Archive for the ‘Bioreserve’ Category

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)


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, 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.

“Legislation redefining conservation puts Michigan’s diversity of nature at risk: MEC Commentary.” Detroit Free Press

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

Vernal Pools are Cool!

Volunteer Vernal Pool Training

Help the Michigan DNR inventory Southeast Michigan’s Vernal Pools!

WHEN:      Saturday, March 16, 10 am – 2:30pm (Alternate date if bad weather: March 30)

WHERE: Proud Lake Recreation Area

River Hawk Annex – Meeting Room

3500 Wixom Road, Commerce Township, MI 48382, (248) 685-2433


  • Learn about vernal pools and why they are so important
  • Become trained to identify, map and collect data on vernal pools
  • Learn to identify frogs, salamanders and invertebrates
  • Contribute to the state-wide vernal pools database
  • This training involves hands-on practice outdoors so please come prepared for weather and mud (boots and rain gear)
  • Bring a sack lunch. We will provide water and snacks!


  • Volunteers interested in visiting one or more “potential vernal pools” in southeast MI in the following areas:
    • Highland Recreation Area – Oakland Co.
    • Proud Lake Recreation Area – Oakland Co.
    • Pinckney Recreation Area – Livingston and Washtenaw Co.
    • Waterloo Recreation Area – Washtenaw County
  • Volunteers who can commit to visit one or more “potential vernal pools” at least 2-3 times during spring and summer
  • No previous experience required
  • Family-friendly

REGISTER: Please register by March 12th, No cost, but registration is limited to 30 people.

Contact Daria Hyde at hyded@michigan.gov or 517-373-4815

Sponsored by:

Michigan Natural Features Inventory and

Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Parks Stewardship Program

Funding provided by: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,

with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

A tantalizing copse of tamarack grow out beyond the lily pads - good indicators of a fen or bog ecosystem.

HRWC’s Bioreserve project field assessment volunteers have witnessed some pretty spectacular landscapes so far this field season! This includes extensive marsh and fen ecosystems in Lyndon Township and south of West Lake in Dexter Township.  Volunteers are even taking their ipads out in the field to help with plant identification!

The field assessors are gathering data about natural areas in order to educate landowners about the ecological quality of their property and help conservancies and communities target their preservation efforts towards the most important natural areas.

For more information about the Bioreserve project, and if you’d like to join our field assessors, contact Kris Olsson

If you are a “Plant Person,” who can identify most wildflower, shrub, and tree species in a typical Michigan forest or wetland, we could especially use your help and expertise!  You can join teams of assessors on these fun forays into the “wilderness!”

Volunteers Don Jacobson and Caryn Flowers use Caryn's ipad to ID a mystery plant.

Volunteer Sally Rutzky wades through a sedge meadow, part of a large wetland complex in Lyndon Township.

Lyndon Township Residents Map Out Future

The group added natural area sites and linkages to a draft map provided by HRWC

On June 5, a dynamic and excited group of Lyndon Township residents, board members, and planning commissioners joined HRWC to learn about the forests, fields, wetlands, and waterways that make up their township’s Green Infrastructure.

Green Infrastructure is the network of natural lands, working landscapes and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions and provide a whole host of benefits, including clean air, filtering pollution from water, providing drinking water, flood prevention, temperature control, and other less tangible benefits such as enjoyment of hiking, fishing, paddling, and other outdoor activities.

Green infrastructure exists from this broad landscape scale of mapping out and planning around large natural area networks, down to the parcel/site scale of installing rain gardens and other natural vegetated forms of stormwater control.  In fact, HRWC’s latest Huron River Report has an article about the smaller scale green infrastructure.

Thanks to funding from the Consumers Energy Foundation, HRWC is working with communities to develop Green Infrastructure plans to guide their future land use and development in a way that is in concert with their natural ecosystems. The program is modeled after Oakland County’s Green Infrastructure Program.  The county worked with each of its 62 local governments to map out natural areas, recreational opportunities, and linkages between them, and then create Green Infrastructure plans. Lyndon Township is the first local community in the Huron watershed to begin the planning process.

