Conservation Conversations (Say that five times fast, right?)

Natural habitats for all types of wildlife are rapidly decreasing due to urbanization and agricultural pressures. Residential areas, such as backyards, can play an important role in conserving wildlife. Homeowners can enhance the natural features in their yards and neighborhoods to create a variety of thriving wildlife habitats.

Conservation conversations (say that five times fast, right?) is an event held by the West Michigan Cluster of the Stewardship Network. The participant will be able to join the conversation of conservation with six experts in a speed dating sort of style. Participants will have 15 minutes with an expert to gather highlights of the topic as well as engage in an exchange of information. If you are not interested in one topic it’s only 15 minutes and then you are on to another expert in another field.  The topics that will be included are: Storm water management, landscaping with native plants, healthy soil, aquatic invasive plants, opportunities for your forest, and buzz on bees.

This event is held on Thursday, November 5th at the DeVos Communication Center from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. Refreshments will also be served. Although this is a FREE event, you are encouraged to bring a $5 donation. This donation goesstewardship network to support  the educational programs, events, and materials sponsored by the West Michigan Cluster.

For more information: https://www.stewardshipnetwork.org/fall-feature-conservation-conversations-speed-dating-style

It is recommended you sign up and you can do it from the link above.

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Why Blandford Needs Hunters

By Land Stewardship Intern Brooke Mellema

It seems weird for a vegetarian to be writing a post on hunting. When I told my boyfriend I was writing this, he looked at me like I had sprouted a second head. I get it. So why would a vegetarian be writing such a thing? Why would I want to help a place recruit people to harm animals? Well, in an indirect way, hunting helps not only animals, but the ecosystem in it’s entirety. Let me explain.

White-tailed deer are native to Michigan, but over the last six decades their boy deerpopulation has grown to levels that are much higher than any prior period. In the Grand Rapids area, there is no natural predation for deer. At Blandford, although it covers 143 -acres, deer are running out of space. In the past, Professor Keys and his students from Cornerstone University have led a study (browse, camera and scat/pellet count) on the deer population at Blandford. They are continuing the study this year. What they found was a population of 25 to 35 deer and a recommendation that there be only 5. Deer with no natural population control are very destructive to their fellow creatures including birds and our biologically rich woody areas at Blandford.

Why are they such a problem? Deer prefer some herbaceous plants over others, and therefore leave only deer-resistance plants for the other wildlife. These changes in vegetation have been shown to affect birds. In heavily browsed areas, the shrub layer is virtually absent or is populated almost entirely by deer resistant species. Animals that nest or forage in the shrub layer are not, in some cases, able to adapt to such dramatic changes in forest structure and must find suitable habitat elsewhere or persist at low numbers (The Nature Conservancy). Deer negatively affect themselves as well. Leaving deer-resistant plants to multiply, and nothing else, leaves them with no food, can cause erosion and starts making them nuisances to our neighbors by nibbling on their gardens and causing accidents by being in the way of cars.

Don’t get me wrong. I love deer. I think they are neat little creatures and I always have a little pang in my heart when opening day comes around, so I understand when people might initially be opposed to hunting at Blandford. However, I know managing white-tailed deer populations through hunting is an important step in reducing deer damage and protecting the biodiversity of Blandford. Deer populations have grown well beyond the ability of our natural communities to withstand their effects. For this reason, we employ skilled bow hunting as a tool to reduce populations to reduce the damage deer cause, allowing natural communities to recover their full vigor and diversity (The Nature Conservancy).

Source: If you would like to read a little more in depth at deer populations in Michigan, I got most of my information from:

“All Conservancy preserves in Michigan are Threatened in Some Way by Deer.” The Nature Conservancy. N.p., 24 July 2015. Web. 17 Sept. 2015. <http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/michigan/explore/deer-hunting-in-michigan.xml&gt;.

“Deer Can Be Too Many, Too Few, or Just Enough for Healthy Forest.” US FOREST SERVICE NORTHERN RESEARCH STATION. US Forest Service, 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2015. <http://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/news/review/review-vol16.pdf&gt;.

Stewardship Challange

The Stewardship Network of the Great Lakes has created a challenge for us this October! Every year through the Garlic Mustard Challenge, thousands of people come together to dedicate tens of thousands of hours to invasive species management. The October Volunteer Challenge will bookend the spring Garlic Mustard Challenge, and will be a way of showing collective impact, showcasing the many facets of stewardship, and telling the stories of stewards working in public parks and on private properties. This challenge is about the volunteer hours towards removal of invasive species, not a specific species. The goal is a total of 1,000 hours of collective volunteer hours. 

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HOW CAN YOU HELP
Blandford Nature Center holds many opportunities for eco-stewardship volunteer hours throughout the year. This October we are holding two opportunities to remove invasive species and contribute to helping the biodiversity of Blandford’s beautiful 143 acres. These eco-stewardship days are free to everyone. Afraid you won’t be able to identify the invasive species? No worries! We start with a lesson on invasive non-native plants and tree identification. Then we head out into the forest to practice our identification skills with a fabulous guide to help you with identification. Finally, we’ll cut and treat those unwanted invaders improving habitat for native species. If you plan on coming please come prepared to work off the trail. Wear layers of warm clothes and sturdy shoes that will more than likely get dirty. These opportunities are open to the public so walks-ins are welcome. Application not required for group work days. Bring a friend! Together we can help contribute to the 1,000 hour goal for the Stewardship Network challenge! (dates and times: http://blandfordnaturecenter.org/community-programs-calendar/)
This Stewardship Blog Post was contributed by Brooke Mellema, Blandford Nature Center Land Stewardship Intern.