The next time you swim along the coastline of Lake Michigan or take a scenic hike through the forests of Upper Peninsula, stop for a second. Look around. Behind the beautiful beaches, the scenic vistas, and the pristine forests we all enjoy visiting, there’s a lot of hard work going on.
For more than 60 years, the Michigan Chapter of the Nature Conservancy has worked to protect our local lands and waters for people and for nature. In fact, land conservation is what we’re known for. But protecting natural spaces across the state goes far beyond identifying important lands and setting them aside for conservation. It requires constant planning, maintenance, and man hours across a wide range of habitats, from coastlines to forests to prairies.
“Stewardship is the heart and soul of what we do,” said Chris May, Director of Restoration in Michigan. “Without a thorough understanding of what the land needs to thrive, and then a game plan to consistently execute that care, we wouldn’t see the kind of conservation results on our preserves that we’re enjoying today.”
Restoration and stewardship involves everything from long-term conservation planning to the on-the-ground execution of surveying species, weeding invasive plants, performing prescribed burns, and so much more. When done correctly, the results are stunning.
This year, for example, we’ve seen 19 massasagua rattlesnakes at our Ives Road Fen Preserve and endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterflies in new parts of the Grand River watershed. In our Two Hearted River Forest Reserve in the Upper Peninsula, we completed a successful sustainable timber harvest in this area that promoted regeneration of diverse trees species including hemlock, white pine and yellow birch. We improved trails at our Carl A. Gerstacker Nature Preserve at Dudley Bay and the Grass Bay Preserve near the tip of the Lower Peninsula. And we established the 574-acre Kenneth R. Luneack Preserve in Oscoda County.
Additionally, the Conservancy has been thinking, planning and achieving restoration and stewardship success at a larger scale – whole landscapes. This approach allows us to address all the threats to our conservation work, such as climate change, water quality and nutrient loading, which occur at watershed, regional, or even global scales and are not limited by geographical boundaries.
“It’s not enough to think about stewardship on one preserve, or in one forest, or along one riverfront,” said State Director Helen Taylor. “For restoration to work, stewardship goals and objectives have to match up across state, national and even international lines.”
Read our new Michigan Natural Areas Restoration Report – download the pdf!