Managing Your Land for Wildlife

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

Aldo Leopold is credited with saying, “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot,” this article is intended for the latter.

At our very core, people and animals aren’t that different. We want to be comfortable, well fed, and have a place to feel safe. The difference is that unlike humans, animals pay no attention to property lines allowing them to seek out where they feel most comfortable. We tend to oversimplify this in most cases by only putting out food, when in reality creating ideal habitat goes far beyond a simple forage base.

Picture this, it’s the peak of March Madness and you’ve been invited to two different watch parties. The first, is at your friend’s place with a decked-out basement complete with multiple T.V.s and plenty of seating.  The second invite is to your other friend’s place where the viewing area is not as impressive, but they live on a lake. Obviously the first invite is more attractive during the basketball tournament, but the opposite would be true if the invites were extended on a hot summer day. Similarly, wildlife habitat preferences change with the seasons. For example, during nesting season, pheasants prefer cool season grasses to provide their chicks with cover but during the winter they prefer switchgrass stands because they are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of snow cover. Providing all habitat requirements for the species you are trying to attract is the best way to encourage more to use of your land.

Seasonal preferences extend far beyond habitat type, too. They can apply to things like food, space, and how close other members of the same species are. We see an example of seasonal flock preferences in waterfowl. During fall, they group together to form big flocks in order to make migration easier.  In the spring, the same birds will split off into mating pairs so that they can raise their young with less competition for resources. Seasonal food preferences tend to be based on availability, making it important to have multiple food sources that come available at different times of the year to hold wildlife longer. We can observe this in our deer population through the way that they will ignore turnip greens during the fall but eat them during the winter when they are some of the last green vegetation to persist. All things to consider when trying to enhance your wildlife habitat.

The point is that while some habitat components may have more of an impact on whether or not certain species utilize your land, a holistic approach to habitat management is the best way to get your target species to hang around more often. Take your time, do the research, and do your best to provide the wildlife species that you’re interested in with all the things that it needs to be successful and flourish throughout the year.

Resources for habitat enhancements:

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79136_79608—,00.html

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/mi/programs/

https://www.michigandnr.com/publications/pdfs/huntingwildlifehabitat/landowners_guide/Introduction/Intro_to_Wildlife_and_Hab.htm

 

Stop the spread of aquatic invasive species: Remember to clean, drain, dry and dispose!

Erin Pavloski, Regional Coordinator, Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

As summer weather arrives, we look forward to days spent at Michigan lakes and rivers. Whether you enjoy boating, paddling, fishing or floating, you can help to reduce the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) by following these easy steps from Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!:

1. “ CLEAN off visible aquatic plants, animals and mud from all equipment before leaving water access.
2. DRAIN motor, bilge, livewell and other water containing devices before leaving water access.
3. DRY everything for at least five days OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
4. DISPOSE of unwanted bait, worms and fish parts in the trash. When keeping live bait, drain bait container and replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water. Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.”

Make sure you know Michigan’s boating and fishing laws regarding AIS.

This summer, the Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) will be at local boat launches partnering with Michigan State University’s Mobile Boat Wash crew and hosting AIS Landing Blitzes with CISMA partner organizations to talk about AIS with aquatic-based recreationists in our four-county area.

Stop by one of the following events for a free boat wash and AIS materials:
● July 6 from 10:00 am-2:00 pm at Morrison Lake
● July 7 from 10:00 am-2:00 pm at Lake Lansing
● July 12 from 9:00 am-1:00 pm at Park Lake
● July 13 from 9:00 am-2:00 pm at Jordan Lake

It’s up to all of us to protect our water from aquatic invasive species. Remember to clean, drain, dry, and dispose!

Finding Your Spark

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

A conservationist is defined as any person who advocates or acts for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife. An all-encompassing term that describes anyone who is a good steward of the land. For most, the journey down the conservationist path  started far before they ever realized. It started with some innocent or seemingly insignificant experience that ended up being the foundation in which the conservationist was built on.

For this conservationist, the spark for caring about our natural resources was lit in a rural part of southern Michigan.

