While we wait for America and the rest of the world to stop burning fossil fuels, we can take small steps to do our own part to slow climate change. Really? Yes! Something as simple as planting trees and gardens or using your own compost goes a long way toward holding carbon in the soil. This in turn slows climate change. Eating homegrown vegetables and fruit also helps because this uses less fuel. Buying clothing in thrift stores or re-using items helps even more since there are so many steps in manufacturing clothing or furniture and then bringing them to market that use fossil fuels. It seems odd that such simple steps can leave a smaller carbon footprint, but each small change helps!
I think what is most disturbing to me about the current administration (and I will not go into politics here) are the changes to our environmental policies. Believe what you want, but there are real statistics available to us on how our animals, plants, trees, and oceans are being harmfully affected by what we humans have done in the past 200 plus years. First, if you haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth, watch it. If you have no idea what is happening to our climate, seek out vetted news, read and explore scientific information. If you are wealthy enough, visit the arctic circle and watch polar bears and penguins. Travel to Africa and observe poaching first hand. If you are not wealthy (like me) take the time to watch Nature or other shows about what is happening to our planet. I am deeply distressed that our country is not doing everything we can to make a difference for the animals and creatures of our planet. Climate change and things like the hole in the ozone layer (which we DID do something about) are not "fake news". I wish all this was fake news. It is not. Things like melting glaciers, loss of animal populations, and destruction of animals and animal habitat are measurable.
My husband sometimes kids me that I care more about animals than I do about people. Well, possibly... because animals do not have a voice! They can't do the things that need to be done to reverse this dangerous trend. Animals can only try to adjust, not an easy task when natural adaptation or finding a new habitat (if it is even possible) can take centuries... When I see the extensive bleaching of coral reefs, starving polar bears, monocultures devoid of healthy ecosystems, slash and burn farming in the rapidly disappearing rainforests, animal species going extinct - I am not proud to be a human. I am sad.
So of course, there are thousands of websites that offer constructive suggestions for how to make a difference. I suggest at a minimum you do this: Study the views of future candidates and vote accordingly. Teach your children how to care for all animals, how to plant a garden, how to cherish the earth's creatures, how to sit still and watch the wildlife around them, how to be empathetic, how to make a difference, how to live differently. Then do the same!
Invasive plants are a sad reality for Oakland County and all of Michigan. Yet there is good news! Highland Township is spearheading a unique opportunity to treat phragmites (see above photo) and other invasvies in our county. This must be done before the first frost, so Jim Lloyd and Lynn Hansford of the Highland Conservancy have been working with the Lisa Burkhart of Highland Township to GPS target areas for treatment. A contractor will be treating phragmites in the next few weeks throughout Highland Township, now that the paperwork has been completed.
In addition, each of us can educate ourselves on what to look for and how to remove invasives on our own property to help prevent their spread. Why does it matter? We have dandelions and worms and they were once invasive species right? Think of the Asian carp. This invasive fish has taken over a key spot in the food chain and wiped out a lot of other species as a result. Plants like Kudzu may be more familiar but here in Michigan, Phragmites, Garlic Mustard, Swallow-wort and Oriental bittersweet are just as harmful! With plants, we need to be alarmed when that plant turns a local field or forest into a monoculture, overwhelming and destroying that food web. A dandelion will happily live alongside the grass in your yard but doesn’t cause the grass to die out, or wipe out the local population of birds or insects. Not so with invasives such as Phragmites (frag-my-tees), a huge, towering, water-loving reed. It will take over a wetland area wiping out cattails and native reeds that birds and mammals rely on for a food source. This is when we need to step in and fight!
Be careful to do your research. Pulling up a plant like garlic mustard and throwing it on the compost pile or in a ditch can do more harm by spreading the seeds. Also, some plants such as oriental bittersweet or swallow-wort have root systems that need to be completely removed. Each species is different and has a different method of removal. Also, don’t plant invasives as ornamentals such as Purple Loosestrife or a food source for birds such as Autumn Olive or Oriental bittersweet (American Bittersweet is ok).
Finally, if you have Phragmites, contact Highland Township to join in on the latest effort to combat it. Currently there is a grant that will provide for a contractor to remove Phragmites from your yard free of charge, or in common areas in subdivisions, public spaces, and lake areas. Please call Lisa Burkhart at Highland Township immediately (248-887-3791) to arrange to be part of this important initiative!
An excellent guide to terrestrial invasives and how to handle them:
For a good visual with photos of invasive Michigan plants, click on this link:
This is a link to the Michigan Invasive Species Initiative of which the Highland Conservancy is a member:
Here is the Oakland County chapter of this network:
For more information, contact: Emily Duthinh
OC CISMA Chair
Join in on the fun with the Six Rivers Adventure League! Some events include: paddling scenic stretches of rivers, exploring rugged trails in local recreation areas, and biking through some of Michigan’s best trail networks. Check the schedule for upcoming events and bring the family for some great outdoor adventures!
