Stories of Stewards
The heat of early morning signals that today the soils in the meadows are heating up. Walking through the various meadows the Conservancy has helped protect, you can almost hear the seeds germinating and the new native plants taking root. This is an event to celebrate because these seeds have been planted with craft, hope and community support to resemble the classic meadow ecosystem.
The prefix “re” has two meanings: “back” or “new, again.” Maybe restoration is not moving backward at all, but forward, to a different trajectory. Restoration may not be the attempt to revisit or re-create some mythical past or condition. More likely, it is the making of a new scenario—one more functional than a field, a parking lot, a sea of spotted knapweed.
This spring, two landowners who have protected their land with conservation easements are starting restoration projects. They are a part of what local author Stephanie Mills calls, “the society of restorations.” They have entered in collaborations with various community members and an outstanding government program.
From our 2012 Spring Newsletter
Spring is here and the trees and flowers are starting to bloom. Although we usually invite plants to display themselves this time of year, not all are welcomed with open arms. Invasive species are emerging as well which means eradication and restoration efforts will begin in order to control unwanted species on our natural areas and preserves. Just like native plants, invasives have a unique growing cycle such as the time of year it flowers and seeds. When working to control invasive plants, eradication efforts are conducted when the plant is in the part of the cycle that is most susceptible to control measures.
During this time of year, the Conservancy focuses on several plants for eradication- particularly garlic mustard and sweet woodruff. Unlike non-native phragmites, these plants are treated early in the growing season as opposed to the fall. The plants pose a threat due to their ability to spread fast and crowd out native plants such as trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, and lady slippers. Some areas in Leelanau County, including Conservancy land, have been infested with these two species.
One of the Conservancy’s long-term ecological goals is to prevent the establishment of these plants in high quality, undisturbed natural areas- more specifically areas at the tip of the peninsula near Leelanau State Park. Sweet woodruff, which is quite pervasive at the Whaleback Natural Area in Leland, is not well established at the tip so we are working hard to prevent its spread through out the county. Last year, during a survey at Kehl Lake Natural Area near the state park a small infestation of sweet woodruff was found at the trailhead. The patch was treated immediately which will help ensure the species will not spread to the interior of the natural area and become costly to remove down the road.
Garlic mustard is widespread in southern Michigan, taking over large areas of forest understory. The plant now has a strong foothold in Northern Michigan as well including many areas in Leelanau. A small infestation was spotted by a Conservancy summer intern two years ago at the Lighthouse West Natural Area north of Northport. Since then we have worked to eradicate the species and are hoping to eliminate it entirely from area within a few years.
The Conservancy has hired three individuals this spring that will be our Early Detection/Rapid Response Crew (EDRR) to survey and treat these species when the population is small and manageable. This EDRR team will spend time surveying for garlic mustard and sweet woodruff as well as other species on the “watch list” that have not yet been found in Leelanau but have been recorded in surrounding counties so they can be expected to pop up soon. If you would like to learn more about these plants or want to report sightings please contact the Conservancy by emailing [email protected].
“When my husband and I purchased the land that would become Charter Sanctuary more than 13 years ago, I hoped more than anything else to host nesting Bobolinks – one of my favorite birds. They are marathon migrants, traveling from Leelanau to the Argentine grasslands and back every year. They are beautiful, and their song is an exquisite, tinkling melody. Because the meadow portion of our property had been planted in rye seed the year before we took ownership, there were no Bobolinks that first summer. When they showed up the second year, I was ecstatic. We were delighted when their numbers grew over the following years.
Then came spotted knapweed, an invasive alien, which sends a chemical from its roots that kills off competing plants – in this case the grasses and forbs needed by nesting upland birds. The consequence was a decline in our nesting Bobolinks.
This year we have entered into Michigan DNR’s Landowner Incentive Program (info right). We qualified for this program, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, because we also host Grasshopper Sparrows on our Sanctuary. The LIP program is underwriting the cost of chemically destroying all knapweed as well as paying for the planting of native grasses and forbs in its place. It is being done for the benefit of the sparrows, which are on the Threatened Species List. Although we’re pleased to support these handsome little birds, we are even happier to see our upland meadow improved for our nesting Bobolinks. We are deeply grateful for this program, without which we would have had to watch in sadness as our Bobolink population gradually vanished.
-Kay Charter, Charter Sanctuary and Saving Birds Through Habitat
“The goal on our 40-acre conservation easement is to increase wildlife diversity by restoring high quality habitats. First we must remove invasive plants like spotted knapweed in the prairie portion that have displaced the native sources of food and cover with which birds and other animals have co-evolved. Now we are planting native (pre-settlement) grasses and forbs.
Future goals will be to do the same in the wetland and woodland portion of our land. Our easement is part of a wildlife corridor and adjacent to Leelanau State Park. We are also part of a major migratory flyway for birds. We want to be a refuge for the many species of declining wildlife.
Restoration is daunting work but we’ve had help from the Northport Point summer kids program, Conservancy volunteers and Suttons Bay High School students. We’ve also had help from various government programs (see below). We’re excited that future generations may have an opportunity to view a large diversity of wildlife in Leelanau.
-Ann & Doug McInnis, Northport.