MNA turns 65!

This year the Michigan Nature Association celebrates its 65th year of operation. What was started by Bertha Daubendiek as a bird study group in 1951 has grown to now over 170 nature sanctuaries throughout Michigan.

The bird study group was incorporated in 1952 as the St. Clair Metropolitan Beach Sanctuary Association. Two years later, the name became Macomb Nature Association, as volunteers joined and the focus of the group shifted. The Junior Nature Patrol, a club for school children, was established in 1955, and its ranks swelled to 5,000 by 1957. However, we soon realized that educational study of natural habitats was not enough; we then sought to actually purchase natural areas to protect them for future generations to enjoy. Red Wing Acres (now Louis G. Senghas Memorial) became MNA’s first sanctuary in 1960, beginning a long tradition of preservation. In 1962, we celebrated 10 years by helping bring about the banning of any drilling in all state game areas.

Red Wing Acres

Red Wing Acres

MNA continued to grow as we acquired more sanctuaries, including the first outside of St. Clair County in 1963. MNA morphed into the Eastern Michigan Nature Association in 1965. The name finally settled on what it is today in 1970, the same year we proposed and campaigned for the Natural Beauty Roads Act in Michigan, which was enacted by the Michigan Legislature. The Act, which now goes by Michigan’s Natural Beauty Roads Act of 1970, allows citizens to request protection of stretches of roads or streets that are examples of rural and community character. A four-mile stretch of Hamilton Road, near the entrance of MNA’s Julius C. and Marie Moran Peter Memorial Sanctuary, became the first Natural Beauty Road in 1971.

Peter Memorial

Julius C. and Marie Moran Peter Memorial Nature Sanctuary

The three-year-long “Save the Pines” campaign celebrated success in 1973 by purchasing the first 160 acres of what would become Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. Fueled by volunteers’ indignation at Universal Oil cutting down acres of this old growth white pine forest, the campaign furiously began fundraising and letter-writing in 1970 to save the forest. Also in 1973, Detroit Edison Co. proposed building two nuclear plants near Red Wings Acres, including 765,000-volt transmission lines that would run through Red Wings; after MNA objected, DTE chose to locate their plants elsewhere. Accolades for our organization came in, with Bertha receiving Michigan’s 1974 Volunteer of the Year and Detroit News’s 1979 Michiganian of the Year for her work with MNA, and the organization receiving an achievement award from the US Department of the Interior in 1980. We reached our personal goal of 50 sanctuaries in 1979. We closed out the decade by acquiring our largest property, Roach Point Nature Sanctuary, a peninsula which now boasts a whopping 763 acres of forest and Munuscong Lake shoreline. It was renamed the Schafer Family Nature Sanctuary at Roach Point in 2011 to honor the donation of time and land by the Schafer brothers, Melvin and Mason.

Roach Point

Roach Point. Photo: Jeff Ganley.

1984 saw an exciting goal achieved – every type of Michigan native tree species was now included on MNA preserves. Our 100th project, Twin Waterfalls, was initiated in 1986, and the following year, Bertha received an honorary Doctorate of Science from Adrian College.

Twin Waterfalls

Twin Waterfalls Memorial. Photo: Charles Eshbach

Big changes came in our next decade. Bertha was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994 and received an honorary degree from Grinnell College in 1997. Pat Grogan Orchid Bog (now Pat Grogan Shelldrake Nature Sanctuary) became our 150th sanctuary in 2000. The next year, Bertha retired from her 49-year position as a volunteer Executive Secretary, and an executive director position was created. Jeremy Emmi was hired in late 2001 and oversaw MNA for the next ten years, until Garret Johnson came in 2011. In 2002, Bertha received a lifetime achievement award from the Wildlife Habitat Council.

