Little Forks Conservancy is pleased to announce the completion of two conservation projects at the end of 2021. This takes our total of protected lands over 4,000 acres. We are grateful for the landowners that helped make this possible.
A 42-acre property in Bay County, just 10 minutes from Downtown Midland was donated by Tom and Barbara VanderKelen to Little Forks and will become a natural area open to the public. This property is already well-loved by the local community with social trails throughout and fishing on the three man-made ponds on the property.
For over 15 years we have been working with landowners in the Cedar River Watershed to protect and improve this amazing resource. Stay tuned for more details on these exciting new conservation projects.
Head over to the Land Protection page to learn more about conservation options in your area.
Keeping a bird feeder or bird bath is one of the easiest ways to enjoy and support the wildlife in your backyard. In 2021 birds in several states around the country, including Ohio and Indiana, started to show signs of illness. Luckily cases weren’t reported in Michigan, but cleaning your bird feeders and baths and observing the birds using them is critical to keep them healthy.
To learn more about bird disease in our area and the latest news visit https://www.michigan.gov/mdard/animals/diseases/avian/avian-influenza
Martha from Nature Niche did an in depth video about this topic - watch the Mondays with Martha episode below.
Written by Erin Dodd of Huron Pines AmeriCorps, Supported in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Michigan Community Service Commission. Huron Pines and contributions from host sites. Huron Pines is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and an equal opportunity provider.
The month of November when the weather cools down and the work outside slows down we take a breath and reflect on what we accomplished this year and the years prior. This November is a big deal for Little Forks Conservancy as we celebrate 25 years as an organization. Staff wanted to share with you what they appreciate most about Little Forks.
This January I will be entering my fifth year at Little Forks Conservancy. I am most grateful for the organizations participation in the Huron Pines AmeriCorps program, without that program I would not be where I am today. During my 10 months of service, I was able to demonstrate my abilities and grow professionally which gave me a great advantage when a full time position was created. In addition, continuing to work alongside AmeriCorps members helping to create the next generation of conservationist.
Secondly I am grateful for the community connections nourished by Little Forks Conservancy. The role we get to play connecting organizations and people to make projects and passions come to fruition. Whether that is a large scale habitat project in the watershed or an eagle scout project at a natural area.
Lastly, I am grateful for the volunteers that take interest in helping Little Forks with citizen science efforts, controlling invasive species and keeping the watershed clean.
The one thing I am most grateful for is all the people who have played a part in Little Forks Conservancy over the years. It all started out with a handful of forward-thinking community members who were inspired to find a way to protect our local rivers and streams. This inspiration led to the creation of Little Forks. Our founding board members helped guide me early in my career to turn their vision into on the ground conservation.
I am grateful for the many community members whose financial support both large and small has helped us carry out our work. These contributions helped pave the way for successful projects including the acquisition of Riverview Natural Area, creating a universally accessible trail at the Averill Preserve, supporting community programing, or helping to improve the lands we manage.
I am also grateful for the many landowners that we have worked together with to protect rivers, forests, fields, farmland, and wetlands. Their actions will have a lasting impact in our community for current and future generations.
Our work would not be possible without our amazing staff and board members past to present. They have gone above and beyond to help Little Forks succeed. The many faces that have led programs, built community connections, improved habitat, and promoted our work far and wide. I am grateful for their hard work and dedication in carrying out our mission.
Lastly, I am immensely grateful to live in a community that cares about conservation and working together to improve the quality of life for all. I am not just grateful today, but all days that I spend working to protect, improve, lead, and inspire.
Volunteers can make or break an event and having reliable fun volunteers that come back each time really improves the whole dynamic. The stream sampling of the Cedar started in Fall 2015 with 23 volunteers and has continued with an average of 30 volunteers involved at each event from a mixture of Midland and Gladwin County. It is a joyous moment seeing the teams come back from sampling with laughter and good conversation as they enjoy a lunch talking about the day or something that was brought up while at the sampling site.
Sara Huetteman Preserve and Volunteer Manager says "Greg is one of those volunteers the brings a positive experience to his group, making conversation with everyone attending. Outside of stream sampling Greg represents Little Forks by telling other people about our properties and the work we do. He attends workshops and other activities we plan on the Cedar River such as the Cedar River Clean Up."
Greg Allington has been in the Cedar River collecting macroinvertebrates since 2016. This year Greg will be nominated to MiCorps, the statewide program for stream sampling, for 5 years of volunteering with our program. We reached out to Greg to get his thoughts on volunteering with us. Take it away Greg!
I volunteer for the Little Forks’ stream sampling on the Cedar River because it’s an easy and fun way to do citizen science in my backyard. I have a cabin on Pratt Lake in the Cedar River Watershed, and also live and work down river near the Saginaw River. I love to explore the wonderful rivers and streams we have here in the Saginaw Bay Watershed. We are very lucky to have so many places to hike, kayak, and fish. Many of these places we wouldn’t have without the efforts of Little Forks, along with the help of their partners and volunteers. I feel lucky to be able to help out. The best memories I have with Little Forks is meeting and working with some amazing people around the area. I am constantly inspired and excited to discover inspirational landowners conserving and protecting their land and waters for wildlife and people to enjoy. Most of all I live to discover new places to explore, hike, and be an amateur biologist again.
Over Twenty five years ago a group of 12 motived members of the Midland community decided protecting our waterways was essential to the community and there was a need for a new organization, a land conservancy, to focus on protecting the Tittabawassee river watershed. On November 25th 1996, Little Forks Conservancy filed official articles of incorporation. In these 25 years, Little Forks has protected almost 4000 acres in the watershed through 33 conservation easements, opened 875 acres across 7 natural areas and been a resource for the community on conservation practices.
