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Help prevent spread of invasive New Zealand mudsnail

 

Anglers should do what they can, including cleaning their boats and equipment after any and all fishing trips, to protect against the spread of the invasive New Zealand mudsnail.

Anglers should do what they can, including cleaning their boats and equipment after any and all fishing trips, to protect against the spread of the invasive New Zealand mudsnail.

In 2015, the Michigan departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources confirmed the presence of the invasive New Zealand mudsnail in the Pere Marquette River near Baldwin, which is a popular destination for trout and salmon anglers.

New Zealand mudsnails are each only about 1/8 inch long and can be difficult to see. However, these snails can significantly change the aquatic habitats they live in by reaching extremely high densities. When that happens, they can out-compete native species that are important food sources for trout. They also have no nutritional value for trout species that may feed upon them, which can negatively affect the overall condition of the trout.

The threat of New Zealand mudsnail spreading to new waters is high because they are easily transported via recreational users, such as anglers, due to their ability to attach to fishing equipment, wading gear and other hard surfaces. Once attached, they can hitch a ride to a new river or lake and begin the invasive process again. Additionally, a single snail can reproduce once transported.

New Zealand mudsnails are very resilient and have been known to survive in damp environments for up to 26 days.

As the spring fishing season gears up, anglers are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to target steelhead on the Pere Marquette and other popular Michigan rivers. It is important for anglers to clean, drain and dry their equipment to help prevent the spread of these invasive snails, as well as all types of aquatic invasive species.

Anglers are encouraged to clean boats and equipment (including waders) with hot water or a diluted bleach solution, and, when possible, allow the equipment to dry for at least five days before reusing.

Additional information about the New Zealand mudsnail and other aquatic invasive species can be found at michigan.gov/invasives.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Seeing with Kids Eyes

Ranger Steve

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Walking through the big woods this week, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. It was exciting to experience wonder after wonder. It is a time when winter seems to linger and spring has not arrived but there is more occurring than the senses can grasp.

Song Sparrows are active at brush piles along the forest edge and in wetland shrubs. Just a couple weeks ago, I was seeing a dozen species of birds daily and now it is two dozen. Sandhill Cranes announce evening, Canada Geese fly over, and Wood Ducks are swimming in Little Cedar Creek.

An American Woodcock flew in for its evening dance, saw me, and kept going. The next night a Great Horned Owl was hooting from forest edge and probably kept the woodcock from showing itself. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks soared over the Big Woods and power line clearing by day.

A Turkey Vulture on clean-up duty has been soaring over the highway by Ody Brook’s entrance looking for the dead opossum and muskrat that I reported killed on the road last week. The carcasses are not obvious among the roadside vegetation but the vulture can smell them at great distance.

Two Pileated Woodpeckers feasted at an old ash tree stump. My friend, Greg, was coming to visit and I told him about the woodpeckers at the driveway’s edge. He arrived, stopped, and watched as one woodpecker worked. When the woodpecker left, we looked to see what was being eaten. Termites.

On a smaller scale, Skunk Cabbages are blooming on the floodplain. They have a hood covering minute flowers. The hood protects this first flowering plant of the year from freeze damage. The hood wraps around an inner spike that holds many flowers. The spike with flowers is called a spadix and the hood is called a spathe. Small flies and crawling insects move into this temporary shelter where they find protection from being frozen. The plant generates heat that keeps the temperature above freezing in the spathe. Heat protects plant tissues and the variety of creatures in the hood. The benefit to the plant for providing lodging is that insects pick up pollen and carry it to other Skunk Cabbage flowers.

Other flowering plants already blooming at Ody Brook by mid March are Silver Maple trees, Speckled Alder, and Whitlow-grass. Whitlow-grass, a mustard, has a small rosette of leaves found on exposed bare ground. It is only about one inch across the radiating ring of leaves. Small white mustard flowers about the size of a pinhead ensure reproduction. The plant and its flowers are so small that few people notice them but hundreds are currently in bloom.

It is good to carry a small magnifying hand lens to examine the near microscopic world of life in wetland, field, shrubland, and forest.

