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Tag Archive | "Kent Conservation District"

Short-eared Owls


Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Three friends and I visited eight Short-eared owls at meal time. The owls are smaller than Great Horned Owls and come south to our region in winter. There was a large grassland where they fed near Muskegon, south of M-46 near Swanson Road. A few years ago, building construction eliminated habitat and the owls.

We recently found a place where they are wintering on private land. When observing the owls, posted signs on private property stated “conservation easement.” You might wonder how to establish a conservation easement that will protect your land for your use and for future generations. On February 9, the Kent Conservation District is hosting a dinner and 45-minute program at no cost to you titled “What is the District doing for You and Kent County’s Natural Resources?”

The presentation will bring attention to the resources available to Kent County residents such as the NRCS administered Farm Bill that offers easement programs to eligible landowners to conserve working agricultural lands, wetlands, grasslands and forestlands. The Forestry Assistance Program and the Conservation Technical Assistance Initiative, Michigan’s Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program and invasive species strike team services are a few of the programs that will be covered during the presentation.

Please attend on February 9 for a 5:30 p.m. dinner with a 6 p.m. program at the Grand Rapids Township Hall, 1836 E Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525. The Kent Conservation District Showcase is free to Kent County residents. RSVP to Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/events/153931478427517/).

Back to the owls. My mother once told me that when habitat is destroyed, like occurred with building construction at the Muskegon site, the animals need to move someplace new. Unfortunately, there are not adequate places remaining for relocation. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Short-eared Owls’ population has declined by 80 percent between 1966 and 2013. Similar declines are occurring for many species as habitat is destroyed to accommodate a growing human population.

Conservation easements can help species survive by curbing habitat loss from agriculture, livestock grazing, recreation, and development that are major causes for species declines. Information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology states the “owls require large uninterrupted tracts of open grasslands, and they appear to be particularly sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation.” Habitat restoration programs, such as the Conservation and Wetland Reserve Programs, have shown some success in restoring suitable habitat for Short-eared Owls.

Local farmers and landowners have entered land into the Conservation and Wetland Reserve Programs that are beneficial for our natural heritage and the owner. Such programs not only aid owl survival but help reduce flooding in downstream areas. The conservation programs have significant economic benefits for the community. There is an economic cost that pays for itself in benefits by preventing flood damage losses, soil erosion fertility loss, pollution damage to streams, and it slows loss of wildlife.

The conservation programs can provide hunting easements on private land. The landowner receives financial rewards from the government and community members have access to land. It is considered a win/win for land owners, community members, and declining populations of plants and animals that can now survive. The new Federal administration does not recognize the value of an economic, social, and environmental bottom line. The focus is only on a short-term economic bottom line. Efforts are underway to eliminate many conservation programs that include social and environmental benefits that serve the triple bottom line.

Elimination of conservation programs is not good for the owls that have suffered an 80 percent decline. Elimination is not good for the public at large for flood control, or future generations. Attend the presentation to learn “What the Kent Conservation District is doing for You and Kent County’s Natural Resources?”

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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Gardening workshop


The spring gardening season has begun, and Kent Conservation District is asking landowners to please consider using native Michigan plants when planning landscape projects. KCD and Founders Bank are hosting an educational Native Plant Gardening Workshop at our office on May 9, 2012 from 6-8p.m. Our presenter will be Vern Stephens, who is our grower for the native plant sale. He will provide a beautiful presentation with practical advice and garden plans. Information about themed gardens, such as pollinator gardens, and gardens specific to sunny or shady sites will also be available. Suggested donation is 5$, please RSVP to reserve your seat. You may still place orders at the workshop for the sale on May 12. Details on our website at: www.kentconservation.org.

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Nature center closes again—temporarily


By Judy Reed

Kids and adults in the greater Cedar Springs area have fond memories of field trips to Howard Christensen Nature Center—walking the nature trails, identifying trees, leaves, and birds, seeing wildlife in its natural habitat. But yesterday, January 19, was the last field trip for kids at Howard Christensen Nature Center. At least for now.
In a move that no one seemed to know was coming, the board of the Kent Conservation District voted last week to cease programming at the nature center on Red Pine Drive due to a funding shortage.
The Kent Conservation District took over funding operations at the nature center in 2006 after the Kent Intermediate School District closed it in 2005 due to budget cuts. “Administrative and financial support was provided to the community because Kent Conservation District believes in the mission of Howard Christensen Nature Center to help people connect with nature through hands on, site-based experiences,” said KCD administrator Conning Redding. (We) have worked steadily to increase the nature center’s independence since 2006.” She went on to say that the programming at the center has not provided the funding necessary for sustained operation, and that because of limited resources, the board had to withdraw from involvement with the center.

Ranger Steve Mueller leads a group at a nature center outing.

According to Director Kathy Reed, the 2011 proposed budget is $45,000. Besides Reed, who is a part-time director, the center was staffed by eight part-time interpretive instructors, and one volunteer interpretive instructor. She added that several volunteers put in over 1,000 hours last year helping maintain the center. “They are very important to the facility as well,” she said.
Reed said that over 2,500 students visited the center last year, and 864 people attended their programs—up 227 people from the year before.
She noted that although the facility is closed, the public can still access the nature trails at the south entrance.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster,” remarked Reed. “What makes me so sad, is all the people affected. I’ve heard kids are praying in Sunday School for it to reopen, and I’ve had a lot of phone calls of support from the community.”
Reed doesn’t consider the closing to be permanent. She said she is currently in talks with another agency that could be promising, but the discussion is just beginning.
She asked that those that want to donate to help keep the center open should monitor the situation, and as soon as she has news she will alert the public. “It’s then that we will need support,” she said.
In the meantime, if you want to leave a message of encouragement or say that you will donate, you can do it on their facebook group page. We will have a link to their group on our facebook page.

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