Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
The TLC is conducting another Garlic Mustard pull at the Dead End Woods Sanctuary in Fort Gratiot on Saturday, May 16, 2015. We will meet at the dead end of Wilson Drive at noon. We could really use your help because there are a lot of plants to pick. Anyone is welcome. Not only will you get to know invasive Garlic Mustard extremely well, but you will learn several native forest plants. And we will have a cook-out on the dead end so you can sample Garlic Mustard fresh from the woods.
Garlic Mustard – Alliaria petiolata was brought to North America as a culinary herb in the late 1800’s. It’s native to Eurasia and North Africa, and like so many introduced species, became an invasive weed here. It seems like we didn’t see much of it in the area until the 1990’s, but since then it’s invaded a lot of our forests. Garlic Mustard lives up to its name and is quite tasty, but is also quite invasive in open woodlands, displacing native plant species where it grows in thick patches.
Garlic Mustard is easily recognized by the small white flowers on plants that are typically a few feet tall at maturity, but can range from a few inches to over 3 feet tall. Each flower has 4 petals as do all the species in the Mustard Family, otherwise known as the Brassicaceae or the older Family name, Cruciferae, meaning "cross-bearing" and referring to the cross arrangement of the 4 flower petals. Other plants in this same family include mustard, of course, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horseradish, watercress, and rapeseed. Garlic Mustard can also be fairly well recognized by the basically triangular stem leaves with large blunt teeth. The basal leaves at the bottom of the plant are more rounded with wavy edges. Characteristic of the Mustard Family, the seeds are borne in long, thin pods that dry and split open to release the seeds in June and July. Garlic Mustard is biennial, meaning that it typically requires two years to mature. Each mature plant can produce hundreds of seeds that typically survive in the soil for 5 years or more. Because of the dormant seeds in the topsoil, Garlic Mustard control almost always requires multiple years of plant removal until all the seeds are dead.
Our board members have been steadily working each spring on pulling the main patches of Garlic Mustard from the Dead End Woods but we definitely need more help if we are going to completely get rid of it. We have pulled it for 3 years in a row from one of the largest patches near the dead end of Wilson Drive, so hopefully we are close to eliminating it in that area. Other patches, we have only been able to pull sporadically. Sanctuary neighbor Howard Parish helped us pull a bunch along the south property line a few years ago, and this year we really need to hit that area again, hard.
If you or a group are interested in pulling Garlic Mustard on other dates, we can possibly set alternate work days from late April through early June. It’s best to get the plants in May before they begin setting seed. The seed pods are usually mature and start opening by mid June. Garlic Mustard pulling is a good activity for Scout service projects and school biology classes. If you work for a restaurant or store interested in offering Garlic Mustard greens, let’s talk. This could be a good opportunity for everyone.
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
On March 21 of 2014, the DTE Energy Foundation awarded the TLC a grant of $2,500 for preserve stewardship support. This is the first corporate grant that the TLC has received since our formation in 2008 and we are thankful to DTE Energy. This money will be used primarily to organize and conduct invasive weed control on TLC sanctuaries, along with other minor stewardship activities. We held off using the funding last year because we were seeking further burn approvals and because we simply have a shortage of people interested in helping, but we hope to make progress in 2015.
Both the Dead End Woods Sanctuary and the Peltier Beach Ridge Sanctuary have extensive areas of Garlic Mustard – Alliaria petiolata, an invasive weed native to Eurasia and North Africa introduced to North America in the mid 1800’s as a culinary herb. It lives up to its name and is quite tasty, but is also quite invasive in open forest, displacing native plant species where it grows in thick patches. Our board members have been steadily working away each year on pulling the main patches of Garlic Mustard from the Dead End Woods but we definitely need more help if we are going to completely get rid of it.
The Dead End Woods has another big invasive weed problem on the west end of the sanctuary, Yellow Archangel - Lamiastrum galeobdolon, an invasive groundcover native to Europe that spread from residences in Old Farm subdivision. The Yellow Archangel has spread about 50 feet into the woods, creating a near solid cover that has eliminated all but a few native forest herbs. It is extremely difficult to eradicate. Unfortunately, Fort Gratiot Township has made burning an expensive control option by requiring $250 for a fire crew and truck to be present. Although we have this DTE Energy grant, I am reluctant to spend so much for what we feel are excessive measures for a small controlled burn with good control lines.