Bluebirds still have not arrived to inspect nest boxes cleaned and readied. They arrive before wrens to claim bird houses. When wrens arrive, they enter and kill bluebirds or destroy eggs to use the box themselves. If houses are kept in open areas away from shrubbery and forest edge, it is less likely wrens will invade.

I place two bird houses within 15 feet of another. Tree Swallows often claim one and keep other swallows from nesting that close. The swallows do not mind having bluebirds as neighbors. The bluebirds, so to speak, have a swallow guard that protects them from other swallows that try to take the second nest box.

Nature niches have a greater variety and abundance of wondrous special treats than candy in a candy shop.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Leave wildlife in the wild 

 

A white-tailed deer fawn waiting for its mother to return. Although fawns may appear to have been abandoned, that’s rarely the case, and leaving them alone will help them survive.

A white-tailed deer fawn waiting for its mother to return. Although fawns may appear to have been abandoned, that’s rarely the case, and leaving them alone will help them survive.

Do not take baby animals from the wild this spring

Spring is nearly here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young to view animals from a distance, so they are not disturbed.

It is important to remember that many species of wildlife “cache” (hide) their young for safety. These babies are not abandoned; they simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them.

“Please resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife technician for the DNR. “Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.”

Schauer added that some rescued animals that do survive may become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild.

“Habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behavior. For example, habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they get older and reach breeding age.”

White-tailed deer fawns are one of the animals most commonly rescued by well-intentioned citizens. It is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn, which allows the fawn to go undetected by nearby predators. While fawns seem abandoned, they rarely are. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way. The best chance for their survival is to leave them in the wild. If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it, as this might leave your scent and could attract predators. Give it plenty of space and leave the area quickly. The mother deer will return for her fawns when she feels it is safe, but may not return if people or dogs are present.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Please remember, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the law and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. Licensed rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild, where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling your local DNR office.

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Boat and equipment check list 

Eric Payne with a large early season bass caught and released

Eric Payne with a large early season bass caught and released

by Jack Payne

Spring fishing has started for a few anglers and this is the perfect time for a good check- up of your boat, electronics and your fishing gear. Some of these tips are second nature and a number of them anglers overlook causing significant pain. I spoke with Vohn at Matteson Marine and he pointed out some really good tips.

The first thing is checking the tire pressure. After sitting all winter it is a good bet that the air pressure has lowered. Keep the pressure near the maximum manufactured suggested levels.

Bearings need grease. As a minimum you should pull the hub and actually check the bearings every two years, more often if you drive a lot. Even with a grease zert or a Bearing buddy system, it pays to check the bearings for wear and to investigate the quality of the grease.

If the bearings are still smooth and roll easily then you can add grease and be done with it. There is no reason to pack the cavity completely full between the two sets of bearings.

The lower unit lube should be replaced each year. There are two plugs on most motors. Remove the top plug then the lower plug. Have an empty coffee can or milk jug handy to catch the lube.

One item that is overlooked by most boaters is the seals for the impeller. Most manuals suggest replacing the seals every 3-5 years. Many boaters wait until their engine horn or alarm sounds or until they have a problem.

Sucking up mud, sand or silt is one major cause of failed seals. Another is fish line. If the seals get cut, damage can occur quickly. A nice steady stream of water should be shooting out the side of the motor.

Fresh gas is a must and most two cycle motors run their best with a mid-grade octane. Low octane gas can cause problems especially on the older motors. Your manual will state the suggested octane.

Mercury Motors suggests running a stabilizer with your gas if there is any chance of the gas sitting longer than 30 days in the tank. Gas purchased at the local stations often has ethanol added. Ethanol will break down in time therefore a stabilizer will help.

Check your batteries, most are good for 3-5 years. If they are wet cell batteries then top them off with fluid. Charge up your batteries and make sure that each battery shows more than 12 volts on a meter. A good battery should read 12.5 or higher on a volt meter.

Check all of your fluid levels on your engine. Power steering and oil levels are often forgotten.

Last, with the boat in the water check out you carpeted bunks or rollers. If you have carpeted bunks make sure that the carpet is still in good condition. If worn or tore up replace it. If you have rollers make sure that each roller turns smooth. If not it is an easy job to replace.

