April 22 marks Earth Day’s 43rd anniversary

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Western hemisphere of globe

On April 22, more than one billion people around the world will participate in the 43rd Earth Day. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and NASA.

What are you doing April 22?

Will you be at work? At school? Running errands? Helping the planet?

If you plan to volunteer and help the environment, you’re not alone—April  22 is the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, a day where more than one billion people around the globe celebrate the earth and take action to protect it.

Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after he witnessed the severe damage caused by the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969. Nelson was inspired by the student movement opposing the war in Vietnam and believed he could put environmental protection on the national political agenda by taking that type of energy and coupling it with the emerging public awareness about air and water pollution. He built a staff of 85 people to promote events across the country, and on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in organized protests and rallies for a healthy, sustainable environment.

Earth Day in 1970 brought together all types of Americans—Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, urban and rural—and was part of the spark that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. In 1990, Earth Day went global, putting environmental protection on the world stage and gathering support from 200 million people in 141 countries. For its 40th anniversary in 2010, Earth Day Network launched its A Billion Acts of Green campaign, which “inspires and rewards both simple individual acts and larger organizational initiatives that reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.” Today, Earth Day Network has recorded more than 1.01 billion acts of green.

The 2013 Earth Day campaign, called The Face of Climate Change, seeks to capture the many faces of climate change: those affected by climate change and those working to fix the problem. Until April 22, the Earth Day Network is collecting pictures of people, animals and places that are directly affected or threatened by climate change, as well as images of people who are attempting to do something about it. On and around Earth Day, the Earth Day Network will show an interactive digital display of these images at thousand of events throughout the world—including next to federal government buildings in the countries that produce the most carbon pollution. In addition to showing the effects of climate change, this campaign will highlight the power of individuals that come together and take action across the world. The team hopes to inspire leaders and citizens to act and fight against climate change.

This Earth Day, you can help the planet and volunteer in your own backyard! MNA has volunteer days on April 22 at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary in Cass County, Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Lenawee County and Big Valley Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County. Check out our events calendar for more details.

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Upcoming Volunteer Days Focus on Invasive Species

Volunteer Kali Bird cuts buckthorn at Columbia Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County

Volunteer Kali Bird cuts buckthorn at Columbia Nature Sanctuary in Jackson County

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Throughout the year, MNA hosts a variety of volunteer days to give the public an opportunity to visit and help out at nature sanctuaries. Many of MNA’s volunteer days focus on removing invasive species from the sanctuaries. This year, the volunteer days tackle three main species: autumn olive, glossy buckthorn and garlic mustard.

Autumn olive and glossy buckthorn are both invasive shrubs that produce leaves early in the spring and retain them late into the fall. This causes a problem for native species, because autumn olive and glossy buckthorn shade out these native species and reduce species diversity.

Participants for the March volunteer days will most likely be removing autumn olive, glossy buckthorn and other invasive shrubs from the sanctuaries. The majority of the volunteer days in April focus on garlic mustard, one of Michigan’s worst wetland weeds.

Garlic mustard completes its life cycle in two years. During the first year, garlic mustard sprouts little green clusters of three to four rounded leaves with scalloped edges. The plant stays green through summer and into winter, which makes it easy to look for invasions during that year. In the second year, however, garlic mustard shoots up a 20- to 40-inch stalk with tiny white flowers and leaves with toothed edges. The flowers pollinate quickly, and mature seeds are dispersed by wind. The plant disappears by August, causing many to forget about it and inaccurately believe it’s gone away. Garlic mustard is rapidly dominating the forest floor, changing the woodland habitat for native species.

Regional stewardship organizer Katherine Hollins said volunteers at the Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary in Livingston County on March 3 will be using loppers and hand saws to cut invasive shrubs, primarily autumn olive. Once the shrubs are cut, volunteers paint the stumps with herbicide so the plant doesn’t resprout. Hollins said there will be a tutorial once the volunteer group reaches the worksite. There will also be guides to assist the volunteers who aren’t familiar with the species they’re cutting, so no experience is necessary.

MNA volunteer days aren’t just an opportunity to help rid the land of invasive species—they’re a great time to visit a nearby sanctuary, as well.

“It’s usually fun to visit sanctuaries in the winter because you can often see more,” Hollins said. “Without the leaves to block your view, you get a better sense of the topography of the sanctuary, you can sometimes see birds better, and there are often animal tracks that wouldn’t be obvious except for the snow.”