The north side of the Dead End Woods Sanctuary has a few patches of invasive Periwinkle – Vinca minor, another ornamental ground cover species native to Eurasia. It is also difficult to eradicate, but because there are only a few small patches so far, it should be fairly easy to remove.
In addition to Garlic Mustard, the Peltier Beach Ridge Sanctuary has some dense patches of Tartarian Honeysuckle – Lonicera tatarica, native to northeast Asia and brought to North America as an ornamental shrub. There is also a fair amount of Common Privet – Ligustrum vulgare, another invasive shrub native to Eurasia and North Africa brought to North America as a hedge plant. The only good control for these invasive shrubs, short of killing everything with herbicide, is pulling, followed by repeated burns to kill seeds on the ground surface. As with most invasive weeds, effective control of honeysuckle and privet is a long-term proposition.
The TLC knew the Peltier Beach Ridge Sanctuary had a lot of invasive weeds before we accepted ownership of it. But, not owning the land doesn’t make those weeds go away. Almost the whole beach ridge and swale landscape in Saint Clair County has been covered by extensive areas of invasive weeds for decades. Despite this, the plant community still contains many unique native species like Purple-flowering Raspberry – Rubus odoratus, known to be native in only 7 Michigan counties and restricted largely to near-shoreline areas, and also Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid – Cypripedium parviflorum. The beach ridge and swale complex is valuable in many other ways, including the extensive wetland swales, forest cover, and habitat for migratory birds that move along and reside near Lake Huron. Refer back to a previous blog post on March 9, 2015 entitled “Peltier Beach Ridge Sanctuary”.
Thankfully, the TLC Gerrits Sanctuary in Ira Township contains relatively few invasive weeds. We have pulled a few Garlic Mustard plants, and where there are a few, there are likely more. There are also a few Autumn-olive – Elaeagnus umbellata, an invasive Eurasian shrub, in the north field of the sanctuary, and Oriental Bittersweet – Celastrus orbiculatus, an invasive east Asian vine, along the northeast boundary. Otherwise, the preserve appears to be largely free of invasive weeds.
Other stewardship issues to be addressed on all of the TLC sanctuaries include neighborhood dumping of grass clippings, leaves, and occasionally, scrap materials like treated lumber or shingles. This has been a big problem on the Dead End Woods Sanctuary, although we are making progress. There hasn’t been much trouble on the Peltier Beach Ridge Sanctuary or Gerrits Sanctuary.
Sometimes people wonder why leaves and grass clippings are a problem when dumped on a nature preserve. They reason that its all plant material and so should be good for nature. It sounds reasonable on the surface, but the issue is in the amount and concentration of these materials. It’s like, a drink of water is nice but if we dump you in middle of an ocean, you probably wouldn’t like that. So leaves and grass are a natural part of most native plant communities, but limited to only the plants that grow in those areas. So, just a limited amount of leaves, grass, branches, and other organic matter falls to the ground surface, in Michigan largely only in the autumn, not all summer long. Woodland herbs and tree seedlings are able to grow up through the natural amount of leaf matter on the ground in the spring. In fact, they rely on that leaf material for nutrients, moisture retention, temperature control, and other benefits. But if you dump a pile of leaves in the forest, even just a foot or so deep, chances are most of the native woodland plants aren’t able to grow up through that layer, at least not without considerable time, trouble, and deformation. Most small plants in those areas will eventually die because they are “suffocated” by too many leaves, grass clippings, or whatever. In this case, the leaves and other material become mulch. Most people know that mulch is used to keep plants from growing in an area. Even just a small amount of excess organic matter on the forest floor can favor increased numbers of slugs, snails, and other organisms such as fungus, that consume or otherwise destroy the native plants. Another problem is that sometimes, invasive weed seeds and live plants are contained in yard waste dumped on a nature preserve. This may be how Garlic Mustard was brought to the Dead End Woods Sanctuary. This makes a huge problem for the stewards of preserves, and we don’t any more problems. So, please consider composting or mulching your leaves and grass clippings on your own property. Don’t dump on ours. Once you understand the value of organic matter to the soil in your garden, flower beds, or even just your lawn, it seems like you’d want to keep every bit of it. Unlike all the compost methods and systems you see in the gardening magazines, you really don’t need to get fancy about it. Just pile the material up in a back corner somewhere and it will soon break down into that carbon-laden black material that will bring your soil to life.