Check the rod tips and guides with a Q-tip. If it snags up then most likely the guide or eye will need replacing. A burr or cut on the guides can translate into a frayed fishing line. It might be time for a new St. Croix rod.

Reels need a good cleaning. Get rid of the sand and debris. Loosen and tighten down the drag, lubricate the gears. Add fresh line to each reel. Mono line should be replaced at least once a season, braid might be good for a few seasons depending on how often you fish and retie.

Check the hooks on each lure. Make sure that they are razor sharp. If a pond is available then cast each lure and tune it so they run straight. Organize your tackle box so that each item is easily found. Take an inventory and stock up on the lures that you are in low supply of.

I find more hidden tackle each spring, thus saving me money when I clean out and inventory my equipment. Take a little time now and check out these items or have the pros do it while saving time and money during the fishing season.

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Spring Equinox

 

By Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The sun is directly east everywhere on Earth during the first day of Spring. It is a most dangerous time to drive east shortly after sunrise and west shortly before sunset. Many people have been injured or killed during travel due the Earth’s position on its annual trip around the sun.

Wildlife make hazardous trips at this time of year, when hormone levels rise to stimulate seasonal movement. This week a muskrat and an opossum were killed at Ody Brook as they crossed the road.

Whether you are at the North Pole, South Pole, equator, or at home on this date, the big warming ball of gas is about 93 million miles east at sunrise and west at sunset. The sun does not rise and set. The Earth is spinning one rotation every 24 hours to make the sun appear to rise and set.

The 24-hour spinning rotation is different than the Earth’s revolution around the sun that takes 365 days for one trip. The Earth is held by the sun’s gravity as it is moves in a large loop around the hot gaseous ball. Put your palm toward the sun and feel the warmth. The sun not only warms your hand, it warms your spirit. Attitudes and behavior change as daylight hours lengthen. Like people, animals experience hormone changes in response to day length changes. Animal migration to breeding grounds is under way.

Monarch butterflies are departing wintering habitat in Mexico and are heading north.

It is not just warmer temperatures that influence animal activity. The position of the Earth and sun are important. A North and South Pole line through Earth is not at a right angle with sun. The imaginary pole that extends from the most northern point of Earth to the most southern is tilted at an angle to the sun. The Earth is spinning like a top around that imaginary pole once every 24 hours.

Interestingly, when the northern hemisphere is leaning toward the sun in summer, the Earth is farther from the sun than it is in midwinter when the hemisphere is leaning away from the sun. We are about 91.5 million miles from the sun in winter and about 94.5 million miles from the sun in summer. One would think we would be warmer when closer but the angle of tilt compared to the sun makes the difference. The northern hemisphere is tipped toward the sun in summer when we are farther away causing more direct sunrays to warm us more.

Locally, many birds have arrived from the south by the first day of spring but others are still far south. Some, like Mourning Doves, may already be on nests. American Woodcocks are performing their mating display of dancing on the ground and aerial acrobatic flights high into the sky. Bluebirds claim nest boxes. Eastern Comma and Mourning Cloak butterflies hidden as adults all winter are venturing out on warm days. Woollybear caterpillars not seen since fall crawl in the leaf litter.

During February and March as the equinox approaches, sap in trees and shrubs flows, causing buds to swell. Damaged twigs leak sap. Squirrels and birds tend the wounds to lap the sugar rich sap. Freezing temperatures create sapsickles that hang as icicles when liquid flows from stems but freezes in air. I always enjoy sucking on these frozen sugary treats offered free for the taking by nature.

Look around your yard for nature niche signs of spring that would not occur if the Earth did not revolve around the sun. Near the equator, day length and warmth remains fairly stable all year with a continuous growing season. Daylight length stays close to 12 hours as does darkness. Organisms near the equator do not get to experience shorter day light hours we have in winter or the wonderfully long lighted hours of summer. Enjoy the change of seasons with snow and rain, cold and warmth and animal movements during spring transition as plant growth bursts.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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New Michigan Fishing Guide available 

OUT-Fishing-guide

The Department of Natural Resources has announced release of the 2016-2017 Michigan Fishing Guide, which includes rules and regulations effective April 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. Copies of the two-year guide can be obtained at any location where fishing licenses are sold.

