Archive for the ‘Bioreserve’ Category

Warning! “Oak wilt” is striking Michigan Forests!

Bark infected with oak wilt. Photo: Bill Cook, MUS Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

Bark infected with oak wilt. Photo: Bill Cook, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

In your travels throughout Michigan this summer, you may see a disturbing sight – areas clear cut of trees. These areas have been hit with oak wilt, a fungus that can kill oak trees in under 4 weeks. To prevent it from spreading, property owners and managers must cut down and remove the tree, in addition to digging out at least 5 feet into the ground to destroy the fungus. It starves the tree to death by preventing it from absorbing water. Sap-feeding beetles spread the fungus by feeding on infected trees. Once one oak is infected, all other oak trees in the area are in danger. If oak wilt isn’t stopped, it could possibly kill almost all the red oaks in the state.

Oak wilt-infected leaves. Photo: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

Oak wilt-infected leaves. Photo: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

As oaks are a dominant tree species in most of Michigan forests, this would be devastating to our forests as well as our watersheds, as our rivers will lose the forest buffers that keep them healthy.

Already, locally, trees in Legacy Land Conservancy’s Reichert Nature Preserve in Hamburg Township have contracted the fungus.

What you can do:

  • Do not cut any kind of oak trees from April 15th to July 15th.
  • There is a ban on cutting oak trees for firewood during this time
  • Use and buy firewood locally – get it from the vicinity where you will be using it.
  • For more information, see Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now Newsletter and Legacy Land Conservancy’s Winter 2017 Newsletter
  • Report suspect infestations to DNR-FRD-Forest-Health@michigan.gov; 517-284-5895

Bioreserve Project Helps Partners Protect Land

arms_pic1At HRWC’s annual data collection presentation in January, I shared the results from the 2016 field season of our Bioreserve Project, which assesses and protects the remaining natural areas in the watershed.

We use data from HRWC’s Bioreserve Map and field assessments to help our partners direct limited funds to strategically protect the most ecologically important lands. Our field assessments measure indicators of ecological quality in order to find the sites that are providing the most ecological services to the watershed.arms_pic3 In 2016, 24 volunteers helped us do 36 assessments. HRWC has done assessments on 320 properties throughout the watershed.

This year, in Washtenaw County nearly 300 acres (six properties) were permanently protected with conservation easements. This includes an addition to Legacy Land Conservancy‘s Reichert Preserve, on Portage Creek. Nearby conservation easements closed in tandem to help protect nearly a mile of the creek.

In Oakland County, Six Rivers Land Conservancy is currently juggling nearly 200 acres of projects they hope will lead to permanent protection, and they just recently closed on a 34-acre property that straddles the Huron and Rouge river watersheds.

At both Legacy Land Conservancy and Six Rivers Land Conservancy, the hard work that HRWC staff and volunteers spend scoring and ground-truthing Bioreserve sites is invaluable.

HRWC’s 2016 field assessments helped our conservancy friends protect natural areas in three ways. In one case, Legacy did a site visit with an interested landowner. The landowner wanted to know more about her property, so she scheduled a field assessment. From the results, the landowner learned just how ecologically important her land was for the watershed, Legacy was able to present her with the conservation value of the property and she felt compelled to move ahead with arranging protection.

In another case, an HRWC field assessment led to a Legacy site visit. The landowners were excited about the various plants they saw in the field assessment that they hadn’t previously noticed. With the field assessment report in hand, both the landowner and Legacy staff did a joint site visit. Both were informed about what natural features, flora, and fauna to expect. The assessement helped inform the conversation while discussing the terms of a conservation easement.

In a third case, a field assessment helped reignite that landowners’ interest in preserving their land – that land will noarms_pic2w become a County preserve!

 

2016 Results Are In! (at least some of them)

Watershed tour stop showing phosphorus levels at sites on South Ore Creek

Watershed tour stop showing phosphorus levels at sites on South Ore Creek

In January, HRWC staff and volunteers got together to celebrate another successful season of data collection. Call it a Water-Nerd-Fest, if you like, as we all geeked-out on the results from this year’s monitoring. The new twist this year was structuring our findings to focus on different tributary “Creeksheds,” similar to the way we have developed Creekshed Reports. Using that framework, we took volunteers on a tour of the watershed from the mouth at Lake Erie to the river’s named origin flowing out of Big Lake.

Phosphorus levels in the middle section of the Huron River Watershed

Phosphorus levels in the middle section of the Huron River Watershed

Stevi Kosloskey and I talked about results from the Water Quality Monitoring Program, in which we sample stream water chemistry and track stream flows. The results from 2016 and past years really provide a tale of three different watersheds: the lower section is characterized by lots of developed land which corresponds with generally poorer water quality. The middle section also has some development, but is also mixed with forest and agriculture lands, and much effort and resources have been invested in treating urban runoff (see Summer 2016 and 2015 newsletter articles for more detailed analysis of the impacts of those investments). Subsequently, we saw our lowest phosphorus concentrations from that region in 2016 and the bacteria levels are strongly declining as well. Upstream in the Chain of Lakes region, there is much less development and large areas of protected lands, and we see generally better water quality, though there are signs of decline to keep our eyes on.

