Across North America a tiny butterfly called the Poweshiek skipperling was abundant until development and agricultural spraying took away the habitat and acted as a neurotoxin. The population plummeted until there were only two places left in the world where they could be found by scientists sweeping the landscape with butterfly nets. The conservancy has purchased appropriate fen (wetland) habitat where zoo-reared butterflies can be reintroduced to keep the species from going extinct. Our job is to make sure the plant life and hydrology stays the same and continues to provide what the skipperling and other rare species need.
Preserving wetlands for flood protection
Michigan has many towns that were established when rivers were dammed as a source of power. Water power is not greatly needed now and old dams remain and slowly decay. Removal is one option. Protecting the downstream area is another option. The Village of Holly has taken that option and preserved the water absorbing wetlands downstream with a conservation easement to our conservancy. Should the dam rupture, there is enough preserved floodplain to hold the increased water level without damage to man-made structures. The conservation easement prevents building on this sensitive area.
Mitigating an illegal commercial wetland fill
A big-box retailer built on an acre of wetland on the condition that it would mitigate this wetland fill by preserving 20 times that amount of high quality wetland elsewhere within the watershed. Our conservancy entered an agreement to protect the marshy area near Buckhorn Creek in perpetuity upon receiving the EGLE-brokered purchase of this land. That portion of Rose Township was under threat of fragmented development, so the possibility of preserving the area using the fines imposed on the big-box retailer was a great opportunity. Since acquiring the land, the conservancy has completed a species inventory, removed invasive bushes and vines in the upland portion and replanted with native trees and flowers.
Guarding a high quality stream
The Clinton River watershed drains water from 760 square miles into Lake St. Clair. Wetland form the river’s beginnings in several places. In 1985, forty acres located at the furthest northwest extent of the watershed was donated to the conservancy. Every year the Clinton River Watershed Council tests the stream within this preserve. Consistently it rates as the highest quality site in the entire watershed. The conservancy helps maintain stream quality by preserving the woods which cool the water. It also maintains a wide buffer which prevents nearby homes from introducing pollutants such as septage, lawn fertilizer, insecticides and de- icing products.
Providing a life estate for a Holocaust survivor
In Groveland Township, the need for privacy and peace and quiet was very important to one homeowner who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust. He negotiated a life estate agreement in which the land was given to the conservancy, but he and his wife were allowed to live out their life there undisturbed. A further benefit was that he was relieved of property taxation as the conservancy was the actual owner and it was excused from taxation by law. Upon his death, the conservancy retained an easement on the land and sold the house to a young buyer who also valued the private woodland setting.
Ensuring the survival of a camp for children
More than half the outdoor camps in Southeast Michigan have closed their doors and sold their acreage to builders. When Camp Wathana was teetering the edge of closing, the conservancy negotiated to buy a conservation easement over all 250 acres. Neighbors and donors raised $150,000 which helped keep the camp afloat. Renovation of the camp buildings was allowed, a portion of the forest was set aside for income producing timbering, and normal operation of the camping program for boys and girls was allowed to continue in the terms of the easement. The conservancy retained a bog, a lake, a watershed outlet, open fields, acres of trees and a permanently open space in the heart of Rose Township, not to mention natural lake frontage and significant wetlands.
Restoring a local prairie with native plants
7. A disagreement between developers ended up in court. The Judge awarded each builder the right to build condos, provided 8 acres was donated to the local conservancy. We accepted the land despite its poor condition and set about restoring it to the type of prairie that existed there before the settlement era. Little blue stem grass has begun resprouting from the “seed bank.” A walking trail has been laid out and volunteers have cleared trash and re-seeded with native prairie plants. It a few years it will flourish with pollinator plants and insect loving birds, all part of the food web typical of the prairies that dotted southern Michigan in the early 1800’s. A few rarities will also be encouraged and visible from busy I-75 as cars whiz by.
Securing the highest peak in Oakland County
The Hall family sought to preserve the hilly, undeveloped region north of Clarkston. They purchased 20 acres of the highest area, built a home and began donating easements to the conservancy bit by bit. As a pilot, Tom Hall knew that the summit—a kame created in glacial times—was the highest point north of Detroit. Before the forest grew in height, Detroit’s buildings were visible on a clear day. The Halls have always welcomed neighbors to walk the trails on this remarkable property.
Protecting the source of the Shiawassee River
The Shiawassee River is over 110 miles long. It begins at the easternmost point in Springfield Township at Shiawassee Lake. The conservancy had the opportunity to preserve part of this lake as well as 60 acres of mature forest when Springfield Township negotiated with the developer to retain open space in return for higher density of housing. In fall, the lake is a stop- over for migrating waterfowl. In winter it remains open due to the surrounding wetlands. In spring and summer it feeds the river with clear water nourishing valuable wetlands downstream.
Holding stormwater for infiltration
As Supervisor of Independence Township, Dale Stuart recognized that using a golf course for stormwater collection was a less expensive way of managing excess water. He was also a member of our conservancy and so negotiated a joint easement on Liberty Golf Course to collect, infiltrate and direct rainwater from Spring Lake south to the wetland surrounding the Waterford Sportsman's Club and thence into Woodhull Lake, part of the Clinton River. Augmenting this tributary to the Clinton River saved the township money while preserving a natural hydrologic feature of the landscape.
Reversing land destroyed in construction
This was a golf course that was not meant to be. It sat empty for years, but not before bulldozing trees, trucking in sand for traps and terraforming the landscape into tees and bunkers. The wetland surrounding Sashabaw Creek was not touched, however. When permission was granted to build homes instead, EGLE insisted on restoration of 20 of the acres. The new owner worked with the conservancy to take steps to transform the land. We conducted controlled burns, re-seeded open areas, removed the buckthorn invasion and routed the waterflow from across the street through a wetland to filter out sedimentation and pollutants before it entered the creek. A rich variety of plant life returned and attracted insects and birds to take up residence.
Watching over beaver territory
In developed areas intervention is sometimes needed to achieve a balance between wildlife and the needs of human residents. The conservancy had held an easement on a development built around wetlands when beavers took up residence. For a while, homeowners enjoyed the wildlife and had no complaints. As the beavers increased the height of their dam, basement flooding looked imminent. The conservancy installed a “beaver deceiver” through the dam and below the water’s surface which partially drained the beaver’s lake and lowered the lake level. The beavers were “deceived” because they could not hear the trickle of running water, a sound which triggers beavers to greater dam-building activity. The conservancy continues to watch over the tenuous balance, while homeowners look out on a wetland with eagles, otters and ever-present herons.