Spring 2017 Michigan Nature Magazine

MNA is no stranger to the fight to protect vulnerable species. For 65 years MNA has worked hard to secure and restore habitat and manage lands so rare plants and animals have a chance. A new endangered species listing hits hard even when it comes with the good news that federal protections will be put in place to help recover the species.

It also hits hard because of the news from Washington D.C. and Lansing about proposed deep cuts to programs that protect these vulnerable species.

The current political climate underscores the foresight of MNA’s founders. 65 years ago, a small group of spirited individuals took matters into their own hands and established an organization to do what they felt government was ignoring. How many more endangered species listings would there be without groups like MNA?

So today when so many headlines bring dismay, you only need to open the pages of Michigan Nature to find some really terrific stories of great work to protect our natural heritage. Stories made possible by people who deeply care and give from the heart – landowners, members, donors, volunteers and you.

Partnerships and collaboration are key. If the last 65 years have taught us anything, they’ve taught us that we cannot do it alone.

MNA’s mission brings people together so we can build a brighter future. We have been doing so for 65 years and will continue to do so for the next 65 years and beyond. Thank you for doing your part.

Spring 17 magazine cover

Brockway Mountain, Butterflies, and Natural Shorelines: this week in environmental news

Residents split over approved cell phone tower (ABC 10 News): The view of the majestic Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor will soon be changed forever. The FCC gave its stamp of approval for a new cell phone tower to be placed on top of the Mountain. Supporters say the 199 foot tower will provide Verizon customers in the area with cell phone service and most importantly, access to 911 service on a cell phone. Though the addition of cell service is welcomed by many residents of the area, a group opposed to the tower has been fighting to have it placed anywhere but on Brockway. They claim that Brockway Mountain belongs to everyone, and its purpose is to give people access to a beautiful, unspoiled view.

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A black swallowtail. Photo: Creative Commons

Buffs boost black swallowtail as best bet for state butterfly (Great Lakes Echo): The black swallowtail would flit over Michigan as the official butterfly of the state if recently proposed legislation is approved. The black swallowtail was picked since it is a fulltime Michigan resident. Designating the swallowtail as the state butterfly can lead to teaching opportunities. Butterflies are part of the nature food chain, they’re beautiful and pleasing to the eye, and they’re pollinators.

Workshop teaches about the importance of natural shorelines on inland lakes (MSU Extension): The Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership (MNSP), a diverse group of statewide partners including MSU Extension, MDEQ, and Michigan Lake & Stream Associations whose goals are to train contractors and landscape professionals who work at the water’s edge and educate lake residents about the importance of natural shorelines. They also provide demonstrations of shoreline landscapes that people can visit and encourage local and state policies that continue to promote local natural shoreline management. The Protecting Your Shoreline: A Workshop for Inland Lakefront Property Owners offers three separate trainings in April and May.

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Monarch butterfly with the Minneapolis skyline in the background. Photo: Kyle Daly/USFWS.

The Twin Cities of Minnesota Pledge to Help Monarch Butterflies (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Newsroom): The Twin Cities of Minnesota, and its communities, have recognized the importance of the monarch butterfly and all it stands for. Mayor Chris Coleman, of St. Paul, and Mayor Betsy Hodges, of Minneapolis, have joined forces to sign the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge, making the Twin Cities the 100th locale nationwide to take the Pledge. The Pledge is a National Wildlife Federation campaign working to empower mayors and local government chief executives to help save the declining monarch butterfly.

Brockway Mountain Challenge Yields Success

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

An autumn view from Brockway Mountain. Photo by J. Haara.

An autumn view from Brockway Mountain. Photo by J. Haara.

In only seven months, MNA has been able to surpass its fundraising goal in order to protect more of Brockway Mountain, adjacent to the James H. Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County.

In 2013, Eagle Harbor Township protected 320 acres of Brockway Mountain near the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary. Brockway Mountain is one of MNA’s top conservation priorities, and MNA learned of an opportunity to protect an additional 77 acres adjacent to this addition shortly after the acquisition.

MNA was able to raise $150,000, to protect the additional acres on Brockway Mountain. MNA had until December 2014 to meet this goal, but has been able to surpass it thanks to dedicated members and donors, including a special matching challenge grant by Donald and Karen Stearns. The organization has extended an invitation for the public to attend a meeting on June 21 from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. and a hike atop Brockway Mountain at the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary afterward.

The meeting will be held at the Eagle Harbor Community Center in Eagle Harbor, Mich. Lunch will be provided at the meeting and guests can RSVP by contacting Danielle Cooke at (866) 223-2231 or dcooke@michigannature.org.

Stewards and volunteers work together to maintain the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

Stewards and volunteers work together to maintain the Klipfel Nature Sanctuary. Photo via MNA archives.

The Klipfel Nature Sanctuary currently sits atop the bluff of Brockway Mountain and boasts a scenic coastal drive allowing for easy access to the area and an outstanding view of scenery and Lake Superior. Keweenaw’s harsh winds make the semi-alpine habitat an inhospitable climate for many plants but creates a unique ecological environment where sedges, grasses and wildflowers grow.