Bertha

Bertha receiving her honorary Grinnell degree

As our organization and the number of sanctuaries we maintained grew, we discovered we needed more help. Sherri Laier was hired in 2004 as our first stewardship director, fueled by this new level of commitment to land preservation and giving local volunteer stewards the resources needed to better protect land. One of Sherri’s most important contributions was her management of Goose Creek Nature Sanctuary, which had been overrun by invasive species. Sherri coordinated a 5 year plan to burn and spray the glossy buckthorn growing in Goose Creek, allowing endangered and rare species to grow in place of it.

Sadly, 2005 saw Bertha’s passing, marking the end of an era. We still think of her when we visit our favorite sanctuaries. On a happier note, we hit a special milestone in 2011, as we surpassed a total of 10,000 protected acres.

Bertha

MNA Founder, Bertha Daubendiek

2014 marked a big year as we received national recognition by meeting the highest standards in land conservation when we were accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, a mark of distinction that only a select group of land trusts has achieved. In 2015, the support of MNA’s members and donors allowed MNA to acquire additional land on Brockway Mountain on the Keweenaw Peninsula. It’s one of Michigan’s most iconic landscapes, and many vacationing families from across the state (and beyond) pause at the summit and gaze in wonder at the breathtaking view of Lake Superior – the largest freshwater lake on earth. Working together, MNA and the local township have now protected roughly 600 acres of contiguous land around the summit of Brockway Mountain.

Brockway Mountain

Brockway Mountain. Photo: J. Haara

Coming full circle in 2016, MNA created additional initiatives to focus on education and connecting children with nature, just like our early leaders in 1952. MNA worked with school teachers across the state to inspire children to become Michigan’s next generation of conservation leaders. Our exciting schools-to-sanctuaries initiative is one where we connect our conservation work at specific nature sanctuaries with nearby schools. MNA also launched the Environmental Education Fund to provide financial assistance to teachers across the state to help them provide school kids with first-hand opportunities to experience nature. To continue our conservation education, MNA hosted the Race for Michigan Nature, a statewide series of Family Fun Runs & 5Ks stretching from Belle Isle in Detroit to Marquette in the U.P. Each race spotlights one of Michigan’s rarest species and helps promote the importance of protecting Michigan’s remaining natural areas.

Kids Day

Kids Day in Newaygo

February 21st, 2017, was our official 65th birthday, but we are extending the party throughout the rest of the year. Join MNA at upcoming volunteer workdays, nature hikes, the Race for Michigan Nature Series, Members’ Meetings, and other events to celebrate our 65th anniversary!

Summer Stewardship Internships Open!

Stewardship Assistant
Volunteer Internship
Michigan Nature Association

Location: Variable by day – work will take place at numerous MNA sanctuaries across southeast Michigan.

Duration: Negotiable, May–September is preferred

Time Commitment:  Applicants should be available a minimum of one full day – can be up to 10 hours (including drive time) – per week and arrange for their own transportation to the day’s meeting location. Options to carpool with staff or other interns may be available.  Internship will be considered fulfilled when the Stewardship Assistant has completed 18 full days of volunteer service with MNA.

Required Experience: Some previous experience in the environmental field – can be through education, volunteering, past internships or jobs, etc.  Ability to perform physically demanding work outside, in a wide range of weather conditions, while maintaining a positive attitude.  Ability to communicate professionally and politely is a must as there is a high level of interaction involved with staff, stewards, and volunteers.

Responsibilities:  The Stewardship Assistant’s primary responsibility will be to assist MNA staff, stewards, and volunteers in the management of sanctuaries through various forms of field activity, which may include: removal of invasive species, trail and boundary maintenance, participating in controlled burns, conducting species surveys, site monitoring, etc.

