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Archive for the ‘Land Conservation’ 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)

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.

 

Development Heating Up in Southeast Michigan

We need less of this....

We need less of this….

....and more of this.

….and more of this.

As this article in Crain’s Detroit Business describes, as Michigan rises from the Great Recession, housing and commercial development is coming back to Southeast Michigan and our watershed.

What does this mean for our watershed?  Should we “rouse the troops” and rejoin the fight against the development that raged throughout the 90′s and 00′s?

Here at HRWC, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to address the issue of development as it returns.  The greatest threat to our watershed is the altering of the watershed’s ecology and hydrology due to runoff pollution caused not by any particular sources, but by buildings, pavement, lawns, and farm fields.  And so, this is a very important issue for the watershed.

The typical development patterns of the recent past consumed large areas of farmland and natural areas and created large amounts of impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots and rooftops.

To maintain the Huron Watershed’s health into the future, we need to encourage a different land development pattern; one that consumes less land per person and creates as little impervious surface as possible.  This means higher density where built infrastructure already exists, and the preservation of natural areas where “Green Infrastructure” (i.e. wetlands, forests, creeks, lakes, etc.) exists so those lands can continue to provide ecological services necessary to maintain quality of water, air, land, and life.

Here are some resources to check out to learn more about how Smart Growth can help preserve water quality:

HRWC publications related to Smart Growth

 

Protecting Water Resources with Higher Density Development

Protecting Water Resources with Smart Growth

Smart Growth Online

 

 

 

 

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.

News to Us

Sadly, not a lot of good news has come across our desks over the past couple of weeks.  Instead, we are hearing of major losses, or potential losses, in the gains we have made with our nation’s waters over the decades since the Clean Water Act.  It is a signal that we cannot let up on our efforts to protect our freshwater, and the life it supports and the services it provides.

EPA Declares More than Half of US Rivers Unfit for Aquatic Life – A recently released report from the Environmental Protection Agency identified 55% of US rivers and stream are in poor condition for aquatic life.  Major culprits include reduced riparian vegetation, phosphorus, nitrogen, mercury and bacteria.   We are losing ground on our high quality rivers.  Only 21% of US rivers qualified as “good biological condition compared to the 27% that fell into that category in the 2004 assessment.  In the Huron, phosphorus is a big concern, as is bacterial pollution.  Learn more about local water quality here or listen to a summary of our water quality monitoring results from 2012.

Judge ends federal court oversight of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department  The utility responsible for delivering drinking water and treating wastewater for 4 million customers in Southeast Michigan has been under federal oversight for 35 years.  Oversight will now move to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality due to significant improvements in compliance with environmental regulations. The new State permit calls for additional improvements to the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie  The Huron’s receiving water, Lake Erie, is in trouble.  Toxic algal blooms in the lake are getting worse causing problems for fish populations, tourism and beaches.   The lake had seen vast improvements since the Clean Water Act helped halt industrial pollution.  Now, we are losing ground primarily due to phosphorus pollution primarily from farming practices.  Climate change and zebra mussels are also cited as contributing to the problem.

Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: Waiting for the boom  So far, the Huron River watershed and much of Michigan has not been subject to natural gas extraction via the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process that has many states debating costs versus benefits of the method.  The method uses a lot of water and a slurry of chemicals deep into the earth.  This article shares why fracking has not yet come to our backyard and under what conditions it may.

The effort to derail ‘Biodiversity Stewardship Areas’ in Michigan  Here is another voice in the debate over Senate bill 78.  This is a very important issue to us and anyone who values our state’s natural areas and their inhabitants.  We will continue to keep you up-to-date on our website.  To learn more about the issue and how to voice your opinion see our blog Healthy Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan .

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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

WHAT:

  • 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!

WHO:

  • 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

54 acres in Fleming Creek headwaters headed for preservation

The addition of the Domino's Farms property (circled) will form a near-contiguous swath of natural area in the Fleming Creek watershed.

Washtenaw County will receive $2.275 million to purchase a 54-acre parcel of Domino’s Farms land to turn into a park.

Statewide, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants announced last week will support 99 recreation and land acquisition projects.

With a 50% local match from the county’s Natural Areas Preservation Program, the City of Ann Arbor’s Greenbelt Program, and the Ann Arbor Township’s Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program, an undeveloped, wooded parcel between Ford and Plymouth Roads in Ann Arbor Township will be purchased from DF Land Development.

The parcel will connect trails at the city-owned Marshall Nature Area to the east with trails on the University of Michigan-owned Horner-McLaughlin Woods and the county’s Raymond F. Goodrich Preserve to the north, creating about 270 acres of land with trails for public use, said Tom Freeman, NAPP coordinator.

