Recognizing Outstanding Volunteers in 2017


Cover photo

2017 Volunteer & Donor Recognition Dinner

Thank you for joining MNA as we recognized the donors and volunteers who make our
continued success possible! The 2017 Volunteer & Donor Recognition Dinner
honored those who dedicate countless hours to MNA and reflected on another year of success.

The night was filled with entertainment, including a special silent auction to benefit
MNA’s Environmental Education Fund and a live performance by Lansing’s soul-blues master, Root Doctor!


Award Recipients

During the ceremony, MNA honored the following individuals for their
commitment to protecting Michigan’s natural heritage:

Richard W. Holzman Award:
Margaret Welsch

Frederick W. Case, Jr. Environmental Educator of the Year Award:
Deb Iwema

Mason and Melvin Schafer Distinguished Service Award:
Bill Atkinson

Volunteer of the Year Award:
Dan Burton
Brett Harris
Bill Houston
Phil Quenzi

Good Neighbor Award:
Valerie and John Vance
Clay DeGayner

Also a special congratulations to our 2017 Photo Contest winners,
Race for Michigan Nature 5K runners, and Eagle Scouts!

Like, share, and tag yourself in the photos from the dinner on our Facebook page!

We appreciate all you do for MNA’s mission and we hope to see you again next year!


DNR to celebrate 40 years of Endangered Species Act with week of events

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

The state of Michigan has hit a major milestone and the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, has decided to honor it in an extraordinary way: by hosting a week in honor of the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, from Aug. 4-10.

The ESA was signed into law on July 11, 1974 and came into effect on Sept. 1 of that year. The DNR invites Michiganders to join them at the nearest state park for an insightful lecture on what the ESA is and what it means for an animal to be classified as endangered or threatened.

Click here to find the schedule of events.

According to the DNR, one success that the ESA is the recovery of the rare Kirtland’s warbler. This bird has garnered attention from far and wide. In a release from the DNR, Specialist Dan Kenneday said “Michigan’s ESA has been pivotal in the recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler.”

A Kirtland's warbler in an MNA sanctuary. Photo by Cindy Mead.

A Kirtland’s warbler in an MNA sanctuary. Photo by Cindy Mead.

The ESA plays a large role in maintaining balance in Michigan’s wondrous natural habitats and ecosystems. Without laws protecting animals, habitat decline, pollution and other issues will continue to cause harm to animals and their homes throughout the state, which may compromise the health of Michigan’s invaluable natural scenery.

When a species is classified as endangered, it means that it is in danger of becoming extinct. There are also many other species listed as threatened and may be on the verge of being listed as endangered. The ESA is one step in finding methods to solve the problem of extinction and has already found success in the restoration of the Kirtland’s warbler.

MNA supports the efforts of the ESA and the DNR and congratulates them on the 40th anniversary of the act. Don’t miss a chance to celebrate the ESA! For more information about the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, click here.


MNA’s Fall Adventure to Explore the Irish Hills

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Tens of thousands of years ago, glacial debris formed rolling gravel hills and out wash plains across southern Michigan. Today, these landforms are still present, drawing tourists to see what is now known as Michigan’s Irish Hills. The area will be featured on MNA’s 2013 Fall Adventure, a weekend-long trip exploring sanctuaries in southeast Michigan. The Irish Hills include a combination of unique history, picturesque landscapes and over 50 lakes that have entertained and amused guests for centuries.


The Old Sauk Trail.

Located roughly in southeastern Jackson County and northwest Lenawee County, the Irish Hills land was settled by Irish immigrants from 1830 to 1850 and eventually became a popular stopping point for travelers along Old Sauk Trail. The trail itself has a very interesting background, as paleontologists have found evidence suggesting that it was a game trail running along the southern edge of forest line. The road had once been used by Native Americans and was later converted into a stagecoach road between Detroit and Chicago. The Irish Hills became a popular stopping point for travelers along this five-day journey, making it one of the state’s first tourist attractions in the 1920s.