Sadly, oak wilt is a new disease spreading like wildfire throughout Michigan and our country. Once infected with this fungus, oak trees die within a few months. When trees are pruned anytime from March 1st to December 1st (the warm season), they will likely be infected by this disease. Oak wilt is spread by sap beetles. They can "smell" the sap from miles away and will bring the fungus to trees when they feed on sap from newly pruned oaks or oaks that have lost branches in a storm. In Oakland County, power line companies (DTE) has hired trimmers who have been systematically trimming during the wrong time of year. This brought the disease to oaks in our local forests and subdivisions. Storm damage to oaks has amplified the problem.
There are simple steps you can take to treat and protect your trees. DO NOT PRUNE during the warm season (March 1st to Dec. 1st). Only prune when the weather is below 50 degrees, that is in December, January and February! If you prune a branch or you hear it fall during a storm, the wound must be treated within a half hour with black spray paint or tree wound paint with a latex or asphalt base. If you have infected trees nearby, dig a trench between the diseased and healthy trees that is at least 4 feet deep to prevent it spreading through root structures. Have your white oak tree injected with the fungicide Alamo. White oaks may be cured with Alamo. Red oaks can be protected with Alamo. The fungicide has no affect on red oaks that are already showing symptoms. Remove infected trees and chip the wood.
Because we already have oak wilt in Highland, it is important to stop it spreading further. You can help by hiring a certified arborist or certified tree company to examine, treat or remove your oaks. Remember, If they prune, they should only do so from December 1st to March 1st. If they tell you the time of year doesn't matter - this should be a red flag - do not hire that company! It is imperative that NO oak wood is purchased, moved or transported for fire wood. This will only spread the disease to new, unaffected areas. DO NOT MOVE FIREWOOD or take it up north! This is how Emerald Ash Borer, Oak Wilt and other diseases have spread to our beautiful forests. Planting a wide variety of native trees also will help create stronger bio-diversity in our forests.
Join us on Weds. October 12th at 6:30 p.m. at the Highland Township Board meeting (in the Highland Township hall) to support our efforts to put an ordinance in place to fight Oak Wilt and other tree diseases. WE NEED A BIG TURNOUT!
Six Rivers Land Conservancy Highland Chapter members will be leading the planting of the Highland DDA (Downtown Development Authority) landscaping beds along the streets in Highland Station on this Saturday June 11 from 8 AM to 12 PM. All native Michigan perennials will be used for the landscaping. You can see what the finished product looks like at the intersection of Milford Road and Livingston Road.
We REALLY NEED LOTS OF HELP in order to get the rest of the beds planted. Weeding is pretty well done so the task will be planting and mulching for each bed. Please consider volunteering a few hours on Saturday morning to help get this completed. We will be working on Livingston Road, McPherson Street and Ruggles Street.
Bring gloves, rake, trowel, knee pads, hose and wheelbarrow if you can. We have hundreds of plants in 2 inch diameter trays that must get into the ground. Recent rains should help make ground soft.
Come and go as you please on Saturday morning and help make your community more beautiful and complete the Streetscaping project. Many hands will make easy work.
Call Jim Lloyd at 248-881-9977 if you have any questions.
Earth day is celebrated every April in Highland Township and Milford, Michigan with a very special afternoon of family fun! On Sunday, April 24, 2015 from noon to 4pm, the Huron Valley Green Team and Carl's Family YMCA off Commerce Road in Milford will host a free earth day event at the YMCA packed with activities for families, children - anyone can attend! There will be face painting, arts and craft activities, dancing, music, free food, free saplings, and the International Academy will put on a "green" fashion show (one year there was a dress made entirely of brochures!). There will be a wide variety of booths such as how to protect your lake's water quality and green building techniques to the "reptile man" with turtles and other reptiles. I might even bring my snake again this year! Finally, winners of the Huron Valley earth day poster contest are given their awards and the YMCA is decorated with dozens of awesome posters created by local students. This is an annual event put on by the Huron Valley Green team so if you missed the fun last year, I urge you to mark your calendar to attend this afternoon of family fun! Below are some photos from last year's event.
EARTH DAY POSTER CONTEST: In celebration of earth day there was a poster contest for all Huron Valley elementary and middle school students. The theme this year was Live Green through the 3R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. A wide variety of excellent posters were submitted by elementary and middle school students and many even used recycled materials. Many of these posters will be displayed around the gym, so everyone can enjoy the ideas and creativity of our Huron Valley students.