Artists, designers, lovers of nature! We are asking YOU to come up with a shirt design in honor of our 25th Anniversary. Submit your design to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on February 1st, 2022 and our board of directors, committee members and staff will take a vote on which shirt best fits our organization. The winner will receive a free shirt with their design and a gift card. The winning shirt will then be sold on Bonfire where members of the community can purchase.
Mission Statement - The Little Forks Conservancy permanently protects and improves natural environments in mid-Michigan by leading and inspiring actions that conserve vital habitats and waterways for the benefit of our entire community.
Fall is a gorgeous time to explore Little Forks Conservancy’s nature preserves. You can enjoy the last lingering autumn leaves.
Many people cut back on hiking during this time because of hunting season. But, hiking during hunting season can be just as enjoyable as any other time of year! Here are a few tips to help you discover our trails in the fall.
1. When is hunting season?
Although many of us are most familiar with deer hunting season, there are actually a number of hunting seasons in Michigan. You can see the full list of hunting season dates by clicking here.
2. Is there hunting on the preserves?
Little Forks Conservancy does not allow hunting on the Averill Preserve and Forestview Natural Area. The George and Sue Lane Preserve is open to bow hunting for deer season. The Lane Preserve and Riverview Natural Area are open for spring turkey season. Both are managed by the Preserve Manager through a permit system. The Albert & Virginia Szok Preserve is located within Pine Haven Recreation Area which does allow hunting. If you’re planning on visiting the two preserves with hunting on the property, signage will be placed in the parking lot.
3. Is there hunting nearby at the other preserves?
Yes, some of our neighbors do hunt their properties. For your safety, please stay on the trail and obey any “No Trespassing” signs. Also, please respect neighboring hunters by minimizing loud noises or disturbing wildlife.
4. Do I have to wear orange?
Wearing a bright orange hat or vest is a great way to make sure you’re seen by hunters! Since they wear it themselves, they will know that means you’re there. If you’re walking your dog, make sure he or she remains on a leash – and you can also pick up an orange vest for your dog at local pet supply stores!
If you’re out during dawn or dusk when light is dim, a headlamp or flashlight is also recommended.
5. What if I encounter a hunter?
If you see a hunter on a Little Forks' preserve each hunter should have a permit given to them by Little Forks Conservancy by Sara the Preserve Manager. If a preserve that does not allow hunting, contact our office at 989.835.4886.
You may see hunters along the preserve boundary. If you do, quietly continue along the trail within the preserve.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to safely enjoy a great hike at one of Little Forks’ preserves! If you encounter any problems or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 989.835.4886 ext 104 or email Sara.
As you may have seen in the local hardware store or heard on the news, lumber prices are at an all time high. Turns out it is more than just our local demand post-flood that has skyrocketed these prices but a mountain pine beetle in Canada. According to an article from Quartz, a global economy news source, called “The US wood shortage can be traced to a decades-old beetle infestation in Canada.”
Journalist Samantha Subramanian from Quartz spoke with Kevin Mason from the ERA Forest Products Research in Canada who explained mild winters in the 1990’s allowed the mountain pine beetle to do significant damage. Dead trees have a time limit before they become too brittle, so British Columbia government acted quickly to incentivize harvesters to cut. This increase lasted until 2015 and now we wait for the forest to regrow, prompting many sawmills to shut down due to lowered production.
Fast forward to 2020, sawmill activity was halted but with steadfast demand lumber supplies diminished and left companies behind schedule. Sawmills opened again but regulating COVID cases within staff added hurdles when trying catch up. There are basic economics at play here - low supply and high demand drives the cost up. Mason predicts prices will remain “volatile” for the next 3-5 years. He sees an opportunity for the US to import wood from Europe as they had a similar issue with spruce trees and a bark beetle leaving them currently in surplus. Although as Michigan residents, we are all too aware of the dangers of importing wood products. Major steps should be taken to avoid introducing new invasive beetles to our forests. Just look at the Emerald Ash Borer that was introduced to Michigan in 2002 and spread to 35 states according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Michigan trees are being attacked from all directions. Beech Bark Disease, Oak Wilt and Hemlock Wooly Adelgid are currently in the state. Foresters are on high alert for the Asian long-horned beetle and spotted lantern fly which are currently in nearby states. Roughly 60% of Michigan forest land is privately owned and Little Forks wants to use this as an opportunity to encourage all landowners to learn how to maintain a heathy forest. Now is a good time to learn about the warning signs and identification of pests so they can be caught early and hopefully treated.
For more information on tree diseases and other care tips check out our 2020 Stewardship Series - Caring for your Trees. You can also contact Sara Huetteman our preserve and volunteer manager to learn more or to find local resources
available in our community.
Whether you are an avid runner or just starting out — Little Forks wants you to know that our preserves are a perfect way to mix up your routine. Trail running has become increasingly popular. The Outdoor Industry Association reported in 2018 that there are more trail runners than there are off-road bikers – about 9 million!
Going to a nature preserve, instead of a track or treadmill, adds variability to your routine with the added mystery of what creatures and sights you’ll come across. With temperatures climbing and the sun shining you can hear a chorus of frogs, spot sunbathing turtles or snakes (harmless garter snakes usually) and a herd of deer running off in the woods. What better way to enjoy nature and avoid those pesky mosquitoes than by getting in some cardio? To help start your journey, we took the guesswork out of adding up miles and outlined a few options at our preserves that will compliment your short or long-distance running needs.
Congrats to Karen Habeck for capturing the most items on our Winter Scavenger Hunt in February! Check out her photos below.
Congratulations to Rebecca and Chuck Neal for capturing the most items on our Winter Scavenger Hunt! Check out their photos below and don't forget to submit your photos for a chance to win some Little Forks swag!