Coastal Sanctuaries Protect Changing Shorelines

With ever-fluctuating weather conditions, and uncertainty in how climate change will affect water levels in the Great Lakes basin, the work that MNA is doing to protect habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species is now more important than ever.

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Volunteer Ashley Schilling uses her hand as a measurement for the dwarf lake iris.

One of several coastal sanctuaries that MNA currently maintains is the Spitler Shore Nature Sanctuary in Presque Isle County. This 50-acre sanctuary includes more than 1,500 feet of Lake Huron shoreline, and contains populations of the federally threatened dwarf lake iris. This sanctuary’s habitat, like much of the Great Lakes shoreline, is at risk from extreme and unpredictable fluctuations in water levels, affecting much more than just its magnificent sunrise views.

During the period between 1998 and 2012, Lakes Michigan and Huron experienced persistently low average water levels. This was due in large part to increased evaporation – to which the lakes are susceptible whenever they are not covered by ice. But the winter of 2013-14 brought extended periods of extreme cold, resulting in increased ice cover and protecting the lakes from the much of this evaporation. Since that time, all of the Great Lakes have risen to record-high average levels, the product of both limited evaporation, and heavy precipitation and runoff from the many rivers and streams that feed the lakes. Water levels in 2019 have proven to continue this trend of new record highs, with meteorologists having estimated a 10-inch rise on Lakes Michigan and Huron through July (representing 8 trillion gallons of water) – the lakes were recorded at 13 inches above their 2018 levels, by the end of June.

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Many shipwrecks and their associated debris were newly uncovered during this reduction and influx of water along the shorelines of Huron and Michigan. The photo here shows some of these shipwreck timbers which today rest peacefully once again underwater, discovered by a father and daughter from Camp Chickagami. Photo by John Porter.

These extremes have had profound effects on developed shoreline statewide, with much of Belle Isle being inundated with rising St. Clair River water, and roads in the Upper Peninsula at risk of eroding into Lake Superior. The impact on non-developed shoreline, like that found in Spitler Shore Nature Sanctuary, is yet to be realized, but it is now more clear than ever that these spaces need protecting, so that they can continue to support the diversity of plant and animal life required for a healthy ecosystem.

You can learn more about MNA’s statewide nature sanctuaries online at michigannature.org.

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Understanding Conservation Impacts on Michigan’s Rare Turtles

MNA works every day to protect the most vulnerable plant and animal species in the state. Two recent projects of particular interest are the turtle surveys being conducted at MNA sanctuaries in the southern Lower Peninsula.

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Blanding’s turtle crossing a road near Lefglen Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Rachel Maranto.

The Blanding’s turtle is a Michigan species of special concern, due to the risk of habitat fragmentation. Because the Blanding turtles utilize a range of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, they are especially impacted by the use of pesticides and the construction of roadways near wetlands, which causes fragmentation of the landscape at wetland complexes.

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Steward Rebecca Kenny holds a spotted turtle during a survey in May, 2019. Photo by Rebecca Kenny.

Spotted turtles are a Michigan threatened species, which have historically been found in the southern and western areas of the Lower Peninsula. These turtles prefer shallow wetland habitats, such as marshes and fens, and require clean water for their survival.

Both the Blanding and Spotted turtles are currently being reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for potential listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act; and both are considered vulnerable to climate change according to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. MNA Volunteers and Stewards have recently conducted preliminary surveys to better understand these species’ usage at several MNA sanctuaries. The initial Blanding’s turtle survey will determine where larger populations may exist within the MNA sanctuary system.

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Steward Dan Burton holds a spotted turtle during a survey in May, 2019. Photo by Rebecca Kenny.

It is important to continue gathering data on the habitats, plants, and animals that MNA works to protect, as monitoring helps to determine what methods and management techniques are working. MNA looks forward to these turtle surveys, and continuing to provide crucial habitat for these species in the southern Lower Peninsula.

MNA Applies for Renewal of Accreditation

Public Comment Period Open Until April 15

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA) first achieved national accreditation through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission in 2014. The accreditation program recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national quality standards and practices for protecting important natural places and working lands forever.  To maintain accreditation status, MNA must renew every five years, and we are pleased to announce that we are applying for renewal of accreditation this spring.

MNA’s Big Valley Nature Sanctuary, Oakland County

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, will conduct an independent review of MNA’s policies and programs to confirm that we continue to meet the highest quality ethical and technical operation standards of a land trust. As part of the application process, a public comment period is now open.