Historic Walker Tavern.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Along the Old Sauk Trail sits Walker Tavern, a historic site that was once a small restaurant for passing travelers. The tavern is one of twelve sites in the State of Michigan Historic Museum system, and it is open for touring. Though never proven true, it is believed that early American statesman Daniel Webster once stayed in the tavern. On MNA’s Fall Adventure, participants will be able to visit Walker Tavern.

In addition to its unique history, the natural geology of the Irish Hills keeps visitors coming back year after year. The Irish Hills area is the highest elevated area in southern Michigan, with its rolling hills still showing evidence of early glacial activity. The hills are vibrant green in the summer and display shades of red, orange and yellow in the fall, providing visitors with great photo opportunities during these seasons. MNA’s Columbia Nature Sanctuary offers a spectacular example of the hills’ colors, which participants will be able to visit during the Fall Adventure. The Irish Hills area also includes some interesting waterways, as many of Michigan’s rivers have their headwaters in this area and eventually flow to both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.


The beautiful fall colors at Columbia Nature Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Ganley.

In addition to its beautiful geological features, the Irish Hills area includes a variety of habitats, including prairie fen, wet prairie and oak savanna-barrens-woodlands. Because of their rarity and diminishing nature in the Midwest, the area’s prairie habitats are especially important. Many rare plant and animal species can be found in the area’s prairies, offering a significant contribution to Michigan’s special diversity. Sand Creek Prairie Plant Preserve, one of six MNA preserves featured on the Fall Adventure, is home to many scarce and threatened plant species.

For decades, people have continued to visit the Irish Hills for its large lakes, beautiful scenery and unique attractions. Explore this beautiful and historic area by attending MNA’s 2013 Fall Adventure, Sep. 20-22. In addition to exploring the area’s geography and habitats, visitors will get to hear about research conducted at MNA sanctuaries and enjoy food from local eateries. To reserve your spot on the trip, contact Danielle Cooke at (517)-655-5655 or We hope you’ll join us in witnessing the scenic Irish Hills!

Upcoming Wildflower Walkabout tour: Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

If you enjoy the smell of summer flowers, wide-open prairie, or a bit of ghost town mystery, be sure to join MNA for a guided tour of Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County. The tour will be held on Friday, July 12, at 1 p.m. as part of MNA’s 2013 Wildflower Walkabout. The sanctuary, which should be in full bloom this time of year, will feature an interesting bit of history in the midst of a beautiful prairie setting.

Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary displays 36 acres of open prairie, which is slightly out of place amidst the Upper Peninsula’s thick forests. Though the preserve has no trails, the sanctuary’s open expanse allows visitors to navigate with ease. The land’s short grasses allow for the growth of a diverse range of wildflowers, together creating an ideal habitat for birds, insects, and other native creatures.


A purple coneflower at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Strouse.

Summer flowers native to the area include prairie cinquefoil, toad flax and the sanctuary’s distinguishing feature: the pale purple coneflower. Fred Dye is one of two sanctuaries in Michigan where the purple coneflower is known to grow, and it can be identified by its thin, pink petals, which usually turn downward. Because coneflower taproots must dig deep into soil to obtain water, it has long been questioned how the species arrived in this thin-soiled location. Today, it is generally believed that the plant is a remnant of the past, as its seeds were in the hay fed to logging horses decades ago.

Among its wildflowers, Fred Dye is known for its bird species, many of which can be spotted year-round. Viewers can expect to see many breeding and migratory birds this time of year, as both thrive in this prairie habitat. Particularly, wild spruce grouse can be found in sandy areas of the sanctuary while ruby-throated hummingbirds roam its wildflowers.

Supporting many of its species is the sanctuary’s interesting Karst geology. Soluble bedrock, such as limestone and dolomite, is scattered throughout the area, and these rocks are decorated with algae, moss and lichen. Not only does this topography play a vital role in the sanctuary’s habitat formation, but it also makes it difficult for hardwood forests to develop in this area, contributing to the prairie landscape.