Monday, March 23, 2015
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
Thanks to writer Bob Gross, the Thumb Land Conservancy had a little coverage this past Sunday in the Port Huron Times Herald.
My quote makes the TLC seem a bit like "hicks from the sticks" compared to the other groups because we don’t claim to have complex innovations or a polished strategy for protecting land. I guess we don't right now actually. For one thing, all land is important in some way. Secondly, we know significant natural areas and rare species, and when opportunities arise to protect them, we can focus our efforts. Otherwise, we don't need to limit the TLC to only the best natural areas and rarest species. We want to work very locally, with anyone interested in protecting nature around them.
The TLC is also connected with just about every other group and person named in the article. I worked for The Nature Conservancy in 1984-86. Most of us in the TLC knew Bertha Daubendiek personally, the charismatic founder of the Michigan Nature Association. I worked for Bertha occasionally in 1989-90, exploring potential preserves and searching for rare species. My wife, Cheryl, was on the MNA board for 6 or 7 years. We also co-founded the Macomb Land Conservancy in 2000, which later merged with the Oakland Land Conservancy to become Six Rivers Land Conservancy. The history behind that is long and interesting. Years ago I attended some of the original meetings of what became the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy with the previous director, Jack Smiley, who I knew through Bertha Daubendiek. More recently, I worked for Mark Brochu of St. Clair County Parks and Recreation to assess the ecological values of nearly every new park they acquired. My reports assisted them in obtaining Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants for the Columbus County Park on the Belle River, Camp Woodsong on the Black River, and Fort Gratiot County Park on Lake Huron, plus a few properties along the Wadhams to Avoca Trail.
So, like I said in the article, if you have ideas and ambition, let us know and we will see how the TLC can help you, or you can help the TLC.
Here's a link to the article:
And, because articles are removed or archived, here's the text:
Conservancies preserve special areas in county
Bob Gross, Times Herald 5:09 p.m. EDT March 21, 2015
The land preservation movement in Michigan started in St. Clair County.
In 1960, the fledgling Michigan Nature Association made its first purchase, 40 acres north of Capac originally called Redwing Acres, but now known as the Louis G. Senghas Memorial.
"We have a long history in St. Clair County, and our roots going back to the 1950s as Michigan's first land trust go back to St. Clair County," said Garret Johnson, executive director of the association.
The MNA now has more than 170 nature sanctuaries in Michigan, including about 13 in St. Clair County.
"That puts St. Clair County as one of the early innovators in terms of land preservation," Johnson said.
For years, the MNA was based in Avoca — the home of its founder, Bertha Daubendiek. It has offices now in Okemos.
"We were in the first generation, the first 30 or 40 back in the 1950s," Johnson said.
"The MNA is Michigan's first and we're home grown," he said. "We retain that local citizen, do it on our own kind of community spirit."
The association is the largest landowner of the six nature conservancies with holdings or that work in St. Clair County. Those conservancies create nature preserves, some of which are open to the public and some that require a guide to visit, and work with municipalities to preserve areas that are unique to the county.
One of the newest kids on the block is the Blue Water Land Fund. It's the entity created by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County to hold title to and guide the preservation of the Blue Water River Walk, which opened in June 2014.
Jenifer Kusch is the secretary of the land fund.
"The riverfront definitely is a priority of ours," Kusch said. "The properties that we are interested in are those that would have some value to conserve. An empty lot in town might be a nice gift, but it could not be one we would likely hold in trust."
Potential donors, she said, first would contact Randy Maiers, executive director of the community foundation at (810) 984-4761.