“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.”

According to the last Land Trust Alliance census in 2016, there are approximately 1,400 land trusts across the country.  Just over 400, or about 29%, have achieved or renewed accreditation.  This network of land trusts have demonstrated fiscal accountability, strong organizational leadership, sound land transactions, and lasting stewardship of the lands they conserve, according to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending renewal applications.  Comments must relate to how MNA complies with national quality standards.  For the full list of standards, click here.

To Submit Comments on MNA’s Application

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment regarding MNA, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org, or email your comment to info@landtrustaccreditation.org.  Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn:  Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.

Comments on MNA’s application will be most useful by April 15.

2018 Year in Review

A Year of Milestones

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Two major anniversaries distinguish a busy and exciting 2018.

The first, of course, is the 45th anniversary of the Michigan Nature Association’s campaign that prevented logging of the largest stand of old growth white pine left in Michigan and established our Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary in 1973. The drive to raise needed funds to secure Estivant galvanized individuals, organizations and service clubs from all over the state and still stands as one of MNA’s crowning achievements.

In that spirit, we were delighted to receive a $90,000 challenge grant in honor of the Estivant Pines anniversary, and this new campaign is underway as this Year in Review goes to print.  With your generous support, we will add 60 more acres to this iconic nature sanctuary and direct $90,000 in challenge dollars to stewardship needs in our nature sanctuary network.

2018 is also the 45th anniversary of the federal Endangered Species Act.  The Endangered Species Act is an essential, national framework for protecting rare, threatened and endangered species but it has been under assault since its passage in 1973.  2018 was no different and we made our voice heard by stepping up to formally oppose rule changes that could have a devastating impact on the statute. We will continue to monitor and act on threats to this critical environmental law.

One of the major limitations of the Endangered Species Act, however, is the lack of funding for protecting critical habitat.  Remarkably, twenty years before Congress passed this landmark legislation, MNA’s founders recognized the need for action to protect Michigan’s rarest and most vulnerable species and natural communities, pioneering the strategy of protecting land in Michigan to do so.  We pursue that mission every day thanks to their foresight and our members and donor who continually rally to the cause.

Celebrating these two major milestones bookend a year’s worth of notable activities that you will read about in this Year in Review.  None of our work is possible without the commitment of our members, donors, and volunteers, and I hope you are as proud as I am of what we have accomplished together.  Be it saving old growth white pines in the Keweenaw, protecting imperiled natural communities across our great state, or defending critical policies for threatened and endangered species, we are truly all in this together.

Thank you for all you do—I look forward to another year of working with you to protect Michigan’s incredible natural heritage.

Garret Johnson
Executive Director

 

2018 Photo Contest Winners Announced!

Congratulations to our 2018 Photo Contest winners! Thank you to everyone that submitted a photo – we had many great options to choose from! Photos were submitted in three categories: Flora & Fauna, Landscapes, and People in Nature in order to capture Michigan’s natural beauty.

Grand Prize Winner!
“Cedar Waxwing” by Heike DeWolf

Overall Winner - DeWolf, Heike - Cedar Waxwing

Flora & Fauna

First Place:
“Beetle” by Nancy Pokerwinski

Second Place:
“Got an itch!” by Mary Zednik

Third Place:
“Knit Craft” by Dani Weng

Honorable Mention:
“Goodnight Tom Boy” by Dustyn Blindert

Landscapes

First Place:
“Mission Creek” by Paul Mrozek

Second Place:
“Pancake Ice” by Deb Traxinger

Third Place:
“One Golden Morning” by Ellen Stevens

Honorable Mention:
“On the Black River” by Michael Crawford

People in Nature

First Place:
“Gotcha!” by Mary Zednik

Second Place:
“Capture the Sun” by Greg Bodker

Third Place:
“On the Edge” by Dustyn Blindert

Honorable Mention:
“Couple on Icy Beach” by Nancy Pokerwinski

Estivant Pines 45th Anniversary Challenge

2018 marks the 45th anniversary of a remarkable example of what people can do when they join together to make a difference. In August of 1973, after a statewide campaign rallying the support of people across Michigan, MNA prevented Michigan’s largest remaining stand of old growth white pine forest from being destroyed forever. Because people across the state helped MNA purchase the land, nearly half-a-century later you can visit MNA’s Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, walk its trails, and experience first-hand a majestic virgin forest that has been undisturbed for hundreds of years.