Upcoming MNA volunteer days:

  • Saturday, March 2: Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary (Livingston County)
  • Wednesday, March 6: Big Valley Nature Sanctuary (Oakland County)
  • Wednesday, March 20: H.E. Hardy Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Livingston County)
  • Thursday, March 21: Saginaw Wetlands Nature Sanctuary (Huron County)
  • Saturday, March 23: Alton D. McGraw Memorial Plant Preserve (St. Clair County)
  • Monday, April 15: Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County)
  • Wednesday, April 17: Shiawassee River Plant Preserve (Shiawassee County)
  • Friday, April 19: Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve (Washtenaw County)
  • Monday, April 22: Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)
  • Monday, April 22: Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary (Lenawee County)
  • Monday, April 22: Big Valley Nature Sanctuary (Oakland County)
  • Wednesday, April 24: Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)
  • Friday, April 26: Hamilton Township Coastal Plain Marsh (Van Buren County)
  • Saturday, April 27: Coldwater River Plant Preserve (Kent County)
  • Sunday, April 28: Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary (Cass County)

For more information about MNA’s upcoming events, check out the events calendar.

Volunteers at a recent workday at Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary in Lenawee County

Volunteers at a recent workday at Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary in Lenawee County

Michigan Tech Students Make a Difference at MNA Sanctuaries

Michigan Techline Group

The Michigan Techline Group helped out at Keweenaw Shores II

By Nancy Leonard

Make a Difference Day is a national day of helping others – a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Everyone can participate. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, Make a Difference Day is an annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October.  The leaders of Michigan Technological University encourage their students to help their neighbors in the Keweenaw on Make a Difference Day, and this year, an overwhelming 700 MTU students volunteered their time throughout the community.

For the second year in a row, steward Nancy Leonard with the help of naturalist Karena Schmidt welcomed a group of  21 enthusiastic volunteers at Keweenaw Shores II Nature Sanctuary.  This class C sanctuary protects 100 feet of spectacular conglomerate Lake Superior shoreline and the rare and threatened plants that reside there.  The day’s project was the careful removal of invasive spotted knapweed that threatens the fragile rocky shoreline environment.

Students Digging

MTU students digging a water bar at Estivant Pines

Meanwhile, at Estivant Pines, stewards Ted Solden and Charlie Eshbach, assisted by volunteer Peter Ekstrom, worked with a group of 10 student volunteers. The students carried lumber, cleaned and built new water bars, and rebuilt a rock stairway on the sanctuary’s Cathedral Loop.

Group along shore

The volunteer group at Keweenaw Shores II spread out across the shoreline

After several hours of work at both sanctuaries, all the students were pleased that they could actually make a difference in the Keweenaw and MNA was thrilled to have their help!  Thank you to everyone who spent the day with us to protect Michigan’s natural heritage.

If you’re interested in helping out at an MNA sanctuary in your area, visit MNA’s calendar of events for a list of volunteer days.

Volunteers Make Wilcox-Warnes Work Day a Success

By Megan Clute

On Saturday, March 10th, MNA members and volunteers had the opportunity to help clean up the Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary by participating in a Volunteer Day devoted to ridding the sanctuary of invasive species. Approximately 6-8 community members and first-time volunteers spent this warm March day removing buckthorn from the sanctuary to protect the native plant life.

Volunteers help to remove invasive species at Wilcox-Warnes. Photo: Katherine Hollins

According to MNA Regional Stewardship Organizer, Katherine Hollins, participants were able to remove a large amount of young buckthorn by hand-pulling, as well as using saws and herbicides for the bigger plants. As an invasive species to the sanctuary, buckthorn provides a threat to other plants by producing shade that prevents other vegetation from growing. Buckthorn can also crowd out other plant life, which can kill native species. According to Hollins, buckthorn is always growing in this sanctuary, as “seeds can stay viable for 8 years.” Because of this, MNA is always looking for new volunteers and participants for workdays at Wilcox-Warnes as well as the many other sanctuaries across the state. For a list of upcoming Volunteer Days and other MNA events, please visit the MNA Events Calendar.

Macomb County’s Wilcox-Warnes Nature Sanctuary has been an MNA property since 1975, but was originally part of a land-grant awarded by Andrew Jackson in 1833. As one of the MNA’s Showcase Sanctuaries, Wilcox-Warnes is a sanctuary that features a diverse habitat, with areas containing both mature and mesic-southern forests. Other interesting characteristics of this sanctuary include its distinct plant and animal life. With tulip trees, monkeyflowers, warblers, and even great horned owls, this sanctuary is sure to create a unique experience for each visitor.