Anglers should note this year’s publication is a two-year guide, covering regulations for both 2016 and 2017.

As in the recent past, this year’s guide is intended to be useful to anglers in the field by being printed on higher-quality paper to better withstand the wear and tear of fishing in Michigan, produced in a smaller physical size to better fit in tackle boxes, and printed in an easier to read font size.

This is the second year the DNR solicited photos from the public for possible use on the cover of the guide. This year’s selected photo is of Grand Haven’s north pier and was submitted by Eric Zattlin. The DNR will be collecting potential cover photos for the 2018-2019 guide as well. The DNR is looking for photos that focus on places to fish, not so much on people or fish species themselves. Interested individuals can send their submissions to DNR-Fisheries@michigan.gov.

The 2016-2017 Michigan Fishing Guide also is available in a user-friendly, electronic format online at michigan.gov/fishingguide.

Again this year, excerpts of the new Michigan Fishing Guide are available in Spanish, Arabic and Chinese to better accommodate non-English speaking anglers. These documents—each five pages in length—are available online at michigan.gov/fishing under the “Rules & Regs” button.

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Life in desolate woods

By Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve

After the big snow, schools were closed. Country roads were not safely passable for school buses. Previously the ground was mostly bare of snow and spring seemed upon us. Sandhill Cranes arrived with a throat-gargling prehistoric sound. The first Red-winged Blackbird sang from a tree at cattail marsh. It was early for arrival. I normally expect them between March 3-10 but sometimes it is later and uncommonly earlier. This year the male blackbird arrived locally on February 26 but I saw one closer to Lake Michigan a week earlier.

The snowstorm returned winter’s desolation as March arrived “Like A Lion.” We walked through 6 inches of unblemished snow in Big Field and Big Woods. Upon entering the Big Woods, a Great Horned Owl hooted in the distance. I listened and watched for it to fly as we penetrated the wood’s depth. As we exited the woods and crossed Little Cedar Creek, the owl called from the woods north of the power line clearing. A concealed owl quieted but it saw us and flew. It flew south into the larger section of Big Woods.

It was the only bird we had encountered between 5:45 and 6:15 p.m. The sun was above the horizon at our start but was now hidden creating a golden glow on clouds.

The Owl disappeared into the woods we would soon reenter. Suddenly a Black-capped Chickadee appeared from nowhere and disappeared into nowhere. We completed our walk at 6:30 with one more bird gobbling in the big woods when a lone Wild Turkey sounded its presence. Food must be fairly scarce and birds no doubt are more anxious for spring than we are.

Mammals provided track evidence. Cottontail rabbits, Gray Squirrels, Red Squirrels, White-footed Deermice, Meadow Voles, White-tailed Deer broke the snow surface with fresh tracks. A Coyote and Red Fox visit on occasion but not tonight. Turkey tracks and unidentifiable small bird tracks announced they were recently here searching.

The woods and field appear desolate following the late winter storm but signs of life abound. Trees and shrubs captured our attention as stationary denizens in nature niches. They provide insects with places to hide all winter and produce buds that sustain animals of forest and field. Seeds produced last summer found their way to the ground. Rodents dug through snow to salvage meals. It is not obvious where birds and small mammals find insects during winter but survivors are successful.

We can each help birds survive the lean times by keeping a bird feeder full. Regularly Mourning Doves, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, House Finches, and American Goldfinches are at the feeder. Occasionally a Cooper’s Hawk seeks a bird for lunch near the feeders. Great Horned and Barred Owls bring life to the night with calls starting in earnest during January. Crows are abundant daily and Pileated Woodpeckers are occasional. Canada Geese become more frequent as spring nears. Wild Turkeys are regular. Red-tailed hawks watch the field from forest edge.

Horned Larks stay in farm fields surrounding Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary. A couple European Starlings rarely come for suet but it does not disappoint me that they are rarely here. Unusual visitors are American Tree Sparrows, Brown Creeper, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Abundant birds leave the feeders and disappear into surrounding habitats late in the day. Most had already left the feeders during our walk. Where do they hide in the desolate forest and field?