It wasn’t much. A few acres of glorified mud puddle that was referred to as simply “the lake”. Except for a small swimming area and fishing dock, the shoreline of the lake was untouched and only discernible by where the lily pads met the cattails. It was on this body of water that I was introduced to my first love, fishing. While trying to understand what made the fish tick, I began to see how everything was connected – my own personal Ecology 101 course that came years before I received any kind of formal schooling on the matter. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that there is an entire career field dedicated to conservation. What I didn’t realize at the time is that this job is much more than fish and plants.

Using the words “Uphill battle” to describe implementing conservation would be a gross understatement. It’s a constant fight against invasive species, people that refuse to care, and, of course, a lack of funding. Not just in non-profit organizations either, they’re problems that nearly every job in the field of conservation is facing.  I’ve seen it push plenty of people to pursue a different career path simply due to job security and a higher earning potential. Though it may be easy to get discouraged and dwell on the daily challenges, it is important to remember what got you started on your journey in the first place.

Aldo Leopold said it best when he said, “We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall see absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

When it feels as though you’re fighting a losing battle, sometimes all it takes to give yourself some perspective is rediscovering your spark.

Michigan Seasonality

Rebekah Faivor, CTAI Technician

Did you know Michigan grown strawberries are available starting in June? Those sweet, almost miniature-sized berries, compared to California-sized, are one of the first fruits you will find at the outdoor farmers market. Fruit and vegetable plants cannot produce food all year here in Michigan due to the cold winters. In fact, many vegetables and fruits are only available for a short period of time. Rhubarb and Asparagus, for example, are usually only available 6-8 weeks Mid-April through Mid-June. Have you ever tried eating fruits and vegetables when they are only grown in Michigan? People who do this are eating seasonally.

Did you know? Produce that is shipped across the country is usually picked before it is fully ripe so it arrives to the final destination intact. This shipped produce is often not as flavorful as fruits and vegetables picked at peak ripeness. Locally grown produce uses less energy and resources than unseasonal produce shipped from other countries or states.

How do local farmers offer vegetables all year? Farmers have come up with innovative ways to expand the local growing season. Some farmers use row covers to get an early start, others use heated greenhouse, still others use unheated high tunnels. Some crops like apples, onions, and carrots are easily stored through the winter making them available for a longer period of time.

How can you eat more seasonal produce? Check out the MSU Center of Food Systems Michigan Guide to What’s in Season Now to see what vegetables and fruits are available now. Shop at your local farmers markets, join a local farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Share program, or eat at restaurants that purchase their fruits and vegetables from a local farmer and have a seasonal menu. 

Three Ponds Farm

Everyone waits for the time in their life where they can relax, take vacations, sun tan, and sleep in every day. Most people cannot wait for the day they can spend time slowing down.  John Maahs and Edythe Hulbert had a different plan in mind. After moving from the city, John and his wife Edythe bought 80 acres in rural Dewitt, MI naming it Three Ponds Farm.

Together they raise sheep, dairy and meat goats, pigs, and poultry. They also grow a large garden, pick fruit, tend beehives and pollinator habitat, make cheese, manage forest, and work 65 acres of pasture and hay. They sell their eggs locally to different restaurants and stores wholesale as well as retail at the farm. Whether they are collecting dozens of eggs from the free-range chickens and ducks, kidding newborn and lambs, or enjoying the daily chaos. Each day on Three Ponds Farm is filled with life and adventure.

Before they bought the farm, John worked as a builder in the city. Edythe worked in the medical field. Together they made the decision to move onto the farm to spread out, enjoy their hobbies, live off the land, and be in nature. Today they have been on Three Ponds Farm for 30 years, growing food for themselves and their community.

As they both share a great love for the land, they were drawn into the local conservation district office through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, or MAEAP. Creating a sustainable farm is important to them. It’s something they say everyone should be doing anyway.

Since they first came into the conservation district, they have been working with the local Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) office to improve the farm through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). They started a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan written to better manage their growing operation. This plan gives a complete inventory of the farm, including needs, goals, and conservation concerns. They used their CNMP as a starting place and applied for the EQIP program to put some conservation practices into action.

