MNA Acquires New Wetland Sanctuary in Van Buren County

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Christmas came early for MNA this past year! We purchased the Great Bear Swamp Nature Sanctuary in Van Buren County in December 2012. This particular sanctuary was chosen for its wetland values and expands protection of the Black River Riparian Corridor.

The new sanctuary

Great Bear Swamp Nature Sanctuary

The swamp at the Great Bear Swamp Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Matt Schultz.

The Great Bear Swamp Nature Sanctuary, located near Breedsville, is composed entirely of forested wetlands and floods heavily during wet periods of the year. The seasonally flooded wetlands should provide habitat for amphibians, while the forest provides habitat for songbirds, woodpeckers, and wood ducks. Most of the sanctuary consists of southern hardwood swamp, with silver maple as the dominant canopy tree.  Other species that grow there include green ash, cottonwood and sycamore. The sanctuary also protects the shore of a small kettle lake.

The new sanctuary is included in a stretch of the Black River Riparian Corridor between Bangor and Gobles, and this corridor also includes MNA’s Black River Nature Sanctuary and the mouth of the Great Bear Lake Drain. This 1,800-acre corridor includes a great blue heron rookery and populations of spotted turtle and blandings turtle.

The Great Bear Swamp Nature Sanctuary is a class “C” sanctuary, which means visitors should coordinate visits with the regional organizer, steward, or MNA office prior to visitation. Though the sanctuary protects plants and wildlife, it is not very visitor-friendly; the area is very wet and there are no trails or visitor amenities planned.

 Protecting the land

MNA’s stewardship team plans to manage the sanctuary by controlling invasive shrubs that threaten the shrubby wetlands along the marsh of the lake, marking the boundaries of the sanctuary, and conducting botanical and wildlife surveys. Through these actions, they hope to protect the ecological integrity of the sanctuary, protect flooding and wetland functions, and better understand the sanctuary’s ecology.

For more information on MNA sanctuaries and stewardship, visit the MNA website.