We also discussed findings from River Roundup, habitat and Bioreserve programs. Sign-up to volunteer for these in 2017 so you can join the fun, learn more about the watershed, and get your science geek on!

Happy World Wetlands Day!

In honor of World Wetlands Day today, we at HRWC thought we’d share a little bit of info about our wetlands here in the Huron watershed.

Huron River wetland in Ann Arbor Township.

Wetlands – Nature’s Kidneys

Wetlands, along with floodplains and shorelines, are critical environmental areas. Wetlands are saturated lowland areas (e.g. marshes and swamps) that have distinctive soils and ecology. Wetland areas filter flowing water, hold flood water, and release water slowly into surrounding drier land. These functions are critical to keeping the Huron River clean and safe for wildlife, drinking, paddling, fishing, and swimming. See our Wetland Page for more details.

The Huron Watershed’s Wetlands

The Huron watershed is home to many kinds of wetlands (the Michigan Natural Features Inventory lists 26 different kinds of wetlands that exist in our watershed!); including wet prairies, hardwood swamps, and bogs. Unfortunately, due to agricultural drainage and development, only about half of our wetlands remain.

Wetland Protection

With all the ecological services that wetlands provide to the River, it is important to keep our wetlands healthy and restore wetlands when we can. HRWC highly recommends local communities enact wetland ordinances, along with building setback requirements from wetlands, to protect our remaining wetlands.

HRWC’s Bioreserve Project is mapping and assessing wetlands and other natural areas to help target conservation efforts (come to our Field Assessment Training to learn how you can assess wetlands and other natural areas), and our Green Infrastructure programs are  working with communities to protect existing and create new wetland areas, to restore the landscape’s ability to filter and control stormwater runoff.

What You Can Do

Volunteer with HRWC, learning to evaluate wetlands (their special features and plants) on May 14 at our Field Assessment Training and then join us this summer for some field assessments!

 

 

Conservation Stewards Leadership Training

indian springsLooking for a way to expand your knowledge about ecosystems, rx invasives, and the history of conservation in Michigan?

The Michigan Conservation Stewards program has been brought back to Washtenaw County by a collaboration of HRWC and peer organizations. We hope you, capsule as a supporter of the Huron, will take the opportunity to strengthen your knowledge and thus ability to advocate for our natural resources. This 6-week course covers all the basics of conservation, tadalafil introduces participants to a wide-array of topic experts, and is a great networking opportunity.

 

Click here for details and to register.

 

 

Fostering Resiliency in our Tree Resources

This piece was written by guest blogger Mike Kaminski who worked as a intern at HRWC last summer and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan.

Resiliency is the capacity for a system to absorb disturbance without shifting into a qualitatively different state. In this case, the system we are talking about is the Huron River watershed’s trees and forests, and the disturbance is climate change. Healthy tree communities enhance stormwater infiltration, filter pollutants picked up by rainwater, keep our rivers and streams cool, and help to preserve the overall health of the Huron. Unfortunately, the River’s tree resources may be at risk due to the impacts of climate change and the extreme weather events that are expected to come with it.

With increased temperatures and extreme weather events (especially summer drought), tree species that have long been associated with the beauty of the Huron River watershed will begin shifting their population ranges north to accommodate for the change in climate. Fall foliage characterized by the vibrant reds and golds of sugar maples and beeches will be replaced by the muted browns and yellows of oaks and hickories better suited to these new weather patterns. Even the eastern white pine, the state tree of Michigan, is expected to become more rare in this area.

Fall color of a beech maple forest (left) and oak hickory forest (right)

Fall color of a beech maple forest (left) and oak hickory forest (right)

favorability-chart

Table indicating if the future climate in the watershed will likely be favorable (+), neutral (0) or unfavorable (-) to common tree species

Many potential consequences could result from the loss of these long established tree species. High numbers of urban street trees could be lost that are not well adapted. This could mean high replacement costs for local townships. Loss of municipal services such as enhanced stormwater infiltration, air cleansing, and urban heat island mitigation may occur. With fewer native trees able to survive in the changing climate, we could also observe a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services from our surrounding parks and forests.

So, what can we do about this? Two years ago, HRWC, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), and several local environmental leaders from around the watershed formed the Creating Climate Resilient Communities Project: an effort to address local climate change impacts by building resiliency in the watershed. Among the issues the project chose to focus on were resiliency strategies for natural infrastructure (specifically trees) within the watershed.

Now entering its third year, the Climate Resilient Communities Project has compiled several great resources on improving climate resiliency in the area’s forests and trees. These include a comprehensive report on the state of climate change and its impacts on the local watershed, fact sheets on key tree species of the area, and a report of popular and emerging management strategies for resilience in forest and tree resources. These and many other useful resources have been compiled as a comprehensive toolkit on HRWC’s website.