This volunteer internship will include opportunities to:

  • Gain valuable insight into the diverse and often hidden natural environment of Michigan.  With 170+ sanctuaries that are spread across both peninsulas, interns will be exposed to a wide variety of Michigan’s animals and plants, some that are exclusive to the state.
  • Work outdoors in an academic setting that also involves getting one’s hands dirty.  You will learn basic plant identification skills, become familiar with high quality examples of many of the natural communities that occur in southeast Michigan, and gain experience with a range of common management techniques used in the restoration field.
  • Work with experts in the various fields that share a common goal in protecting and preserving our environment.  Botanists, wildlife biologists, ecologists, etc. are working directly at MNA or are closely affiliated with our organization.
  • Learn how to deal with multiple parties across different levels of involvement in the organization, along with gaining excellent communication skills.
  • Become part of an energetic and highly motivated non-profit land protection organization.

*Please Note: This is an unpaid volunteer internship.

Background Information on MNA:

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA), the state’s first land preservation organization, manages and maintains over 170 nature sanctuaries across the state, totaling over 11,000 acres, through ownership and conservation easement.  Most of the sanctuaries house rare habitats and species and are managed to protect their viability.

For More Information or to Apply:

For more information on this position or to apply, please contact MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer, Rachel Maranto, at rmaranto@michigannature.org or 517-525-2627.  Application materials should include resume, cover letter, and contact information for 3 references.  For more information on MNA, please see our web site at www.michigannature.org.

Eradicating Invasive Phragmites

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Seedheads near water. Photo via MNA archives.

Seedheads near water. Photo via MNA archives.

A straw-like plant ranging from 6-13 feet in height may seem quite harmless to come across. Yet, this plant, known as Phragmites, is an invasive species threatening the natural flora of Michigan.

Phragmites is the most common invasive plant species in Michigan.

Phragmites has a tall stalk with blades along its shaft and a red-colored seedhead that can fade to a straw-like color with age. Phragmites is usually found in wetland habitats like marshes and swamps.

This invasive species poses alarming impacts on biodiversity because it grows tall and in dense stands, squelching out any native plant and animal life by blocking sunlight and taking up space. Animals find it difficult to make habitats because of the density of the stands and find they have reduced vegetation to eat.

A thick Phragmites stand. Photo via MNA archives.

A thick Phragmites stand. Photo via MNA archives.

Phragmites obstructs views and can make it difficult for people to enjoy nature because of the difficulty of traveling through the thick reeds to get to bodies of water. It also can negatively affect navigation on highways and waterways because of its height.  Phragmites has a rapid growth rate and are prone to catching and spreading fires quickly, killing natural vegetation around it and posing threat to homes and buildings nearby.

Learn how to identify invasive species like Phragmites by clicking here.

Two methods of eliminating invasive Phragmites are prescribed burns and the use of herbicides. Prescribed burns are controlled fires that kill the invasive species, allowing a chance for native vegetation to grow. Herbicides must always be used carefully and some areas even require permits before use. Mowing is recommended post-chemical treatment.

Students and Volunteers Build a Boardwalk at Twin Waterfalls

By Adrienne Bozic, Regional Stewardship Organizer – Eastern Upper Peninsula

On a brisk Saturday morning, a group of intrepid young adults converged upon MNA’s Twin Waterfalls Memorial Plant Preserve in Munising to celebrate All Saint’s Day in the most hallowed of ways: volunteering in the name of community service and ecological restoration. Regional Stewardship Organizers Adrienne Bozic and John Bagley led a crew of ten in construction of a new boardwalk over a wet section of trail. Twin Waterfalls is one MNA’s most visited sanctuaries, so these improvements were much needed and will provide a better trail system and visitor experience for years to come.

Our lumber was delivered, already cut to length, to the construction site at 8:30, thanks to 41 Lumber – who also extended a significant discount on all of the project materials. The enthusiastic group of students from Northern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, all the more dedicated for having foregone Halloween festivities for this endeavor (maybe we should have had a belated costume contest?), carried the lumber from the road up the trail to the job site.

Nicole Mathiasz carrying lumber

Nicole Mathiasz carries more than her weight in lumber! Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

After moving all of the lumber down the trail to the construction site, we set to work clearing the area and constructing the framework for the walkway.  At this point, the trail was still relatively dry.