"A group from the land fund would supply a questionnaire and determine the next steps, whether we would be interested in visiting the property ... we do have a protocol for it," she said.
Conservancies, she said, exist to save some of the special areas.
"It is important because of the rapid pace of development and habitat destruction that some special places be saved for the enjoyment of citizens and the continued viability of species," Kusch said.
Conservancies also enjoy a flexibility that public agencies don't. For example, conservancies can purchase a piece of critical property and hold it in trust for a public entity until that entity can put together the funding to purchase it outright.
Mark Brochu, director of St. Clair County Parks and Recreation, said the county has used that funding mechanism several times to add to the park system.
"The first time we did it was when we purchased the property for Fort Gratiot County Park," he said.
The Trust for Public Land originally was going to hold the property for the county but had to drop out when the price increased. Brochu said Citizens First stepped in and held the property for the county.
The Trust for Public Land was able to hold the property that became Columbus County Park until the county could secure funding, Brochu said.
On Thursday, he said, county commissioners approved two agreements with the community foundation and the Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy, which is based in Oakland Township.
The community foundation will purchase and hold for the county 38.79 acres on the Pine River adjacent to Goodells County Park, and the county will reimburse the foundation $180,000 plus incidentals, Brochu said. Six Rivers, he said, will purchase and hold 25.99 acres northwest of Columbus County Park on the Belle River, and the county will reimburse it for $77,000, also plus incidentals.
"It's a process that helps us gain control of the property and maintain our eligibility (for a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant)," Brochu said.
The Six Rivers conservancy — which grew out of the Oakland and Macomb land conservancies — is named for six major rivers that rise in or touch Oakland County: the Huron, the Rouge, the Clinton, the Shiawassee, the Flint and the Belle, said Chris Bunch, the conservancy's executive director.
"If you were going to argue why we are called Six Rivers Land Conservancy, you would argue about whether the Belle River actually crosses into Oakland County, while standing in a wetland," he said.
The conservancy has been working with the Belle River Watershed Group to develop a watershed management plan. In 2011, the county health department received $250,000 to develop a plan for the watershed.
"We've been working on prioritizing land for preservation for water quality purposes," Bunch said. "That's part of the Belle River Watershed Management Plan that is being run by the St. Clair County Health Department."
One of the major issues identified in the Belle River, he said, is fallen trees, log jams and woody debris.
He said four years ago, he and another staff member tried to kayak the Belle from Columbus County Park to a takeout at King Road in China Township.
"We had to portage around the world's largest logjam," he said. "It was huge. I swear it was 100 yards long.
"One of the priorities of that watershed plan is to get a lot of that woody debris cleared out to make it more accessible," he said.
The Thumb Land Conservancy, which is based in Marlette, has three properties in St. Clair County, said Bill Collins, the conservancy director. The Dead End Woods comprises 18 acres in Fort Gratiot; the Peltier Beach Ridge Sanctuary is 11.5 acres at Metcalf and M-25; and the Dr. James F. Gerrits Memorial Sanctuary is 38.5 acres in Ira Township.
The Peltier and Dead End Woods properties were conserved as mitigation for wetlands developments, Collins said; the Gerrits property was a gift to the conservancy.
"We'll work with anybody who has any good ideas to preserve any property," he said. "We have to work within our bylaws. We have to focus on natural areas, but we'll consider any project anybody brings up."
The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest land trusts in the United States, worked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Dickinson Island in the 1990s, said Lisa Niemi, conservation information coordinator with the conservancy.
"We haven't worked there in a while," she said. "What we did on Dickinson is we worked with the DNR and we acquired a number of tracts, just small ones, and it comes to about 10 acres we transferred to the DNR.
"A lot of times we are able to move faster than the state or any federal agency."
The Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, which is based on Ypsilanti, holds a conservation easement on the Edna S. Newnan Nature Sanctuary in Wales Township near Emmett, said Jill Lewis, the organization's executive director. The property owner is the Michigan Nature Association.
She said the conservancy wants to take a proactive approach to land conservation, but so far its work in St. Clair County has been reactive.