The Lyndon group gathered over HRWC’s Bioreserve map of Lyndon Township forests, wetlands, waterways, and fields, markers and post-it notes in hand, and together designated larger intact natural areas as “hubs,” smaller areas as “sites,” and then created linkages between all those sites.  In addition, participants added post-it notes of special places such as known massasauga rattlesnake habitat, high quality fens, and even threats such as a proposed gravel pit.

HRWC will add information gathered at the meeting to our existing GIS computer map of Lyndon’s green infrastructure and create a draft green infrastructure vision map and plan to present at a Fall meeting with the group.  The township will then use the plan and map to guide their land use planning decisions about where to direct location and design of new development as well as for greenway and trail planning.

For more information about this project or if you think your community might be interested in participating, email Kris or call 734-769-5123 x607

Ready, Set, Go!

Getting a little wet at the training.

Assessment training complete, volunteers prepared to “hit the field” this summer.

A few rain showers heightened the spirits and enthusiasm of 30-some volunteers who gathered at Independence Lake County Park, in Washtenaw County, to learn how to participate in HRWC’s Bioreserve Project.  Project Director Kris Olsson described the importance of natural areas in keeping the Huron healthy, and the mission of the Bioreserve Project: to assess and find the highest quality natural areas and work towards their permanent protection.  ”The reason the Huron is the cleanest river in Southeast Michigan is because of the still large, intact natural areas in our watershed,” Kris explained.  ”These natural areas filter polluted runoff, keep creeks and the river flowing cool and constant, and provide wildlife habitat and places to hike, fish, and paddle.”

After lunch, participants headed out to the park’s beautiful forests and wetlands, and the restored “Indy Prairie,” where a patch of yellow lady’s slippers were in full bloom.  Participants practiced the assessments on these natural areas in preparation for going out all over the watershed to perform them on properties throughout the summer.

The information from the assessments will help conservancies, local governments, and other preservation programs target their efforts on protecting the highest quality natural areas, so they can continue to help keep the river clean.

For more information about the Bioreserve Project and how to volunteer, contact Kris Olsson.

Springtime Means Field Time!

Sara Thomas, Executive Director of the Livingston Land Conservancy, and LLC members enjoying a field assessent in a fen.

After a record-breaking March and a more typically cool April, we don’t know what we’ll find out in the field this spring!  I’ve seen trilliums blooming (usually they come out in late May) just uphill of freshly sprouting skunk cabbage (usually a harbinger of early spring in early April).  I can’t wait to get our annual Bioreserve Field Assessment season started!

Join us in surveying the woods and wetlands in the Huron watershed!

WHAT: Volunteers go out in groups to work together on rapid site assessments of grasslands, forests, wetlands, and aquatic habitats throughout the spring, summer and fall (an expected time commitment of four hours per site).

Volunteers must first attend a training where you learn how you can help identify high-quality natural areas for protection as part of the Bioreserve Project. Participants will gain broadly applicable skills in ecological assessment. Please bring a sack lunch. The workshop includes hands-on practice outdoors, so please come prepared for weather and mud.

WHO: All volunteers are welcome, but if you are experienced in plant identification, we especially need your help! Every team will need at least one “plant person” (someone who has some experience with identifying plants). If you have had a plant identification class, or have become familiar with wildflowers, grasses, and trees over time spent hiking this beautiful watershed, we’d love your help! “Plant People” do not need to attend the training; all other volunteers do.

WHERE: The next training will be at Independence Lake County Park. After attending training, volunteers use the Volunteer Page to sign up to go to natural areas throughout the Huron Watershed throughout the field season.

WHEN: Training session:

Rapid Field Assessment Training
Saturday, May 12, 2012
10 am – 3pm
Independence Lake County Park
Whitmore Lake, MI

2012 Field season: May – October 2012.

MORE INFO: Contact Kris at kolsson@hrwc.org or 734-769-5123 x 607.


If you are a first time volunteer, you need to first go to our First time volunteer form

Then, you can register with the Bioreserve Rapid Field Assessment Training Registration form

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