But… our work site quickly turned into a wet, muddy quagmire which would have soured most; but expectations were realistic and spirits were high. One noted that “I never expected to have warm, dry feet anyway!”  Good thing!

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Yikes! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

The project slowly came together over the course of the morning. Everybody took part in all tasks, including cutting, drilling, digging, and most importantly, keeping spirits and energy high. I would welcome this good-natured crew on any of my projects!  David Buth of the Grand Rapids-based experiential education non-profit, Summer Journeys, brought several of his current and former students and leaders.  He noted that this service project was a perfect fit for his organization’s goal to “transform adolescents through experiential learning so they become stewards of their communities and selves”. Though the Twin Waterfalls project was not officially part of his curriculum, we agree that participation in activities like MNA work days help people acquire knowledge, skills, and confidence.  Working on service projects enables people to better appreciate and act ethically in the places they visit and call home.  We hope to work more with Summer Journeys in the future!

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

John Bagley and David Buth set the first screw. Photo: Kathryn Lund Johnson

Everyone lent a hand, and while some present may not necessarily agree that “many hands make light work”, it certainly made it more enjoyable! One student was even overheard exclaiming, “I love volunteering!”

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Four hours of heavy labor in the cold really works up an appetite, so we broke for lunch at noon to enjoy hearty and delicious sandwiches and sides generously donated by the Falling Rock Café in downtown Munising.

Alas, the end of a long work day came before we could complete the project.  But we got a significant portion built and a great foundation to add to in the future. Besides…we had hot pizza and cold drinks awaiting us at Main Street Pizza in Munising, who offered to donate all the pizza we could eat and then some!  And we all had a long drive awaiting us: some back to Marquette, and some an all-day drive back home to Grand Rapids.  What a commitment by these dedicated volunteers! You can see the keen sense of satisfaction on the faces of these well-fed volunteers at the end of a long, tough day.

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Ready for some pizza! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

More improvements are yet needed, and additional segments of boardwalk have yet to be built.  Keep your eye out for future opportunities to help improve this fantastic natural area! Volunteer Days will be posted on the MNA website.

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

We made great progress on the boardwalk in just one day thanks to our fantastic volunteers and local sponsors! Photo: Adrienne Bozic

Thanks to all of the participants who showed up on Saturday to lend a much-needed hand; and without whom this project would not have happened: David Buth, Sky Curie, Tyler Lenderink, Peter Donnelly, Nicole Mathiasz, Kelly Radius, Nathan Sherman, Kathryn Lund Johnson, Maddie Tencate.

Special thanks to the generous local business donors who made this project possible: 41 Lumber, Falling Rock Café, Main Street Pizza, the Munising Chamber of Commerce, and the Magnusson Hotel

Delta Phi Epsilon Makes a Difference in the Keweenaw

By Nancy Leonard

Beginning the day by hauling lumber into the sanctuary. Photo: Nancy Leonard

Beginning the day by hauling lumber into the sanctuary. Photo: Nancy Leonard

On a sunny but cool and windy Saturday in late October, 26 “Make a Difference Day” volunteers showed up to join five MNA stewards to begin the building of a much-needed boardwalk over 300 feet of wet and sensitive habitat on the trail at Keweenaw Shores No. 1 Nature Sanctuary.  Twenty-two of these volunteers were the young women of Delta Phi Epsilon, a service sorority on the campus of Michigan Technological University in Houghton, accompanied by four young men who, they admitted, had been coerced into joining.

Arriving early and keen to begin the workday, the group’s enthusiasm wavered only slightly upon meeting the stack of lumber they were being asked to conquer.  Fifty-two 3” thick, 8-feet long hemlock planks, weighing on average about 80 pounds, were stacked at the trailhead. Those planks needed to be carried over nearly a quarter of a mile on a rough trail to the boardwalk staging area and then, the same planks were to be ferried over the growing boardwalk as it was established.