"Sometimes, conservancies can have different criteria," she said. "We're looking for high quality natural areas."
Contact Bob Gross at (810) 989-6263 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RobertGross477.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
In 2013, the TLC produced a color tri-fold brochure and printed several hundred to be distributed to the public throughout the Thumb. We take a stack wherever we go and leave them here and there at government offices, libraries, restaurants, and other places. Our executive board member, Dr. Scott Ferguson, has some at his dentist office in Wadhams. Brochures have also been passed out in Port Austin, Bad Axe, Port Sanilac, Sandusky, Marlette, Brown City, Yale, Port Huron, Caro, Vassar, Lapeer and beyond. We still have a lot left and would like to print more to get the word out. If you’re interested in distributing our brochure or helping us fund the next printing, we would gladly accept your help, and it’s tax-deductible.
Have a look. Click to enlarge.
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
I’ve worked as an ecologist and wetland consultant for 25 years. If you are counting on wetlands or rare species to protect a treasured natural area near you, think again. While I’ve had some success in protection, I’ve seen areas with extensive wetlands, old-growth forest, Endangered or Threatened species, significant wildlife values, and even an ancient Native American burial site, all destroyed by development.
If you are hoping that certain agencies or organizations will come to the rescue, it’s very unlikely. Trust me. On some sites we’ve tried just about everything. We’ve even gone to court and presented information to agencies and politicians at higher levels than you might imagine. You should also know that even when regulatory protection is successful, it is within a very specific statutory framework particular to a resource. So, for example, while much of a site may be protected as wetland, it doesn’t mean that the owner can’t clear-cut the forest. Regulatory success may also be temporary, lasting only until the next challenge by the landowner and their team of consultants and attorneys, or until the next legislative or rule changes affect the resource regulation. We’ve had a lot of changes in wetland regulation over the past 5 or 6 years in Michigan.
Regarding the various organizations working in nature preservation, just like the TLC, they all have specific missions and target areas. The statewide groups are usually only interested in natural areas or species that are of significance on a statewide, ecoregional, or sometimes even global level. Other groups are largely dedicated to particular values such as water quality, certain types of wildlife, certain natural communities, or agricultural lands.
In my years of ecological work, both as a private consultant and previously having worked for The Nature Conservancy and on a brief contract basis with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division and the Michigan Nature Association, I noticed that other parts of Michigan get much of the attention while the Thumb has been mostly left out. An exception to this is the early history of the Michigan Nature Association, but that’s another story. There has been some effort to protect the Saint Clair River delta, including Dickinson Island, Harsens Island, and the Algonac State Park vicinity. The Saint Clair River has had a lot of funding. Much of the Minden Bog in Sanilac County has been protected. There has been a fair amount of attention given to lands along the Saginaw Bay. But otherwise, the Thumb seems to have been largely ignored by State and federal efforts, even though we have a lot of great natural features here. Only in recent years have I heard anything about the Port Huron State Game Area being recognized as the significant natural area that it is.
So, the message here is, if you want to make sure natural lands are protected, it is best to be proactive about it. That means, before the for-sale signs go up, before you read about it in the newspaper, before the public notice for a permit application, and before the heavy equipment arrives on site, you need to get the land under a conservation easement or you need to make sure it is owned by a conservancy or other owner committed to long-term preservation. I fully realize that the prospects are daunting and sometimes it’s just impossible I guess. But, at the risk of giving you just another cliché, you truly don’t know until you try.
In an effort to help anyone interested in preservation, the TLC has produced a summary of various land protection methods. The pages of this document are provided below. Donations and conservation easements are standard for land conservancies. Other methods, like reserved life estates, are more elaborate but provide greater flexibility. Still other options, like deeded access, are on the edge of being experimental, but could accomplish land protection where all else fails.
If you are interested in working to preserve any piece of land and bring the project to the TLC, we will try to work with you as best we can to help. You may have a project ready to go or it may just be a vague idea. Regardless, contact us and we will see what we can do together.