As an environmentalist, one of the most disturbing trends I am seeing is the widespread destruction of animals and animal habitat all around the world. In just 300 years, our planet has been transformed - and not in a good way for earth's animals! I'm sure everyone has heard about the steady burning down of the Amazon Rainforest. Yet habitat destruction takes place in America too. Gone are the tall grass prairies of the American midwest and the ancient old growth forests that covered America. Habitat is fragmented with each new subdivision and city. As alarming as this is, loss of habitat is only a small part of the picture. There is also the impact of climate change, the explosion of our human population, and the widespread extinction of earth's diverse plants and animals. So what? Who cares? I strongly believe that it is our job to educate our families and children about the importance of every creature in a food chain - to introduce them to nature, plants, flowers, insects, reptiles - and teach them the beauty and fragility of every living thing. It should never be "what's in it for me" rather "how can I help and give back to the earth"?
As an educator of young children, I regularly teach units on animals, trees, food chains, ecology - not just for earth day. We investigate habitat loss, are animals endangered by melting polar regions and warming seas, what happens when animals are hunted for ivory or fur, how important is each animal to the food web? We think about and brainstorm what we can do to make a difference. Simple actions like turning out the lights, using less plastic, or planting milkweed plants for migrating monarchs can help! I invite you to examine the impact you are making on our earth and investigate how you can make a difference. Then teach your children. They are the ones who will inherit this fragile earth.
Do you want to get outside and active, helping to protect our local parks in Highland? We could certainly use your help in controlling invasive plants in Highland State Rec.
On Saturday, January 30, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. work will be done at the Silo Field Trial Area. Volunteers will be hauling and piling brush and stacking fire wood. Meet at the Silo Field Trial parking lot off Livingston Road, between Pettibone Lake and Beaumont Roads in Highland State Recreation Area. GPS coordinates: 42.638344, -83.595671 Saturday, January 30 – 9:00 am to 1:00 pm
On Saturday, February 20 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm join ongoing efforts to restore part of the Highland State Rec field trial area to an open grassland. Volunteers will be hauling and piling brush and stacking fire wood. Meet at the Silo Field Trial Area parking lot off Livingston Road, between Pettibone Lake and Beaumont Roads. GPS coordinates: 42.638344, -83.595671
On Sunday, February 28 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm join us in removing invasive shrubs from a high quality natural area! We’ll be removing a smorgasbord of invasive shrub species and we need your help. Meet at the bike trailhead parking lot on the north side of Livingston Road between Duck Lake and Waterbury Roads. GPS coordinates: 42.639536, -83.576926
Questions, please contact Laurel Malvitz-Draper, Natural Resource Steward Stewardship Unit, Parks and Recreation Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
To learn more and to register please visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click on the Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays link. Contact Laurel Malvitz-Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-719-2285 with any questions.
It was Halloween and as we walked the streets with my sons, it was thrilling and exciting to come upon a lighted porch - candy! Yet each year when Halloween is over, far too many of those welcoming lights are still on, flooding nearby homes with unwanted light. As our neighborhood has changed and car dealerships built a few miles away,far too many bright lights are polluting the night sky. I understand the need for safety, but wonder if a different kind of shielded, diffused light might not be just as effective? Better yet, turn out the outside porch lights and floodlights and instead lock your doors and car for safety. Let's protect our rural atmosphere and enjoy the canopy of stars..
The Highland Conservancy was formed in 2004 by a concerned group of citizens who wanted to help preserve the rural character of the Highland area. Over the last ten years we have engaged many local citizens in environmental education and stewardship activities. But we are a small group with limited capacity to engage in land preservation, which is the primary mission of all land conservancies.
To better serve the community, our Board of Trustees has elected to merge with the Six Rivers Land Conservancy and become a local chapter of that organization. The Highland Conservancy has terminated its non-profit status by becoming a local chapter of a larger, regional land conservancy. In order that your financial support is tax deductable, all future fundraising will be done by the Six Rivers Land Conservancy. Locally we will receive funding for our programs from Six Rivers and hope that you will continue to support them financially to make the region a better place to work and play.
Some of the new activities you will see happening include:
You can also follow us on Facebook at Highland Conservancy and Six Rivers Land Conservancy.
Let me begin by saying I am somewhat biased since I was raised by an avid environmentalist, Audubon enthusiast and scientist - my mother. In her kindergarten classroom, five year olds sorted and classified feathers matching them with actual bird mounts. Her children went on wildflower walks and mixed baking soda and vinegar to make volcanoes. Science was fun! As a Huron Valley art teacher with a minor in science, weaving science into art lessons has been a passion for me as well.
I strongly believe that science is crucial to our understanding and appreciation of the world around us! It has been a disturbing trend in recent years that what is tested too often is the focus of what is taught. Thus, language arts and math have been the primary focus in elementary grades, with science falling by the wayside. On a positive note, I am thankful that our school district (Huron Valley) will be adopting a new science curriculum this year.