The desolation will soon be changed by song, dance, and early nesting birds as they push winter northward and drag spring with them on their way to claim breeding habitats.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Fishing Tip: Safety tips for spring ice fishing

 

From the DNR

It’s almost officially spring and although this season has been fairly inconsistent for ice fishing, there still may be numerous opportunities in different locations throughout the state to get out on the water. But just remember, there are a few important safety precautions to take if you plan to do so:

1. Towards the end of the season, ice becomes rotten and soft. Even if it’s thick, it might not be strong enough to hold someone safely.

2. Don’t forget to still carry the appropriate safety items, such as ice picks and a throw rope. And remember to wear a personal flotation device when heading out.

3. Continue to use the buddy system and know you’ll have someone with you to help if you fall through the ice.

4. Carry a fully charged cell phone in a waterproof plastic bag. Make sure it is easily accessible on your person in case of an emergency.

5. Pay attention to the weather. If it hasn’t been consistently cold or if there has been a lot of wind you can’t guarantee there will be solid ice to head out on.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Protect people and nature

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The closer someone is to our own life the more we care about their health and wellbeing. Clearly, we do not want our children brain damaged by lead in our water in order to receive less expensive water to balance the city budget. Flint has gained temporary national news and the economic cost will far exceed the cost of having continued purchasing water from Detroit. The greatest cost is social and environmental.

Such stories are common and are quickly forgotten. The PBB fire retardant that was accidentally put in cow feed was buried with the cows in St. Lewis, Michigan, and was perhaps as bad or worse than the lead in water. Now the PBB incident is far from people’s minds. The PBB disposal site is still one of the most serious toxic waste dumps and many think it is not adequately confined. People claim deaths are attributed to the contamination leaks and are likely still occurring. That is partly due to the public not wanting to know about it. We are good at burying our heads in the sand like ostriches.

How many recall the Times Beach, Missouri incident from the 1970’s? A school was built on buried toxic waste. The grown children are experiencing 33 percent miscarriages and their surviving children have the same percentage of chromosome damage as their parents. Do you recall the Love Canal, New York Dioxin incident?

Who remembers the groundwater salt contamination by Dow wastewater injection into well water before the Clean Water Act of 1973? People can no longer use well water. It has become more expensive to obtain clean water and it removed a valuable resource from community use.

My first job upon graduating from College was as an urban forester in Midland. My job was to select trees on Dow Chemical woodlots to vegetate the city. I had a crew prepare 15-foot-tall trees for transplant to reforest the city. Air pollution from Dow had killed most of the trees in Midland. The Clean Air Act of 1973 required industries place pollution scrubbers on chimneys. Many fought the new regulation because it would increase the cost of doing business. Like the lead problem in Flint, the cost in human lives and lung disease as well as life loss to plants and animals was not factored into the business cost. The cost was passed on to individuals, medical insurance premiums and to government programs that private companies did not include in their bottom line.

In 1962, Rachel Carson brought the DDT insecticide problem to public awareness. Unlike many other scientists, she was skilled at writing in a manner that connected with non-scientists. She was able to make the written word readable for those not trained in scientific terminology and complex methodologies. Aldo Leopold also wrote about the essential importance of wilderness for recreation, science, and wildlife in 1949, in a manner understandable for the general public. As a result of their communication abilities, they share the designation as the two most outstanding environmentalists of the 20th century. Read their books.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is partly due to Carson’s book “Silent Spring” building a critical mass of people to support the connection between human and nature niche protection. We could use a writer like Carson to write a similar book about climate change that connects with the general reader. Like the DDT issue, there is massive money being spent to discredit climate change even thought nearly all climate scientists agree evidence supports it is human caused. People prefer to believe what they want instead of evidence supported studies.

Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac,” was important for building the critical mass of American citizens to support the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964. We had a more bipartisan Congress during those decades that acted with concern when people were dying from air, water, and pesticide contamination and for future generations health. Now elected officials have become so interested in serving only a portion of the citizens that elected them, they ignore nearly 50 percent of citizens. Consider supporting politicians that work for all Americans instead of just some people. The downside of that is nobody gets all what they want. I always maintain no one should complain about government. We should complain about our neighbors. The problem is not with government; it is with neighbors that elect government officials to serve only them instead of serving all Americans.