The partnerships among the city, county, township, and university will make the trail system a unique one, Freeman said.  The protection of this property also ends years of dispute about the future use of the property and it’s potential development.

The property is also in the headwaters of the Fleming Creek watershed, one of the healthiest creeks in the Huron.  ”Protecting this property will create a swath of protected land all along these headwater streams, “said Jason Frenzel, HRWC’s Adopt-A-Stream Director, “These natural areas will be able to continue filter runoff water and keep clean, cool groundwater flowing into the creek.”

Michigan Conservation Stewards Program Fall Session Announced

Become part of the network of dedicated, well-prepared volunteer Conservation Stewards who understand, actively contribute to or lead significant conservation management activities on public and private lands.

Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) offers Michigan Conservation Stewards Program in Oakland County.

FALL 2012 Session scheduled for September 8 to November 10, 2012

Program Details:

Individuals who take part in the Michigan Conservation Stewards Program (CSP) can learn how to effectively take part in informed, scientifically based conservation and resource management and work to sustain healthy ecosystems across Michigan.

MSUE and its partners are offering this volunteer training and leadership program designed for individuals who are interested in natural resource conservation and ecosystem management, natural history, outdoor recreation, natural areas, the region’s environmental issues and challenges, and strategies to help restore and conserve ecosystems in Oakland County.

Topics include Conservation Heritage, Ecological Foundations, Making Choices to Manage Natural Resources, Emerging Ecosystem Issues, and Managing Forestlands, Grasslands, Wetlands, and Lake and Stream Ecosystems. There will also be a volunteer expo highlighting conservation opportunities available in southeastern Michigan. The series of classes, led by experts in various fields of conservation and natural resources, will include lectures, interactive learning and field experiences.

Dates, Times, Locations:

This intensive 10-week program consists of:
eight evening classes held 6-9pm on WEDNESDAY EVENINGS (September 12, 19, 26; October 3, 10, 17, 24; and November 7), and one TUESDAY EVENING (October 30) from 6-9 pm all at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Rd, Waterford.

Three ALL-DAY SATURDAY field sessions will be held from 9-4 pm on
-September 8 at the E.L. Johnson Nature Center, Bloomfield Hills);
-October 6 at Independence Oaks County Park, Clarkston; and
-November 10 at Indian Springs Metropark, White Lake.

Registration:

Early Registration fee is $275/participant if application packet and payment are received on or before August 10, 2012. Late Registration fee is $300/participant if application packet and payment are received on or after August 11, 2012.  Space is limited. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first served basis. Limited scholarships may be available.  Deadline to register is August 31, 2012.

Click here for a brochure and an application packet or call (248) 858-0887 to request registration materials by mail.

Program partners include ITC Transmission, Michigan State University, the Michigan Chapter of the North American Lake Management Society, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Oakland County Parks and Recreation, Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Services, Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority, and Clinton River Watershed Council.

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

Six Rivers Holds Open House For Feedback

Huron River watershed Oakland County residents invited.

The Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy is an important HRWC partner that works to preserve the landscape and natural heritage of our region.  They want to know what you think—what land is important to protect?  Join them and share your thoughts in a live, interactive instant response survey at an open house.

Wednesday, March 21, 6:30-9pm
Paint Creek Cider Mill at 4480 Orion Road, Rochester

Six Rivers will share maps of draft priorities for land preservation in Oakland and Macomb counties for your feedback.  They have worked with HRWC’s Bioreserve Project and a number of other partners including the planning departments at Oakland and Macomb counties to develop these priorities—now they need to know what the citizens think!  There will be refreshments and door prizes, the interactive survey, and a fundraising activity for anyone interested. More Open House details HERE.

Learn more about HRWC’s work with Six Rivers and other regional land conservancies.

Mystery Plants!

Spring is on its way, and soon teams of volunteer field assessors for HRWC’s Bioreserve Project will be fanning out across the watershed, cataloging plants and scoring ecosystem values on natural areas deemed important for the Huron watershed’s health.  As part of these assessments, assessors identify all the wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses/sedges they encounter;  we have listed over 700 different species of plants inhabiting the wetlands, forests, and fields in the watershed.  However, we also encounter some mystery plants — plants we have not been able to identify.  Here are some that have really been bugging us!

If you enjoy the outdoors, field botany, and helping out HRWC, sign up for our Bioreserve Field Assessment training, May 12, at Independence Lake Park, in Webster Township, Washtenaw County.  After a half day training, you can sign up to join teams doing assessments throughout the watershed this spring, summer, and fall.

Can you identify these mystery plants?

Assessors found this plant growing in the Huron's floodplain in South Rockwood.

Assessors found this possible orchid(?) in a wet meadow in Sharon Townhip.

A sunflower, perhaps, of some kind? Also in Sharon Township.


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