Walk to Big Valley

Walk to Big Valley
Thursday, July 26
6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Rose Township Hall
9080 Mason St, Holly, MI

Join the Rose Township Heritage Committee along with the Michigan Nature Association for a nature and historical walk from the Rose Township Hall to an overlook of the Big Valley Nature Sanctuary – home to a high quality prairie fen (a unique and rare type of wetland with an array of interesting native plants and animal species including a small butterfly that is federally listed as endangered).

The program is for all ages (and free) and will begin with a short presentation in the lower level of the Rose Township Hall located at 9080 Mason Street. Afterwards there will be about a 2 mile walk (round trip). While walking we will pass one of the township’s historical homes with a very interesting history and some interesting geological features. Refreshments will be served. Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothing.

Please RSVP to Dianne Scheib-Snider, dianne@rosetownship.com, 248-634-6889

Big Valley

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Acquisition Expands Big Valley Nature Sanctuary

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

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A view of Big Valley Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Owen Perkins

MNA acquired a 22-acre addition to Big Valley Nature Sanctuary in December 2013, expanding the already existing sanctuary to 157 acres. The addition further protects quality wetlands and habitat for rare species.

The addition will add more than four acres of quality wetland, six acres of upland, 12 acres of lake and more than 750 feet of shoreline to the Oakland County sanctuary. The new property includes southern wet meadow, degraded oak barrens and part of a lake. The addition has a savanna remnant which includes 10 to 20 savanna/prairie species.

Portions of the addition were partially cleared for development, but it retains many native species. The lake is home to rare species and the addition of the land to the Big Valley Nature Sanctuary will aid in the protection of the flora and fauna that call the sanctuary home.

Keep an eye on the MNA Calendar of Events for opportunities to explore the sanctuary or volunteer.

MNA Staff Begins Burn Season at Big Valley

By Mitch Lex

Photo courtesy of Eugene Lidster

On Thursday March 22, Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon set out with fellow MNA Regional Stewardship Organizers Katherine Hollins and Matt Schultz to conduct the first set of controlled burns of the season. One of them was at Big Valley Nature Sanctuary. With the assistance of five volunteers, the stewardship staff was able to successfully burn 10 acres of the Big Valley sanctuary—a process that is vital to the ecological health of the prairie fen and oak upland communities found there.

The essential burn invigorates the native flora and fauna at the sanctuary by damaging the encroaching woody overgrowth, and creates additional opportunity for sun to infiltrate the understory and create future habitat. Without prescribed burns, hardwood canopies can become too dense and crowd out the essential undergrowth altering the composition of the prairie and forest floors. Invasive species such as the autumn olive and dogwood are kept in check by prescribed burns.

Photo courtesy of Eugene Lidster

Several rare insect species found at Big Valley Nature Sanctuary as well as numerous species of snake also depend on burning for the long term survival of the population. The endangered tamarack tree cricket and poweshiek skipperling both rely on the open canopy characteristics found in prairie fens at Big Valley. To protect reptiles, insects and other species that have difficulties escaping burns, MNA patrols the burn unit prior to the burn and moves individuals out of the area. Smaller units are burned in sanctuaries with fire-sensitive species to protect the overall population. Backing fire is used as much as possible in sites with more reptiles, giving them more time to take cover.

Photo courtesy of Eugene Lidster

Although prescribed burning is essential to the protection of many of MNA’s sanctuaries, it does not come without risk. The MNA staff plans out burn units several months in advance and must track the burn history of each sanctuary to ensure the areas of most concern are being treated. Following a burn, MNA monitors the results.

Starting Forest Fires: The Logic Behind Prescribed Burns

By Megan Clute

Imagine driving along the highway, watching the landscape pass you by, when all of a sudden you spot smoke billowing from the treetops. The flames weave in and out of the surrounding brush until the blackened soil is the only thing remaining. To most people, the thought of wildfires and burning forests is quite daunting. The image of trees and brush falling victim to a wall of flames does not typically carry a positive connotation; however, fires of this sort are continuously being started across the state – on purpose.

Burn at Karner Blue Sanctuary in 2008. Photo courtesy of Chris Hoving.

The logic behind this lies within the concept of prescribed/controlled burning. Prescribed burning is a technique used to manage prairie and savanna habitats. In other words, controlled fires are used to stimulate germination and refresh the understory in the designated area. They can also be used to reduce invasive species. This method has been used since the pre-agricultural era to replicate the fires that would naturally occur in the forest to regulate plant and animal life.

Prescribed burns are closely planned and implemented by specially trained individuals, including MNA staff. Local fire departments are notified prior to each burn to promote safety, ensure coordination, and complete local permitting requirements. Temperature, wind speeds, direction, and humidity are some factors that are taken into consideration when choosing to perform a burn, as the wrong combination of weather and fire can prove to be very dangerous and destructive.

Big Valley burn March 22, 2012. Photo courtesy of Eugene Lidster.

The MNA conducts prescribed burns at its sanctuaries on a regular basis to manage woody encroachment and promote native plant growth. Recently, there have been burns at Butternut Creek, Big Valley, Sand Creek Prairie, Campbell Memorial, and Lefglen nature sanctuaries. For more information on prescribed burns and how to participate in one, please contact the MNA office at (517) 655-5655.