Elect those that understand how important nature’s ecological processes are for long term community social, economic, and ecological sustainability. The present is fleeting. The future is forever.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Designing land use for people and nature

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche By Ranger Steve

Nature Niches are vital for human survival. Designing land use for people and nature protects current and future generations. Individual humans and future generations are important. Personal wants and needs make it easy to dismiss the wellbeing of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and those that follow. The President and Congress wrestle with this balance daily.

On February 12, new National Monuments were designated by Presidential proclamation using the Antiquities Act of 1906. Congress takes decades to establish protection for proposed areas of national importance while they discuss the pros and cons. They often defer action to future legislators. By the time action is taken, the areas needing protection for future generations could be degraded or lose the value they were proposed to protect. The President is only allowed to protect land that is already owned by the American people. Private property is excluded. The proposed Arctic Wilderness in Alaska and Red Rock Wilderness in Southern Utah are two of the largest Wilderness areas awaiting designation. Wilderness designation has been debated and deferred for well over 50 years by Congress with no resolution. The Antiquities Act was created to mitigate while Congress takes slow or no action. It allows some protection, while Congress debates and considers long term land use. Some areas are approved as National Parks, other federal designations, or can be sold to private interests with Congressional approval.

Most of our national parks began by presidential proclamation. When you see a designation called National Monument it means a president protected it and Congress has not acted yet to make it a national park or eliminate it from monument or federal protection. If it is designated as a National Park, Congress has acted to support the designation. Yosemite is an example of a Congressionally approved National Park in California. It is likely Congress will not complete action on the newly designated California monuments during the lifetime of children born when the monuments were established. Some national parks and federal lands determined as non-vital for society have been closed and sold. National Forests began in a similar manner. Bureau of Land Management lands were established for management to meet different society and private interests. Designation of parks, national forest, and BLM lands have different regulations designated with varied use emphases.

National Monuments limit consumptive use more than national forest and BLM lands. At the Howard Christensen Nature Center, I worked to establish varied protections on a small local scale by acting locally but thinking globally. When driving in the entrance to the Welcome Center, one will find dispersed parking for cars scattered along the drive instead of one large parking area. That entrance area was designed to provide visitors with a natural experience before walking to the Interpretive building. Parking is located far enough away from the Red Pine Interpretative Center to hide view of the building in the woods. It is comparable to parking in a Meijer parking lot farthest from the store. Of course, at the store the building is still visible. The two parking areas have different purposes. At Meijer the purpose is to help visitors gain fast close access for target products. At HCNC the target product is the natural area instead of a building where people become separated from an outdoor experience. It provides people a chance to slow down and enjoy the ambiance of the natural world on their way to the building.

The HCNC buildings (Red Pine Center and Lily’s Retreat Center) have primary parking out of sight of the building but are also accessible by driveways that allow people close access when needed. Nature center areas were designated with high, passive, and limited activity areas. High activity areas reduce the value for survival of native species nature niches and are comparable to your house, driveway and lawn areas. Passive use areas are designated trails through intact nature niche habitats. Limited use areas hopefully prevent impairment of natural areas and include game trails, unnamed trails, and natural areas between trails that serve primarily wildlife species. Use by people should not be obvious or impair wildlife use value in limited use areas.

The new Mojave Trails, Sands to Snow, and Castle Mountains National Monuments in California include sand dunes, Native American petroglyphs, one of the continent’s youngest volcanoes, and critical habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife. They connect Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and 15 wilderness areas.

HCNC has 135 acres connected to the 5000 acres of the Rogue River State Game Area. The game area provides wildlife habitat for hunting, Grand River Watershed flood control, forest management and other uses. HCNC is outstanding for education, recreation, and it models land use designations on a small local scale. HCNC use protection designations have changed since my retirement but that is to be expected, just like Congress land use decisions change with each new Congress. My best advice is to act locally on private property under your management control with long term care designed to include future generations. Think global and act local. Support HCNC by visiting and purchasing a membership.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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