can find them and humans can hear them.

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The Butternut Creek Nature Sanctuary protects * habitat type*. Photo by Joe Roti

As a naturalist with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, IL and a little more “ear oriented than most”, Carl took an interest in the sounds of nature, including those made by insects. His curiosity led him to learn how to identify insects by sound, both by ear and by recordings using computer analysis. In 2006, he initiated a long-term general survey of singing insects in a 22-county region stretching from southeast Wisconsin, northeast Illinois, northwest Indiana and into southwest Michigan. In 2018, his annual census included a stop at MNA’s Butternut Creek Nature Sanctuary in Berrien County.
“There are about 100 species in the region and are found in every habitat except open water,” Carl explains. “They are relatively easy to survey because of the sounds, you don’t have to trap them or put in a lot of time with specialized techniques.”

 
“The night singers are not keystone species, most of them are not dependent on a particular plant, nor are they the main food for other animals,” he continued. “Their main value is as indicators of ecosystem quality and diversity.”

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Dave Cuthrell “sweep-netting”, a method to search for tree insects.

What distinguishes this group of insects, according to Carl, is that they are not big travelers, they are limited in movement, and don’t fly very far. “Singing insects can be a good indicator of the health of a system. With some animals you can build it, that is restore habitat, and they will come,” he says, “That’s not so true with singing insects.” Carl believes habitat restoration is important, but not at the expense of protecting and maintaining high quality habitat of critical sizes.

 
Indeed, Carl’s survey is yielding interesting results. 50 to 100 years ago, early work in the field documented species occurrences. Fast forward to current day and some that Carl expected to find or should have found, he is not finding. Some very common—like the dusky-faced meadow katydid—occurred in every marsh 50 years ago. Now he is only finding them in marshes free of invasive plants. “Only a couple of singing insects can live in that kind of habitat,” according to Carl. Habitat degradation and loss is a big factor in declines of singing insects where they once occurred.

 

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Wendy Partridge & Lisa Rainsong look for a long-spurred meadow katydid at Indiana Dunes State Park.

Carl is also finding species that are in his study area now but were not here 50 years ago. Almost all these have come up from the south, he says. A warming climate may be a likely factor, although very tough to prove scientifically.

 
On a surprisingly cool and rainy day in August of 2018, Carl’s work took him to Butternut Creek Nature Sanctuary. There he accompanied Nancy Collins, a citizen scientist who is rapidly becoming a recognized tree cricket expert. They stopped to listen and look for the tamarack tree cricket, a species of special concern in Michigan and one that has been known to occur at the nature sanctuary. According to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, the tamarack tree cricket inhabits dense to open tamarack swamps and fens. Carl and Nancy identified 14 singing species there—but no tamarack tree cricket.

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Tamarack tree cricket. Photo by Dave Cuthrell.

He is not sure whether it was the cool and wet weather that day, or if they were not there at the right time of the season, or if they hit a low period in the cyclical population cycles that insects experience. “The habitat at Butternut Creek looks fine and healthy with lots of tamaracks,” Carl says. “It is definitely worth getting back in there again.”

 

Carl plans to stop back at Butternut Creek this summer to listen for tamarack tree crickets as he conducts his annual 22-county sweep. And starting in late July until late fall when the weather turns cold, listen for the night chorus of singing insects—and know that scientists like Carl and Nancy are listening too.