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
On May 12, 2014 the TLC had a nature walk on the Gerrits Sanctuary for the Rochester Branch of the Women's National Farm and Garden Association. Because Susan Gerrits is a member, they had been interested in seeing the sanctuary and looking at the native forest plants. Good weather and the wetlands were wet. We had to break a little early because of an incoming thunderstorm. What a different world now when someone can track an incoming storm on radar with their smart phone. Everyone learned something and had a good time. Afterwards, we all had lunch at The Raft restaurant on Anchor Bay and we even made plans for a special botanical rescue mission.
Then on May 18, 2014, we had a special day on the Gerrits Sanctuary to celebrate the 12th birthday of Rose Gerrits, granddaughter of Dr. James and Lois Gerrits, and daughter of Susan Gerrits. Rose invited her friends and family to spend the day on the land once owned by her grandparents. She made a request to the TLC through her mother, to "take everyone to the forest in St. Clair to clean up”, and also asked “people to bring presents to donate to charity".
Well, we had great weather and a fun time. It was the perfect time to be in the forest to see all the new spring wildflowers and hear the woodland birds that had just arrived north for the summer. The swamp was good and wet, excellent for log crossings. All this, and no mosquitoes. Yay!
|Rose and friends|
|Cheryl and Susan|
|We found the perfect tree for a group photo.|
We spent quite a while in the southwest end of the sanctuary and I more fully realized what a high quality forest community it is. There are many uncommon plant species relict from the forest before European settlement. As I had observed about 13 years earlier in connection with trying to protect a nearby woods in Macomb County, the interior of this large forest tract contains tip-up mounds of moist sand with northern plant species like clubmosses, Starflower, and Goldthread. Some areas look surprisingly like habitat for Michigan Endangered Painted Trillium – Trillium undulatum, and it would be quite a surprise to find it that far south in Saint Clair County.
|Upland and swamp forest complex in southwest of Gerrits Sanctuary, showing American Beech, Yellow Birch, and Mayapple, among other species.|
|One of the clubmosses in the forest, Ground-pine - Lycopodium obscurum.|
After our time in the forest, we all had a birthday picnic at a nearby playground in Hometown Anchor Bay modular park. This was a very nice day to spend on the Gerrits Sanctuary, especially thinking back on our 3 years of trouble with Ira Township and the City of New Baltimore. I look forward to more days like this.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Bill Collins, Executive Director, Thumb Land Conservancy
On May 4, the TLC held its 2014 annual meeting at the residence of executive board member Dorothy Craig, adjacent to our Dead End Woods Sanctuary in Fort Gratiot. Like any good meeting, we got the business out of the way, and then headed for the food. A few members of the public attended, including our friends Laurie and Tom Dennis of the Blue Water Audubon Society, among several other groups, Jeanne Ruthven of Kimball Township, my cousin, Jackie Johnston, who lives in the neighborhood, and also my father, Bob Collins, just a few houses down the road.
Mike Connell, well-known writer for the Port Huron Times Herald, gave a very interesting and thorough presentation about the Native American history of our region, starting way back from the last glacier. Mike and I have found we share a lot in common, starting with our Irish ancestry I suppose, although mine is probably heavier on the English side. We both look back very fondly to the “green and golden summers” of our youth, as Mike put it so perfectly, working at our local Scout camps, he in West Virginia and I at Silver Trails near Jeddo. We are also fascinated by the early history of our area, back when the forest primeval still covered our region. Thanks again to Mike for taking time to spend a few hours with us.
After Mike’s presentation, more food, and then we moved to Dorothy’s garden shed for my visual tour of the Thumb’s varied landscapes, natural communities, and unique species. As usual, I carried on too long with too many pictures, but for those that sat through it, I’m pretty sure they must have picked up a little more appreciation for what we have here.