The logging town of Kenneth, MI in 1908.
Photo courtesy of MNA archives.

In addition to the natural features Fred Dye displays today, the sanctuary also shows traces of an interesting past. Many years before Fred Dye’s founding in 1970, the small town of Kenneth once existed at the site of the sanctuary. Though the town thrived from the logging and limestone business in the early twentieth century, it eventually became somewhat of a ghost town, with the foundations of the old general store and saloon still standing within the sanctuary’s boundaries.

To learn more about Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary’s diverse plant and animal species as well as its mysterious past, be sure to come along for MNA’s guided tour on July 12. For more information on this event or other Wildflower Walkabout tours, visit MNA’s website.

A Fascinating MNA Odyssey Tour Through Parsons Memorial

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Group of hikers

The group, including young members Gaby and Gwen, hike through Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Tina Patterson

Wow, mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere!  What fun to see all the different colors and kinds of mushrooms that can be found at the Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Sanctuary.  After 15 sanctuaries we finally had a proliferation of fungus, and what fun to share the day with our youngest participants so far: the Sherwood girls of Farwell, Michigan. Gaby and Gwen showed great interest in all they were seeing and learned to follow a trail by looking for the blue diamonds. We were lucky to have the participation of so many knowledgeable hikers, helping the girls learn about what we saw along the trail. This was the first sanctuary that we visited where the hike was led by a family member, Buzz Parsons, whose parents, Mahlon and Alta Parsons, determined that these 80 acres should remain free from development. It was a special treat to be escorted by Buzz, whose sense of humor and knowledge was an invaluable asset. Continue reading

Winter Field Trip Reveals Greater-Than-Expected Animal Life in Shelby Township

By Yang Zhang

More than two dozen nature lovers took to the snowy trails Jan. 29, exploring the Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary in Shelby Township.

The field trip, organized by the Michigan Nature Association and Hiking Michigan, introduced participants to the beauty of nature at one of the only natural areas in an otherwise developed area.

The 45-acre land was purchased by MNA in 1977. Martha Wolfe, co-steward at the sanctuary, said the land provides habitat for wildlife including many endangered species.

“It’s like a little jewel in the middle of the suburbs here,” she said.

Wolfe has worked as a steward at the sanctuary for approximately six years. She frequently visits the woods and has spotted deer, wild turkeys and other animals.

Rob Golda, director of Hiking Michigan, a club that leads free hikes and outdoor activities, led the field trip along snow-covered winding trails and taught people how to identify animal tracks.

“We want to show people places to return to in the summer,” he said.

Golda noted that many participants came from the area but never knew there was such a natural place nearby.

Along the trails, Golda helped hikers identify different animal tracks, including deer and squirrels. Participants were thrilled when they found the tracks from a flock of turkeys numbering more than 20.

“It’s the fun of hiking in winter,” Golda said, referring to the tracks.

MNA has marked trails and built fences in the sanctuary to make it more accessible to the public. Volunteers help pick up trash and remove invasive species, such as glossy buckthorn.

“This place is beautiful and so close to home for me,” said field trip participant Kathy Larson. She lives two miles away from the sanctuary but had never visited it. She will definitely visit the natural area again in the summer, she said.

Katherine Hollins, MNA’s regional stewardship organizer, planned the event and was happy that so many people attended. It was a great opportunity to let people learn about MNA and the special natural areas the organization protects.

Many of the participants showed an interest in MNA, and said they intend to become members and volunteers.

If you would like to become a member, or get more information about the MNA Mission, please visit our website at

Also, MNA is currently seeking volunteers for two events at the Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary; one Feb. 8 to manage invasive species and the other March 26 to promote natural awareness at a youth event. If you are interested in volunteering at the Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary, contact Regional Stewardship Coordinator Katherine Hollins at 517-525-2627 or

If you are interested in other events around the state of Michigan, please visit our event calendar.

