2017 has been an eventful year for The Nature Conservancy here in Michigan! From the city of Detroit to the northern forests of the Upper Peninsula, we have been working hard across the state to conserve the lands and waters on which we all depend.
As we reflect on all that we’ve accomplished, we wanted to give thanks to all who contribute their time and resources toward our mission and share with you some of our favorite moments from this past year.
From the Forest to the Floor: Two Hearted Forest Reserve Timber Used in 2017 NCAA Sport Courts
In March of 2017, timber sustainably harvested from the Conservancy’s Two Hearted River Forest Reserve in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was made into floors for the nation’s top college men’s and women’s basketball championship games. The wood was sourced directly from our Forest Stewardship Council-certified forest, ensuring that it was managed responsibly for their environmental, social and economic benefits. We were proud to highlight a sustainable timber harvest, and resulting product, to such a large audience.
The Nature Conservancy Marches for Science
On Earth Day, The Nature Conservancy’s Michigan chapter participated in the March for Science in Lansing, and had a presence at several other marches throughout the state. This event was a great opportunity to share our work and raise awareness for the critical role of
science in achieving our mission.
Spring Treasure Hunt
In May, we also hosted our annual Spring Treasure Hunt event, held this year at our Erie Marsh Preserve, located just an hour south of Detroit. Erie Marsh contains 11% of the remaining coastal wetlands in southeast Michigan, but despite all the wildlife benefits of this preserve, a lot of love is needed to restore its highly degraded areas. During this field trip, expert restoration ecologists led groups through the preserve and shared the latest techniques we’ve been implementing to protect this special place.
African Great Lakes to Great Lakes Initiative
In early May, Associate State Director Patrick Doran attended the African Great Lakes Summit, a critical initiative to increase coordination, strengthen capacity and inform policy in the African Great Lakes region.
Following the conference, the Michigan Chapter developed “African Great Lakes Inform”, an information platform with initial content compiled from the summit to support future conservation work in the region. We also announced the creation of the “African Great Lakes Conservation Fund”, via a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, to provide financial support for some of the projects presented. This call for proposals attracted 32 project concepts from countries throughout the region and abroad, totaling USD $3.2 million.
Saginaw Bay Pay-for-Performance Program Produces Results
The Saginaw Bay Pay-for-Performance Project provides annual payments to local farmers based on the sediment load reductions they achieve implementing soil conservation practices. This year we enrolled 13 land owners, who implemented 32 different conversation projects across 2,440 acres. Because of their efforts, 465 tons of sediment on 1,047 pounds of phosphorus was kept out of local waterways.
Restoring Our Erie Marsh Preserve
In 2011, we started a large-scale, multi-phased restoration project on our 946-acre Erie Marsh Preserve to improve water quality, control invasive species, and reconnect the preserve to Lake Erie.
This year we moved into the second phase of our restoration work which focuses on restoring 200 acres of wetlands! Through the installation of various levees, canals andwater control structures, we are able to regulate the water levels and improve the diversity and quality of this valuable wetland habitat.
Mapping Green Infrastructure in Detroit
In 2014, the City of Detroit and stakeholders identified the need for an online information repository to track green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) activities across the city. To address this need, The Nature Conservancy, with partners Greening of Detroit and Issue Media Group, successfully developed a prototype for a Green Infrastructure Mapping and Knowledgebase tool.
This year, the project team has started creating a central resource website which maps the city’s GSI installations. This interactive resource will provide a holistic view of existing GSI projects, and will help the City of Detroit and local organizations in understanding, planning and coordinating future projects.
Blue Accounting Website Debut
Hundreds of different groups, across eight states and two provinces, are investing billions of dollars into protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. This past October, the Great Lakes Commission and The Nature Conservancy launched their new website, www.blueaccounting.org, at the 2017 Leadership Summit of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers in Detroit. This website will help local leaders manage their resources in a more collaborative, effective and holistic manner by bringing together data and information from across the basin.
Monitoring Native Fish Spawning Habitats
To better understand the factors that limit native fish populations, we have spent the last year mapping both the historic and current spawning and nursery habitats of several Great Lakes fish species, including whitefish, trout and cisco. We then use these mapping products to develop our monitoring and habitat protection and restoration efforts that help these species recover.
Invasive Plant Early Detection & Rapid Response Success
The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Conservation District and Three Shores CISMA partnered to complete a survey of invasive, non-native plants on 640 acres of alvar grasslands at Maxton Plains, Drummond Island. This survey data will be used to evaluate whether future management of invasive plants is necessary.
Conversations and Collaborations in Saginaw Bay
To better understand the effectiveness of agricultural conservation programs in Saginaw Bay, the Conservancy teamed up with Purdue University to survey farmers, crop advisors and staff from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Conservation districts about farming practices water quality and recreational use of the Bay. These interviews provided us with insight into who farmers trust to make on-farm decisions, and how they view conservation practices overall. Since the survey, the Saginaw Bay program has launched a series of discussions to engage and connect with the agricultural community.
Sharing Our Science
The Nature Conservancy’s “Science Impact Project” is a fellowship program that provides science staff across the organization with the opportunity to develop their communication and leadership skills in relation to an important science project from their respective geographies. This year, Mary Fales, the Program Director for Saginaw Bay, participated and shared her experience of conducting a social evaluation of the agricultural community within the Saginaw Bay watershed with partner Purdue University.