After the meeting, most of us went for a little nature walk through the Dead End Woods Sanctuary. With the long cold winter we had, the first winter I’m aware that we endured the “polar vortex”, it was reassuring to once again see the blooming Trout-lily and new stalks of Mayapple. But this was May 4, and I recall some years when these spring wildflowers were up almost a month earlier. It was still quite cool on this day, as though another polar vortex was watching us from the north, ready to blow in any minute.
|Trout-lily - Erythronium americanum|
|Cousin Jackie Johnston checking her field guide.|
|Left to right: Laurie Dennis, Jeanne Ruthven, and TLC board member Kay Cumbow.|
|"Hey wait everyone. I'm just getting started." Walking out of the Dead End Woods Sanctuary. Wilson Drive in background. Left to right: Tom Dennis, TLC board member Dan Rhein, Jeanne Ruthven, and Laurie Dennis.|
For those that didn’t attend our meeting and experience my presentation on the Thumb’s natural features, here’s a rough outline. This is by no means exhaustive, and we believe all natural areas are valuable, but it provides the highlights of our region:
Lake Huron, Saginaw Bay, Saint Clair River, Lake Saint Clair
· Lake Sturgeon, Mooneye, Northern Madtom, Channel Darter, Sauger
· Beaches, water recreation
· Turnip Rock, Pointe Aux Barques
· Lake Huron bluffs, Sanilac County
Great Lakes Marsh
· Great Lakes coastal wetlands provide important habitat for insects, fish, waterfowl, water birds, migratory birds, and mammals
· Wild-rice, Eastern Fox Snake, King Rail, Forster’s Tern
Saint Clair River Delta
· One of the largest freshwater deltas in the world
· Harsens Island, Dickinson Island, Walpole Island, Saint John’s Marsh
· Coastal marsh, lakeplain wet prairie, lakeplain oak openings
· Many fish, waterfowl, migratory birds
Lakeplain Prairie, Lakeplain Oak Openings
· Grass-dominated and fire-dependent lakeplain communities, oak openings dominated by oak
· Algonac State Park area
· Prairie Fringed Orchid, White Lady’s-Slipper Orchid, Sullivant’s Milkweed, Three-awned Grass, Gattinger’s Gerardia, Skinner's Gerardia
· Marysville, northern disjunct outlier, Sullivant’s Milkweed, Riddell’s Goldenrod
Forested Beach (Dune) Ridge and Swale Complex
· Series of upland sand ridges and wetland muck swales formed along Great Lakes shoreline, starting about 4,500 years ago as Lake Nipissing dropped
· Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac, and Saint Clair Counties (Fort Gratiot and Burtchville)
· High species richness
· Critical migratory bird route, breeding habitat
· Purple-flowering Raspberry (known only from 7 coastal counties), Yellow Lady’s-slipper orchid, Northern White-cedar, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, Blue-spotted Salamander
· Native American burial sites
· Huron County, larger dunes, Port Crescent State Park, Huron County Nature Center
· Pitcher’s Thistle (southern-most location on west shore of Lake Huron until 2004), Pink Lady’s-slipper, Six-lined Racerunner lizard
Lake Huron Ravines
· Deep ravines cut through Port Huron Moraine by streams
· Northern flora, cool air drainage, shade, cooler growing season near Lake Huron
· Eastern Hemlock, Yellow Birch, Mountain Maple (normally in the UP or northern LP), Large Toothwort? (only 6 Michigan locations known), Broad-leaved Sedge?
