Saturday, March 21, 2015

TLC 2014 Annual Meeting

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

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

Minden Bog
·  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

Northern Forest
·  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
·  Access