MNA Acquires New Sanctuary in St. Joseph County

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA acquired a new sanctuary! The new sanctuary, Hidden Oaks Nature Sanctuary in St. Joseph County, protects 42 acres of emergent marsh, tamarack swamp, and sedge-dominant wet meadow. The site was chosen for its wetland values and will help protect the Flowerfield Creek riparian corridor.

Hidden Oaks is located in northwest St. Joseph County, just west of the confluence of Spring Creek and Flowerfield Creek. Almost the entire sanctuary is wetland, aside from the northwest corner, which contains a dry-mesic southern forest and a small, upland hill.

Hidden Oaks Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Andy Bacon.

Hidden Oaks Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Andy Bacon.

Hidden Oaks provides various natural services to the environment. The sanctuary protects water quality along Flowerfield Creek, provides floodwater storage during periods of high water, and is a source of wildlife habitat.

Hidden Oaks’ natural features currently face two threats: invasive species and habitat transition. Invasive species found in the sanctuary include reed canary grass, phragmites, and invasive shrubs. In addition, the absence of fire and other disturbance at the sanctuary is allowing the open, sedge-dominated wet meadow areas of the sanctuary to transition to shrub-dominated areas. If this continues, the micro-habitat provided by the tussock sedge will be lost, along with much of the forb diversity.

MNA stewards plan to minimize the encroachment of shrubs and protect wetland diversity through a burn regime and treating all invasive shrubs. They also plan to get a better understanding of the sanctuary’s ecology by conducting botanical and wildlife surveys in the coming year.

Hidden Oaks is a Class C sanctuary, which means that visitors should get authorization from the MNA office, regional stewardship organizer or steward before visiting the sanctuary.

For information about other MNA sanctuaries, check out the MNA website.