Oak-Pine Barrens / Savanna
· Fire-dependent savanna community of oak and pine, Black Oak, White Oak, Eastern White Pine
· Saginaw Bay, mostly Tuscola, Huron, and Lapeer Counties
· Western Silvery Aster, Side Oats Gama Grass, Hill’s Thistle, Three-Staff Underwing, Persius Dusky Wing, Ottoe Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Grasshopper Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow
Rich Tamarack Swamp / Prairie Fen
Groundwater-fed Tamarack swamp on deep peat or muck, variable fire-dependency and disturbance
Mostly Lapeer County (on glacial interlobate landscape)
Tamarack, Bog Birch, Poison Sumac, Highbush Blueberry, Michigan Holly, Chokeberry, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Grass-of-Parnassus, sedges, Shooting Star, Purple Milkweed, White Lady’s-slipper orchid, English Sundew, Mitchell’s Satyr, Poweshiek Skipperling, Tamarack Tree Cricket
· Acidic peat plant community isolated from groundwater, dominated by mosses
· Sedges, Cottongrass, Sundew, Leatherleaf, Bog Rosemary, Sheep Laurel, Bog Laurel, Low Blueberry, Cranberry, Buttonbush, Highbush Blueberry, Poison Sumac, Black Spruce, Tamarack, Gray Birch, Yellow-Fringed Orchid, Prairie White-Fringed Orchid
· One of only 3 southern-most raised bogs in North America, only one left in Michigan
· 5,000 acres or nearly 8 square miles southwest of Minden City and west of Palms
· Covered 30 square miles prior to European settlement
· Roughly a third of the bog is within the Minden City State Game Area
· Dome about 6 to 10 feet higher than the rest of the bog, over 200 feet above Lake Huron
· 12 Sphagnum moss species, Leatherleaf, Bog-laurel, Sheep-laurel, Labrador-tea, Blueberry species, Sundew, Large Cranberry, Small Cranberry, Bog Birch, Paper Birch, Tamarack, few Jack Pine
· Sphagnum rubellum, Atlantic coast moss far from primary range
· Eriophorum angustifolium - cotton-grass and Stellaria calycantha - northern chickweed at southern limit in Michigan, indicating northern character of Minden Bog
Rivers – Flint River, Cass River, Black River, Mill Creek, Pine River, Belle River, Salt River, Clinton River
· Fish and mussel communities, especially the Black, Belle, and Clinton
· Water quality
· Fishing, recreation
· Floodplain forest communities
· Southern flora
· Wildlife corridors, migratory birds
· Scenic, historic
Black River Valley
· Large and scenic forested river valley
· Eastern Hemlock / Yellow Birch ravines
· One of the largest contiguous forests in the Thumb, long-term sustainability
· Port Huron State Game Area, Silver Trails Scout Reservation
· Migratory bird habitat and corridor, wildlife corridor
· Heart-leaved plantain, Large toothwort, Broad-leaved Sedge, Cerulean Warbler, many other birds
· Resilient mussel refuge and high quality fishery in Black River
· Northern Riffleshell mussel, Round Hickorynut mussel, Salamander mussel, Eastern Sand Darter
· Recreation, history
· Southern extension of northern hardwood forest near Lake Huron, primary range north of Saginaw Bay
· Cooler growing season along Lake Huron, Port Huron, Kimball, and Clyde Townships
· Frost pockets in Port Huron and Kimball Townships
· Amazing Section 23 of Kimball Township with Tamarack and Northern Prostrate Clubmoss
· Rouseau fine sand and Chelsea-Croswell sands on Wainola-Deford fine sand complex
· Red Maple, Paper Birch, Eastern White Pine, Black Chokeberry, Michigan Holly, Low Sweet Blueberry, Bracken Fern, Wild Sarsaparilla, Blue-bead Lily, Starflower, Bunchberry, Goldthread
· Michigan Endangered Painted Trillium
· Southern flora and northern flora blend in Port Huron area, first described 100 years ago by Port Huron botanist Charles K. Dodge
· Sassafras, Black-gum, Witch-hazel, Highbush Blueberry, Indian Cucumber-root
· About 95% of Thumb was forested prior to European settlement
· Today only 10-15% forested and highly degraded
· Continuing loss of forest to development and agriculture
· Small forest, woodlots are unsustainable in long-term
· Refuges for most prehistoric vegetation of the region
· Forest fragmentation excludes many woodland plants and especially birds
· Increased deer grazing
· Loss of hardwood resources, potential forest herbal products
· Climate and other benefits
Glacial Landscape Features
· Glacial interlobate, hills and kettle lakes from Kingston southwest into Ohio
· Port Huron Moraine
· Deanville Mountain Moraine
All Natural Areas
· Valuable for many reasons
· Young woodlands, shrub lands, fencerows, fields, yards
· Values to children, recreation, aesthetic, common species, uncommon species becoming rare
The TLC Protects:
· Natural areas
· Rare species
· Common species
· Natural resources
· Recreational areas
· Educational opportunities
· Childhood places
· Quality of life