Water in danger around the world and in Michigan

by Hannah Ettema
MNA Intern

Earth’s most precious resource is under threat. Of water supplies around the world, 80 percent are in danger according to a new study featured in National Geographic news online.  Not only is 80 percent of water in danger, but two-thirds of the world’s river habitats are threatened. It’s not too late though; experts say that if we, “work with nature,” the water can be secured for future uses.

And the United States east of the Rockies is listed as a hotspot of concern.

The Michigan Nature Association (MNA) is constantly working to protect water systems around the state. “Any sanctuary that has water, we are working to protect it,” says Andy Bacon, MNA stewardship coordinator.

MNA also works to protect the high-quality of the water systems by promoting the diverse plant life and the balance of the ecosystem through:

  • Protecting riparian zones
  • Eradicating invasive species
  • Controlled burns

The Riparian Zone

riparian zone

A well preserved riparian strip on a tributary to Lake Erie.

Many MNA efforts go towards protecting the riparian zone of rivers and creeks. A riparian zone is the area where land and a slow-moving body of water meet and is crucial for maintaining the water quality of a river.

A healthy, undeveloped riparian zone helps to control runoff and dissipate stream energy, which in turn prevents soil erosion and a reduction in flood damage. The riparian zone also allows uptake of nutrients and release of pollutants.

Invasive Species

Invasive species to a habitat, especially to water systems, can be harmful if not removed.

In the Edwin and Margarita Palmer Memorial sanctuary in Kalamazoo county and Goose Creek Grasslands sanctuary in Lenawee county, the glossy buckthorn shrub is periodically removed by MNA volunteers to help the ecosystem.

Buckthorn bush

Invasive glossy buckthorn

The buckthorn has the potential to take over the area, especially floodplains or open communities and force the loss of the diversity of the system. The roots of the buckthorn are less able to slow down water and catch nutrients than native species. If the buckthorn were to spread completely over an open community it would shade out all other plants, which would be damaging for the water system in the community.

In Goose Creek Grasslands sanctuary, seed has been transferred in the sanctuary to instigate re-colonization by diverse native species in areas where invasive species growth has occurred.


controlled burn

A controlled burn at Saginaw Wetlands

Another method of protection for water systems is burning. This year plant life in Sand Creek Prairie sanctuary in Hillsdale county and Goose Creek Grasslands sanctuary were burned to help invigorate plant communities along creeks.

Controlled burns are necessary for systems because the ecosystems originally developed and depended upon fire. It is believed that Native Americans instituted controlled burns in oak, prairie and some dryer wet-prairie systems as a means to drive game, grow crops, or for defensive purposes.

Fires are necessary today to reintroduce the means which led to the original plant diversity.  For example, without burns an oak-hickory system would have secondary forest growth by faster growing trees such as birch and ash. The secondary forest growth would then create more shade and cause the amount of penetrating sunlight to drop from 30 percent to only 5 percent. The increase in shade would then in turn cause temperature and humidity shifts, disrupting the ecosystem.

Today controlled burns are carefully planned and executed. Fire breaks, which can be any barrier from lakes and stream to sidewalks are established first. Burning against the wind, the fire is started and a safety zone is established to prevent the flames from jumping outside the burn area. Eventually the entire burn area is scorched. Systems that have been burned in early spring typically take about a month for plants to re-grow.

Burns allow for the proper plants to grow and continue to filter and clean water, allowing ecosystems to flourish.

On December 6, MNA’s Saginaw Wetlands sanctuary will be prepared for a controlled burn this spring. If you would like to help, click here.

Among the areas east of the Rockies, Michigan is in good shape. “Michigan has so much water that it can replenish itself, and is one of the most sustainable water systems in the world,” Andy says.

If you would like to help protect our water systems, volunteer days in these sanctuaries and more can be found on the MNA events calendar.

We appreciate the time and effort the volunteers and members of MNA put toward protecting Michigan and its water systems.