This article by Candy Sarikonda, Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist and Wild Ones Member, tells the story of how a wide-ranging partnership came together to restore native habitat for monarchs and other wildlife at an archery club in Michigan. Habitat restoration benefits much more than just monarchs; it helps diverse wildlife and can bring organizations and people together.
"Why don't you come to our club? We'll teach you how to fling a few arrows." That's how it all started.
Three years ago, Patrick Hogan of Tomahawk Archers posted a request for milkweed seed on Facebook. The archery club, located on 43 acres in Temperance, MI, has an oil pipeline running through club property. Mr. Hogan was interested in planting milkweed along the pipeline with local Boy Scout troops. He was in need of seed and plants, and planting guidance. I long had an interest in learning archery. "Sure, I'll come fling a few arrows," I said.
During our first visit to the club my family joined club members and their families for a presentation by Rob Mies of the Organization for Bat Conservation. After a family lesson in archery we walked out of the clubhouse, straight into the forest.
The club is situated in the Oak Openings, a globally rare ecosystem on par with the Everglades. I instantly recognized the conservation value of the property. Fringed gentian, hairy puccoon, wild columbine, round-headed bush clover, blazing star, pussy toes, trillium, elderberry--natives too numerous to name were present. Many of these natives are important nectar sources for monarchs. A Pileated Woodpecker had recently been found nesting on the property, the first one seen in the county in 100 years. Eastern box turtles made the club their home, along with salamanders, raptors, and countless butterfly and moth species.
The property was a gem. But Mr. Hogan knew it needed help. Buckthorn had taken over the property. He was well aware how harmful this was for wildlife, reducing biodiversity and damaging the ecosystem. There was also the pipeline right-of-way and a hillside in need of a native planting. He asked if I knew anyone who could help. You bet I did.
An incredible partnership came together to make the native hillside and pipeline plantings possible, including several MJV partners. Tomahawk officers, Mr. Hogan and I began making plans to restore the property. My fellow Wild Ones members and Nature Conservancy staff joined Tomahawk members, and planted a native prairie seed mix on the hillside just outside the clubhouse doors. Wild Ones collected seed from Tomahawk, which was added to seed purchased from Naturally Native Nursery to create the seed mix. Toledo Metroparks supplied plugs of dense blazing star for a low swale. Monarch Watch supplied common and swamp milkweed for the hillside and pipeline through a grant from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Enbridge agreed to adjust their mowing schedule to allow the natives to go to seed on the pipeline.
Our efforts in creating native habitat on the pipeline and hillside generated interest in doing even more. Club members worked hard to cut down the buckthorn that had taken over areas of the property. But restoration of the entire property seemed an overwhelming prospect for the club membership alone, so in stepped another conservation partner, The Nature Conservancy.
Through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, TNC began work and cut down large stands of the buckthorn. Beneath these stands was a vast amount of wood debris and leaf litter that would likely prevent the native seed bank from germinating. It was time for the next step--a prescribed burn. This would remove excess wood, leaf litter and tick and mosquito breeding sites. It was a win-win for club members and wildlife. The Nature Conservancy and Tomahawk officers met with city officials, educating the public and garnering support for the burn. As a result of their efforts, a prescribed burn was conducted this spring on 30 acres of the club's property. Says Patrick Hogan, “I just appreciate when TNC, who works on high quality properties, comes out and says how impressed they are with our little patch. It makes you really want to restore the property.”
Wildflowers and milkweeds are already emerging, enhancing habitat for monarchs, pollinators and more. Warblers are moving through, and the forest and prairie are alive with song. A woodcock calls from the restored wet prairie. Mourning cloaks brush past archers as they walk the archery course. An eastern box turtle greeted a delighted Scout. Rare plants have been found, prompting several native plant tours led by area experts.
I walk the grounds now with my bow, proud of the people and partnerships that have made this place so special. Birds, butterflies and bows. It doesn't get any better.
Article from the Bedford News--Nature Conservancy Takes On Oak Openings Restoration in Temperance http://m.bedfordnow.com/article/20160515/NEWS/160519370
Oak Openings Region Green Ribbon Initiative http://oakopenings.org
Photos of hillside prairie planting at Tomahawk Archers https://www.flickr.com/photos/candy__kasey/albums/72157647462201056
Tomahawk Archers website http://www.tomahawkarchers.com
The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Header photo by Patrick Hogan.