Gingerly, each team hoisted a plank, one volunteer in front and another in back, and off they headed into the unknown.  Karena Schmidt, steward of Keweenaw Shores, observed and described the four emotional stages the students seemed to experience as they completed each successive round trip. The first trip was awkward as they struggled with how to manage the heavy plank.  Apples and cookies and water were consumed to restore their energy.  Tips for carrying were shared and the second trip went decidedly better than the first. By the third trip, a profound weariness had crept in but so did their resolve. More apples and cookies were consumed and on the fourth and final trip, the resolve melted into excitement and newfound energy over their collective accomplishment.

Working together to pass planks further down the boardwalk. Photo: Nancy Leonard.

Working together to pass planks further down the boardwalk. Photo: Nancy Leonard.

While the planks were being carried into the boardwalk staging area, a team of MNA volunteers and stewards, Charlie Eshbach, Al Eckhart, and Bill Leonard, positioned and secured the planks, one by one, on stretchers of cedar logs being cut on the spot. Some volunteers became assistants to the builders and others helped to carry and place newly cut cedar stretchers.

After the entire stack of lumber had been moved to the staging area of the boardwalk and some beyond, the MTU volunteers formed a bucket brigade line and passed the remaining planks on down to the end of the built boardwalk assembly. From there, the planks were carried further and placed end-to-end to facilitate the completion of the boardwalk by future volunteers.

Counting the combined weights of the hemlock planks, the cedar 6x6s and cedar logs, the women of Delta Phi Epsilon and their friends carried almost 3 tons of material during the day!

Taking a quick break for a photo! Photo: Nancy Leonard.

Taking a quick break for a photo! Photo: Nancy Leonard.

One of the volunteers was overheard saying “I will forever appreciate any boardwalk I ever see again!” and another remarked, “this is a beautiful spot, I’ll be sure to come back.”

By the end of three hours of hard labor, 190 feet of boardwalk had been completed!  Plus, planks and stretchers were laid in place so regular MNA volunteers and stewards could more easily complete the remaining 110 feet at a future date.

Keweenaw Shores No. 1 Nature Sanctuary is a 36-acre gem located six miles east of Eagle Harbor on highway M-26.  The sanctuary showcases in miniature a number of forest communities moving inland from the spectacular lichen-covered Lake Superior shoreline, crossing through boreal forest, poor conifer and cedar swamps, and finally, hardwood-conifer forest. The new boardwalk will allow for future study of the special plant life growing within the sanctuary and will help preserve the sensitive habitat for those plants.

The wonderful, hardworking group of Delta Phi Epsilon sisters and friends who made a huge difference at Keweenaw Shores No. 1. Photo: Nancy Leonard

The wonderful, hardworking group of Delta Phi Epsilon members and friends who made a huge difference at Keweenaw Shores No. 1. Photo: Nancy Leonard

To see more photos from the day, visit the Michigan Nature Association’s Facebook page.

MNA Volunteer Days: Red Cedar River Plant Preserve

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Part of the boardwalk at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Red Cedar River Plant Preserve is more than just a 10-acre sanctuary in Williamston, Michigan, and the only one in Ingham County. This sanctuary is one of five MNA sanctuaries within the boundaries of a city and is close to the MNA’s former headquarters.

Usually land within cities has been far too degraded for MNA to claim as a sanctuary, but because of the floodplains within the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve, this area has surprisingly maintained its natural character so close to an urban area. This sanctuary was historically known as the Williamston Floodplain.

The sanctuary consists of floodplains and wetlands because it is so close to the Red Cedar River. There are also marshy and swamp-like areas as well.

These habitats are home to plant-life like marsh marigold, skunk cabbage and jewelweed. Some types of trees that grow on the floodplain ridge are black cherry and red oak. The ridge is welcoming to visitors, giving them a place to walk and explore during spring flooding season.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

Volunteers at the boardwalk. Photo via MNA archives.