 

Unadilla Township creates Green Infrastructure Plan

Joining Dexter and Lyndon townships in Washtenaw County and all communities in Oakland County, Unadilla Township has created a Green Infrastructure Plan that provides a map of its natural areas — woodlands, wetlands, grasslands, and waterways — and connections and pathways connecting them.  At a workshop facilitated by the Huron River Watershed Council as part of our Portage Creek Project, residents and officials from Unadilla Township studied maps of the township’s natural areas, topography, master plan designations, land use, and other natural assets, and drew over them onto transparent mylar natural area hubs, links connecting them, and special natural features such has Heron rookeries or rare plant communities. HRWC used the sketching to create the map and plan.

The township will use the plan to inform their land use planning and policy development, directing future development in a way that is in concert with their natural infrastructure.

HRWC will will hold a similar workshop for Stockbridge in January.  The Dexter and Lyndon township green infrastructure planning processes were also part of our Portage Creek Project.  Oakland County Planning and Development completed its Green Infrastructure planning program in 2009 — all of their communities now have plans and maps that inform their planning and policies.

What Ever Happened With My Data?

Expert volunteer hard at work!

HRWC volunteers spend a lot of the summer collecting water quality information. THANK YOU!  Of course, pharmacy getting in the water is great fun and often a fun challenge. But what of all the data that we collect? What does it tell us? Where does it go?

2013 Field Results

Join HRWC staff as we present the results of the 2013 field work for Portage Creek, Bioreserve, Adopt-A-Stream, and Water Quality Monitoring. Program directors Kris Olsson, Paul Steen, Pam Labadie and Ric Lawson will give presentations on the most recent findings, followed by Q and A.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

6:30 – 8:00 PM

NEW Center Conference Rooms

1100 North Main Street

Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Please RSVP to Jason: JFrenzel@hrwc.org

 

HRWC Kicks off Bioreserve Field Season

Emma Maack, Ingrid Weisz, Becky Gajewski, and Robert Finn enjoy a sunny day at Huron Meadows

Emma Maack, Ingrid Weisz, Becky Gajewski, and Robert Finn enjoy a sunny day at Huron Meadows

A team of volunteers and staff from HRWC and the Huron Clinton Metroparks found over 80 different species of wildflowers, trees, and grasses on just under a mile-long stretch through a 100-acre portion of Huron Meadows Metropark recently.  The metropark, one of 10 that run along the Huron River for much of its length, is home to 1,000 acres of upland forest, wooded swamp, grassland, fens, and wet meadows, as well as the Huron River itself, which makes it a great destination for hikers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter.

This summer, HRWC’s bioreserve project is leading field assessments on Metropark properties, as well as properties local land conservancies are working on protecting, in order to provide the Metroparks and conservancies with detailed ecological information to aid in their management and preservation efforts.

The field assessment for Huron Meadows will help Metroparks staff target invasive control efforts in the natural areas within the parks.  For instance, the team found a large wetland complex on the west side of their survey area that flowed beyond the park to border Ore Lake.  While high quality, the wetland would benefit from a glossy buckthorn control effort on its southern side, but was mostly free of invasives to the north.  The team also discovered several vernal ponds pocketed in low lying areas within the oak-hickory forest hills that are most likely great habitat for frogs and salamanders.

Healthy Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan

Capitol Building

Michigan State Capitol, Lansing

Chances are good that if you’re a regular to HRWC blogs, then you’ve already heard about Senate Bill 78 that would prohibit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from taking actions that achieve or maintain biological diversity. In doing so, it would prevent the department from carrying out a central tenet of its mission to conserve and protect our natural resources. Biological diversity is critical to our environmental legacy and to the health of the Huron River system.

The bill has passed the full Senate primarily along party-lines, despite the opposition of residents, professors from a number of Michigan’s universities, and environmental and conservation organizations.

Aside from restricting the ability of the DNR to make decisions based on a basic scientific principle, the legislation could also jeopardize Michigan’s ability to receive federal funding for forest management, endanger our forest certifications and put at risk areas of our state that have long been appreciated by Michigan residents for outdoor recreation and their scenic beauty.

The bill is now on its way to the House Natural Resources Committee. To share your views and concerns about SB 78, tell your State Representative to contact Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, Chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and urge her to stop this bill.

Andrea LaFontaine (R) Committee Chair, 32nd District: (517) 373-8931, AndreaLaFontaine@house.mi.gov

SB 78 is anything but Pure Michigan.
For additional reading on this issue, we recommend the following links:

“State Senate bill puts forests at risk of disease, pests, environmentalists say.” Detroit Free Press.
http://www.freep.com/article/20130304/NEWS06/303040093/State-Senate-bill-puts-forests-at-risk-of-disease-pests-environmentalists-say

“Legislation redefining conservation puts Michigan’s diversity of nature at risk: MEC Commentary.” Detroit Free Press
http://www.freep.com/article/20130221/OPINION05/302210107/Brad-Garmon-Legislation-redefining-conservation-puts-Michigan-s-diversity-of-nature-at-risk

“Anti-Biodiversity Bill hearings Continue.” MEC blog: http://michigandistilled.org/


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