One of the first projects completed was nine acres of pollinator habitat specially designed for bees. Although it took a few years to establish, this year they completed their first prescribed burn to help maintain the habitat naturally. This is a healthy grassland management practice that encourages and accelerates the growth of wildflowers.

Click for more information on NRCS programs or MAEAP or contact the Clinton Conservation District.

Katie Hafner, Soil Conservationist

2019 Summer Workshop Series

2019 Summer Workshop Series Flyer

Join Clinton, Ionia, and Ingham Conservation Districts for our Summer Workshop Series!

Four nights, four topics, and free to attend. Workshops will be held on Tuesday nights 6:00-8:00pm on various farms in the area. Light refreshments and snacks will be provided.

June 18- Clinton County: Roller Crimper Demonstration

AgroLiquid North Central Research Station 5605 N Findlay Rd, St. Johns

This is a hands on demonstration of the no-till planting soybeans into a crimped rye cover crop. Representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Mandako, and MAEAP will be on hand to discuss soil and land conservation, crimping equipment, Farm Bill programs, and previously planted soybean plots. Dinner will be provided for attendees courtesy of AgroLiquid.

June 25- Clinton County: Drainage Technology with Paul Sweeney

Stoney Creek Essential Oils field near 4507 S Francis Rd St. Johns

An interactive workshop on drainage water management, irrigation and fertigation to help answer questions and get you thinking about the next step in your farm management practices. An in-depth session will be held earlier in the day. Contact our office for information on both events.

July 9- Ionia County: Unbiased Soil Recommendations

Jeff Sanborn Farm 10277 Keefer Hwy, Portland

A short shop presentation on how to decipher your current soil tests. So often we as farmers rely solely on what the fertilizer companies tell us to apply. Do you really need it? What are some other alternatives? What do your nutrient levels say about your fields? NRCS Soil Conservationist Josh Davis explains your soil tests- unbiased. Cost share information on implementing nutrient management practices will also be available.

July 30- Ingham County: Supporting Agriculture with Hoop Houses and Greenhouses

MSU Student Organic Farm 3291 College Rd, Holt

Topics covered will include the benefits of using a hoop houses greenhouses and incorporating them into your existing production, pest and nutrient management considerations specific to this type of agriculture and the local, state and federal support available to growers. Please register for this event on Ingham Conservation District’s Facebook page or by calling our office.

 

All workshops will count towards a MAEAP Phase 1 credit. For more information, please call our office.

Leaving your Mark

I think I can speak for nearly all conservation professionals when I say that our overall goal is to leave the environment in a better condition than we find it. Usually this means making it appear as if we were never there, giving the natural area the appearance of unaltered, pristine habitat. During a recent trip to one of our project restoration sites in a nearby State Game Area, it occurred to me how often we leave our mark without even realizing it.
The site had a prescribed burn a month prior, and I had not been back since the day of the burn. Upon my arrival I expected to find a landscape dominated by the brown and black colors of the scorched ground and maybe an iridescent green hue of the returning vegetation. You can imagine my surprise when the trail opened to reveal a field covered in a layer of vibrant, green vegetation. As I stood there in awe at how fast the vegetation had returned, a flicker of bright blue caught my eye amongst all the earth tones. I parted the newly emergent grasses to get a better look and quickly realized that I had stumbled upon a blue jay feather that had most likely been left behind as the bird picked insects and seeds from the exposed ground. The bird had unintentionally left behind this feather that caught my attention.

I continued along my way keeping an eye out for more interesting things that may be hiding beneath the new micro-canopy. The sun reflecting off something caught my eye as I approached a more heavily used part of the game area only to realize that I stumbled upon a scene that is much too common of areas designated for public recreation. I had not discovered another trace of wildlife as I had hoped, but rather a pile of cans, wrappers, and a few empty shotgun shells.
As an avid outdoorsman, it pains me to see that a fellow hunter had left this shared area in such a poor state. We are supposed to be the front line for promoting good stewardship of the land, yet it is a rarity to find a recreational area free of the littered scene that I just described. As the great philosopher Aldo Leopold once said, “We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Remember the next time you find yourself immersed your favorite natural area that the most important mark to leave is none at all.