This sanctuary is one of the few that MNA has built a boardwalk on and it is one of the longest and the only with an observation deck included in its design.

The area was donated in 2005 by Doug and Darlene Price, who with the help of engineer David Geyer have worked on protecting important parts of the habitat. MNA collaborated with them to change the future plans of the development of uplands in order to preserve the area within the sanctuary.

The redevelopment of the sanctuary’s boardwalk will help protect the floodplain. The old design could not withstand the severe flooding so MNA has organized volunteer days to rebuild the boardwalk with a design engineered to allow it to be more stable and provide more access to the sanctuary. About 40 feet of the boardwalk must be built this year of a total of 150 feet, and MNA is enlisting all the help it can get.

MNA extends its gratitude to engineers Jim Rossman  and Paul Rice for volunteering their time to develop the design, cost estimates and construction phases, and stewards Jim and Besty Pifer who assisted in the planning process.

Upcoming Volunteer Days:

  • Thursday, July 10 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, July 24 at 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday, August 20 at 9 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 11 at 10 a.m.
  • Thursday, September 18 at 10 a.m.

Please contact Rachel Maranto for more information about the project and volunteer days at rmaranto@michigannature.org.

Uprooting invasive knapweed

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

A moth rests atop a knapweed flower. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is hosting several stewardship events this summer to remove the invasive knapweed plant from various sanctuaries.

The invasion of knapweed poses a danger to native plant life and must be uprooted. The knapweed’s origins are traced back to southeastern Europe. The plant begins to grow as a rosette of leaves in its first year of life and then later on grows a flower stalk ranging from six to 36 inches in height. The flower is usually pink or purple in color with a spotted head underneath, as knapweed is also referred to as “spotted knapweed.”

Knapweed can be found in well-drained soils, dry prairies and dunes. Knapweed is especially harmful to oak barrens, which are endangered worldwide.

The weed’s invasion has caused a decline in native plant species, which is threatening to the ecosystem. It can also alter water quality by causing an increase in soil runoff and erosion.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. MNA archives.

Spotted knapweed growing on dry terrain. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Two common ways of eliminating knapweed are simply pulling the plants or mowing them down. There are also herbicides and chemicals that can also be used for removal but have several regulations and must be used carefully as to not upset any other plant or wildlife.

Two different insects have also been introduced to inhibit the knapweed from spreading seeds: flower weevils and seedhead flies. These insects introduced to the knapweed are a form of biological control of the invasive species.

Of these methods, MNA has most commonly uprooted the weed. Uprooting sounds much easier than it is, involving tools to help pull as many of the knapweed’s roots out of the soil as possible. If left behind, the roots could help the weed grow again and damage native plant life.

The knapweed has a tendency to knock out all other vegetation surrounding it, making many ecosystems bare if it isn’t removed.

MNA has also used prescribed burns and herbicide to remove larger amounts of knapweed in sanctuaries. Simply pulling knapweed when it is extremely abundant wouldn’t prove effective; burns and chemicals have helped to reduce the occurrence of the plant.

For more information on spotted knapweed, see Michigan State University’s Agriculture and Natural Resources website here.

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

Volunteers and stewards help pick knapweed at an MNA nature sanctuary. Photo courtesy of MNA archives

MNA is calling for volunteers to help pull spotted knapweed from different sanctuaries. The next pull will be hosted at the Calla Burr Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County on July 10 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

More upcoming knapweed removal events:

  •  July 22: Volunteer Day: Lefglen Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • July 25: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Calla Burr in Oakland County. Begins 9 a.m.
  • July 26: Spotted Knapweed Pull at Keweenaw Shores II Plant Preserve in Keweenaw County with Nancy Leonard. Begins 11 a.m.
  • August 9: Hike & Volunteer day: Redwyn’s Dunes in Keweenaw County. Begins 11 a.m.

Please contact the MNA office for more information about volunteering and preserving Michigan’s nature.