This year, MNA received a special challenge in honor of the 45th anniversary of the campaign to save Estivant Pines from logging. The grant will provide the $90,000 we need to purchase 60 acres along the southern border of Estivant Pines, but only if we show strong statewide support by raising an additional $90,000 for general stewardship.

Support Protecting Michigan Nature this #GivingTuesday

We need 45 individuals to give $100 between now and midnight Tuesday, November 27. As an added incentive, your $100 gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Donate to help save the Pines!

Expanding a 510-acre Living Museum of Michigan’s Old White Pine Forests

The majestic white pines at Estivant were once slated for logging and would have been lost were it not for MNA’s members, donors and volunteers who answered the call of concerned locals to save this Michigan natural treasure.

No single project has introduced more people across Michigan (and the nation) to the work of MNA and the importance of protecting Michigan’s natural heritage than Estivant Pines.

And there is no more inspiring example of what MNA can accomplish when we all pull together than the successful effort to protect Estivant Pines.

So much more than the white pines were saved! The dense, old growth forest canopy provides habitat for 85 species of birds, including 15 species of warblers. Many other animal species that prefer a mature forest habitat utilize these unique woods, including the pine marten. The pine marten was nearly eliminated from Michigan’s northern forests in the early 20th century.

Below the towering trunks of the pines live an astonishing array of wildflowers, such as asters, baneberry, pyrolas and twinflower. More than a dozen species of orchids and over 23 species of ferns, including spleenwort, maidenhair and holly fern, are also scattered across the forest floor.

Adding 60 Acres Near Where the Eight-Foot-Diameter “Leaning Giant” Once Stood

The additional 60 acres comes in two tracts, one on either side of the old growth white pine forest where the Leaning Giant was found years ago. Many of the more adventurous visitors to Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary take a rough and rugged hiking trail and cross the Montreal River to see the famous Leaning Giant, a celebrated white pine with a trunk eight feet in diameter. Named a Michigan champion white pine in 1971, the Leaning Giant was later brought down in 1987 by a fierce north wind but you can still see its massive trunk lying across the forest floor today.

With your support, we can meet this ambitious challenge and acquire this remarkable property. Along with old growth white pines, the 60 acre property contains large cedar and eastern hemlock trees and would serve as an important buffer to the heart of Estivant Pines. Wetlands found on the property are integral to the hydrology of an emergent wetland on the existing sanctuary that is regularly used by American bittern, a species of special concern in Michigan. Acquiring the 60 acres would also ensure the protection of a half mile of the Montreal River with frontage on both sides.

A Special Night of Music and Celebration

Join the Michigan Nature Association for the 
Annual Fall Recognition Dinner and
Silent Auction to Benefit Environmental Education

Celebrating Estivant Pines 45th Anniversary

Friday, November 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center – East Lansing

Join Us for a Night of Music and Celebration!

Join MNA as we recognize the donors and volunteers who make our
continued success possible. The Annual Fall Recognition Dinner and Silent Auction
will honor those who dedicate countless hours to MNA and reflect
on another year of success.

MNA will announce those being honored with the Volunteer of the Year Award,
Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award,
Richard W. Holzman Award, and more!

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Special Musical Guest – Back by Popular Demand!

Root Doctor

Root Doctor plays a diverse mix of classic soul and R&B alongside traditional blues
and inspired original material. Along with over 20 years of club, concert and festival
performances, they have released four recordings to local and national acclaim.

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Dave Ewert
2018 Edward G. Voss Conservation Science Award Recipient

As an acclaimed scientist, Dave is a Kirtland’s Warbler Program Director
and Senior Conservation Specialist for the American Bird Conservancy.
Dave will share first-hand insights into the successful international efforts to bring
the Kirtland’s warbler back from the brink of extinction and challenges for the future.

Silent Auction to Benefit Environmental Education
All proceeds from the silent auction will go to the Environmental Education Fund
to provide nature education opportunities for students and families in Michigan.
See the variety of fun Michigan experiences offered in the 2018 Silent Auction Catalog!

Register Today!

Tickets ($30 each) can be purchased by contacting
Jess Foxen at 866-223-2231 or jfoxen@michigannature.org.
Please include your meal choice of either chicken, salmon, or vegetarian.
The deadline to register is November 15.
Register online here.

We hope to see you there!