In the springtime, Brockway Mountain is a great place to bird-watch as the raptors make their way to their Canadian breeding sites. These birds can be observed in flight close along the cliffs, a distance much shorter than normally observed.

MNA continues to extend protection to Brockway Mountain, whose drive has been described as one of the most scenic coastal drives in the United States. MNA has been successful thanks to many generous donations and will be able to continue preservation of Brockway Mountain’s legacy of beautiful vistas and unique ecological composition.

 

Protecting Brockway Mountain

Earlier this year, MNA confirmed an option to purchase an additional 77 acres of land adjacent to the James H. Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary along the Keweenaw Peninsula’s famed Brockway Mountain Drive.

In order to purchase this land and protect it forever, MNA will need to raise more than $150,000 by December 24, 2014. If MNA can make this happen, the total protected area around Brockway Mountain’s summit will total 557 acres, including a recent acquisition by Eagle Harbor Township.

Brockway Mountain and Brockway Mountain Drive. Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Brockway Mountain and Brockway Mountain Drive. Photo by Charlie Eshbach

Brockway Mountain provides semi-alpine habitat for various grasses, sedges and wildflowers, including purple cliff-brake fern and the green adder’s mouth orchid. It also provides one of the best opportunities in Michigan to observe raptors during their spring migration.

Brockway Mountain Drive has been described as one of the most scenic coastal drives in the United States. With an elevation of 1,320 feet, the drive offers stunning views of Lake Superior and the surrounding Keweenaw Peninsula, including views of Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor and the peninsula’s vast forests and sparkling inland lakes.

The drive was designed in 1932 and construction began in 1933 with funding from the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). It opened on October 14, 1933 and quickly became a popular destination for motorists. In December 1938, the Ironwood Daily Globe declared that “at least one million persons” had traveled on the road the first five years it was open, sparking a tourist boom in the area.

Brockway Mountain Drive is the highest scenic road between the Alleghenies and the Rockies and plays a vital role in the tourist economy of Keweenaw County. Protecting the beauty of the Brockway Mountain and Brockway Mountain Drive benefits both wildlife and the local community.

If you would like to help protect the critical habitat and beautiful outlooks on Brockway Mountain by donating funds toward MNA’s purchase of the additional 77 acres now under option, please contact MNA’s Executive Director Garret Johnson at (866) 223-2231, or gjohnson@michigannature.org.

Saving the Summit of Brockway Mountain

By Alex Paris

“Duck!” is a word likely to be heard while hiking up Brockway Mountain. Raptors, flying at eye-level, are among the tens of thousands of birds that migrate through the property.  Though publicly accessible, the privately held land is en route to becoming property of Eagle Harbor Township.

View from Brockway Mountain. Photo: Russell Harrison Photography - Wikimedia Commons

The township has been recommended a $498,000 grant by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund toward the $680,000 acquisition cost. Another $100,000 is being provided by The Nature Conservancy, while the remainder is currently being filled by donations from individuals and groups like MNA.

With sweeping coastal views and ecological value, the plot has obvious allure to many, from geologists to those with wanderlust.  Less obvious is that the plot has strategic value as “the keystone acquisition on the east end of the Keweenaw Coastal Wildlife Corridor (KCWC),” according to Eagle Harbor Township.

The 320-acre acquisition is just one step in the KCWC land conservation program. Eagle Harbor Township spearheads the KCWC project, with supporting contributions from local governments and organizations such as MNA, which has five sanctuaries adding 403 acres to the massive project. The purchase is expected to come to a close during the summer of 2012.

For information about donating to the Brockway Mountain Project, check out the Eagle Harbor Township website!

Brockway Mountain Summit. Photo: Eagle Harbor Township

MNA Asks for Reconsideration of Brockway Cell Tower

By Allie Jarrell

Lake Superior View from Brockway Mountain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In January 2012, MNA President Stephen Kelley sent a letter on behalf of MNA asking the Keweenaw County Zoning Board of Appeals to reconsider its decision to erect a 220-plus-foot cell phone tower on Brockway Mountain. Four MNA sanctuaries are on Brockway Mountain Drive, near the tower’s proposed location. MNA believes that the addition of the tower will unnecessarily injure and kill migratory birds, negatively impact scenic values and visitor experiences, and potentially result in a net negative economic impact.

Since 1973 MNA has been involved with conserving land in Keweenaw County, and now owns a total of 15 nature sanctuaries there including the four Brockway Mountain Drive properties. These sanctuaries not only conserve land, but promote tourism that would be negatively impacted by the 23-story tower. Scenic vistas will be interrupted by buildings and lights, and visitors will be confronted with the tower base, fencing and wires. In addition, migratory birds, such as eagles, falcons and hawks, are expected to suffer increased mortality rates, which is detrimental to a site that acts as a resting place for as many as 100 bald eagles on some days. Running electrical lines throughout the mountain will also cause further loss of rare plants and corridors for wildlife movement on the ground.

MNA urges the county to work to reduce the anticipated negative wildlife and scenic impacts, and to instead develop a solution that honors their claim to be “Michigan’s Scenic, Historic, and Recreation Wonderland.”

Brockway Mountain Drive Panorama. Photo: Wikimedia Commons