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

Clinton County: Conservation Strong with MAEAP!

MAEAP recently held a 5,000th Verification Celebration in Lansing, to highlight the success of this voluntary environmental program that helps farms of all types and sizes prevent and minimize pollution risks. Clinton County is a strong component of Michigan’s total voluntary verifications with 95 achieved over 15 years. There are over 50 landowners currently working with the program to reduce risks and achieve verifications. The Miller family, of Elsie, has worked to achieve two verifications, Cropping and Livestock. They have taken steps with their field cropping practices and livestock housing requirements to reduce environmental risks. The Millers have been utilizing environmentally-friendly farming practices for decades which include minimum tillage, no-tillage, frequent soil sampling, planting cover crops, and storing fertilizers in a way that reduces the chance of a spill. Three generations actively participate in the success of JD Miller Farms. One of the annual family activities that ties all the generations together is their sap harvest and maple syrup production. The family has been participating in this Michigan tradition for as long as they can remember. The Millers are pillars in their community and will be participating in this year’s Eat Healthy Eat Local festival in May. Their reasons for participating in the festival is not only to sell their maple syrup but to teach attendees about sustainable farming. Stop by and talk to JD Miller Farms about what MAEAP means to them and why they chose to be one of the farms comprising the 1st 5,000 verifications in Michigan!
— Lindsey Martin, Clinton County MAEAP Technician

Upcoming Invasive Species Workshops in Mid-Michigan

The Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) will be hosting invasive species landowner workshops in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Ionia counties in May. An invasive species is one that is not native and whose introduction causes harm, or is likely to cause harm to Michigan’s economy, environment, or human health. These workshops are opportunities for local citizens to learn more about some common invasive species in their area and what they can do to help manage and reduce their spread.

 Clinton County: May 15th from 6:00-7:30 pm at the Bengel Wildlife Center in Bath, MI

Join Mid-Michigan CISMA staff and Dr. Pat Rusz to learn about some common invasive species and their impacts on wildlife. The workshop will take participants on a short hike along the center’s nature trails to see examples.

 Ionia County: May 20th from 6:00-7:30 pm at Woodard Lake, 481 Conkey Drive, Fenwick, MI

Join Mid-Michigan CISMA staff for a review of some common invasive species and a “Plant this, not that” discussion to help you select plants for your yard or garden. Also learn about the benefits of natural shorelines and how you can begin to plan for a natural shoreline on your property.

 Ingham County: May 22nd from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Ingham Conservation District in Mason, MI

Join Mid-Michigan CISMA staff and local conservationist Dave Reicosky to learn more about invasive black swallow-wort and its impact on monarch butterflies, as well as ID of some common invasive species. Learn details of an upcoming regional milkweed seed collection project and take home some native milkweed seeds to plant in your yard!

 Eaton County: May 30th from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Eaton Township Hall in Charlotte, MI

Join Mid-Michigan CISMA staff for an introduction of common invasive species ID and management options, as well as prevention steps to reduce the spread of invasive species.

Light refreshments will be available at all workshops. To register for a workshop, please visit  www.inghamconservation.com/mm-cisma or the Mid-Michigan CISMA Facebook events page at  www.facebook.com/mmcisma.  Any questions can be directed to Erin Pavloski, Regional Invasive Species Coordinator at erin.jarvie@macd.org or 517-676-2290 ext. 2. The Mid-Michigan CISMA is funded in part by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program (www.michigan.gov/invasives)

–Erin Pavloski, Mid-Michigan CISMA Coordinator

Get Involved this Summer – We Need You!

With the continuing decline in hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists, it is more important now than ever to get involved and make a difference for the natural resources locally we are blessed enough to experience every day. Luckily, Clinton County has some great opportunities for residents of all interests and skill sets to be involved in outdoor groups or clubs. These groups meet locally and would love to see new faces and ideas in their circle. All of these organizations have done great things for conservation and outdoor recreation; consider joining and make a difference in your town!

Friends of Sleepy Hollow State Park was founded in 1995 with a goal to enhance, promote, and preserve the natural resources of Sleepy Hollow State Park. This group has adopted the state park and helping with service and habitat projects year-round. They hold open meetings the first Saturday of every month at the park headquarters at 7835 Price Rd, Laingsburg, MI. For more information, check out their Facebook:  www.facebook.com/pg/FriendsOfSleepyHollowStatePark

Maple River Wildlife Association is affiliated with Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Michigan Duck Hunter’s Association. While habitat work is focused mostly on the Maple River State Game Area, the club volunteers at events all over Michigan. Special focus is given to youth and veterans involved in hunting and conservation. Visitors are always welcome to attend meetings the first Wednesday of every month. Check out their Facebook page for more details:  www.facebook.com/pg/MapleRiverWildlifeAssociation

The Clinton/Ionia Branch of QDMA is a very involved chapter of Quality Deer Management Association, named 2009 National Branch of the Year. They are a wildlife conservation organization that is dedicated to creating white-tailed deer habitat, hunting opportunities, and preserving overall health of the population. They hold a banquet annually in the winter months (after deer season, of course!). This group offers great support on all deer related topics. To learn more, visit:  www.facebook.com/pg/clintonioniaqdma

Clinton County Ducks Unlimited works to conserve, restore, and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. Some of this groups best events include a Waterfowl Spring Migration Tour held at Maple River SGA in March and their annual banquet in April. To get more involved with this group, check out their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pg/ClintonCountyMIDucksUnlimited

Friends of the Looking Glass River is a local group dedicated to the overall health of the Looking Glass watershed. Founded in 1990, the FOLG are a local, non-profit, board-based, engaged group that makes a difference locally through stream improvement projects and providing information for those interested in public access sites and recreation. There will be a public meeting on Monday, May 13 at 6:00 p.m to discuss proposals for a Park Lake Preserve that would include a non-traditional walking/water trail in Bath, MI. Please join them! Their website is:  www.lookingglassriverfriends.org

Friends of the Maple River meets bi-monthly in where they invite guest speakers to learn something new as well as talk about anything watershed related. They have a goal to promote and foster the wise use of the Maple River and it’s watershed. Annual events include: a spring clean-up day, summer “floatilla” event, and several other service days that are open to anyone. Their website is:  www.friendsofthemapleriver.org

Clinton County Pheasants Forever is a busy group that has spent countless hours and dollars on habitat improvements, land purchases, and youth education. Keeping all the money local, their annual banquet is held in March and raises money for pheasant habitat and hunting opportunities for everyone. Check out:  www.facebook.com/pg/Clinton-County-Pheasants-Forever

Originally created as the “Park Lake Improvement League” by local residents back in 1947, and continuing with that theme, “Friends of Park Lake” was formed as a non-profit in 2011. Established to promote, foster and grow public awareness of natural resources of Park Lake and it’s surrounding watershed. They strive to educate and encourage public participation in environmental stewardship in and around Bath Township’s Park Lake. This group hold quarterly meetings and would love anyone interested to join. This information and more can be found at:  www.facebook.com/friendsofparklake

National Wild Turkey Federation- Clinton County is a local group of volunteers dedicated to the education and conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of hunting heritage. Their annual banquet is held in August with various other service and education events throughout the year. Currently, the group is looking to expand their committee. They are friends who love to hunt, educate, and support wildlife and conservation. If you are interested, contact them on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NWTF-Clinton-County-Chapter

The Andy Ammann Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society is part of the international wildlife conservation organization dedicated to promoting conditions suitable for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and related wildlife and to continue the hunting heritage and tradition. They are based in Lansing but work in surrounding areas like Clinton County. Their annual banquet is early April with great conversation and prizes. For more information on how to become involved: www.facebook.com/AndyAmmannChapterOfTheRuffedGrouseSociety

— Katie Hafner, NFWF Soil Conservationist