So what can we do in the meantime? Children and adults would greatly benefit from time spent outside observing animals and their interactions. I recall lazy summer days lying in the grass watching ants and insects interacting...wondering about ants and how they evolved their intricate societies. There were summer nights my brothers and I lay outside on blankets watching the stars and chattering away about life on other planets. Let's put the wonder back into the lives of our children! Let's encourage them to collect and classify leaves, then make an artwork from them. Let's take them on a canoe trip on the Huron River and watch for different turtles splashing into the water or scan the skies for hawks and migrating sandhill cranes. Nature has so much to teach us, yet it is our charge to instill not just awe and wonder, but also to teach a sense of empathy, reverence and responsibility to the earth and animals around us.
For a good article by Warren McLaren on this subject, visit this link: http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/11/12/3629731.htm
For a very interesting NOVA special (which sparked this blog), watch Lord of the Ants featuring Harvard scientist Edward Wilson and his important research on ecosystems:
The Huron River Watershed is blessed with rich natural features and truly
special places. We've identified lands that play an important role in
sustaining the watershed's water quality, varied habitats and community
fabric. As a landowner in a priority area for conservation, we would like
to invite you to learn more about land preservation. Our information
session will be on Thursday October 29 from 7 to 9 PM at the Highland
Activity Center, 209 N. John St in Highland.
If you have any questions contact: Meghan Prindle at email@example.com or call 248-326-4751. Meghan will also be at Bigby Coffee in White Lake near Kroger's on Thursday
October 1 to discuss land preservation if you would like to just drop in
and talk to her.
Southeast Michigan is replete with natural resources – natural lakes, land and plenty of wildlife.
In Highland Township, conserving those resources was an important endeavor, so the Highland Conservancy was created after former township supervisor Triscia Pilchowski made a call to action in 2003. By 2004, the group created a mission statement, established goals and cemented a plan of action to protect the “rural character and natural resources of Highland Township.” By 2005, it was a nonprofit organization.
The Oakland Land Conservancy mentored the group, they also partnered with Highland Township officials, the Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Services, and the Michigan State University Extension service .
The Spinal Column caught up with one of the Conservancy’s board members, Katheryn Krupa, to learn more.
Are you from Michigan originally?
“I’m from Ohio. My parents moved when I was about 14 from Ohio to Michigan and I’ve been here ever since. We moved to West Bloomfield … and then when I got married we moved to Dunham Lake. It’s beautiful because it’s surrounded by a green belt that doesn’t allow the fertilizer to pour into the lake.”
What is your title with the Highland Conservancy?
“I am one of the board members. I was (formerly) the secretary and I am the webmaster.”
So the Highland Conservancy began when former township supervisor Triscia Pilchowski put out a “call to action” more than a decade ago?
“In the beginning there were about 10 of us that answered that call and went to a preliminary meeting to make some plans. We decided on our focus and what our goals would be, then that initial group pared down to the people who were really serious about it. We’ve been going ever since then.”
What is your background? Do you have some sort of degree or training that drew you to the group?
“I am a teacher and I have a minor in science. I have a deep love of animals and the environment that was instilled by my mother, Samantha Ruetenik. She would take us on nature walks and ask us to classify plants and animals and learn about the ecosystem. That was her passion and she passed that on to each one of us five kids. With me being the oldest, I was probably the most influenced by her. She was a union president in Bloomfield Hills but also a very active environmentalist.”
“I’ve been teaching in the Huron Valley School District for the last 17 years. I work at Highland Elementary this year and also at Oxbow Elementary, which is in White Lake. I weave science and environmental issues into my lessons, too. We run an Earth Day poster contest and we sponsor that every year. Huron Valley School students submits different posters based on the theme. Last year it was ‘How you can affect your environment and how animals are important to the ecosystem.’ If you take out an animal, how does it affect the food chain?”
“The students would look at an animal and focus on it and study it. We encouraged them to look at Michigan animals but also look at animals around the world. They could pull a tiger out of the food chain and you would have an explosion of the prey animals. In Michigan, if you take out the wolf (or humans), the top predator, then the deer would take off. We have humans shooting the deer but wolves are still important in the ecosystem. Not only are students learning about the individual animal but the whole environment.”
“At Highland Conservancy we focus on educating students and adults … on how their actions affect the environment. We had an initiative one year where we looked at fertilizer and how it affects lakes. We had seminars where we went around and presented to different lake property owners and groups. We looked at different fertilizers and how they affect each lake’s ecosystem … It’s an educational outreach but it’s also a school outreach.”
“We also adopt a road where we go and pick up litter along the roadsides, and we do a garlic mustard pull every year where we help get rid of invasive plants and those change every year. The big one now is the dog strangling vine and garlic mustard.”
Is there any one main project that you are doing right now?
“The Adventure League is the main thing we did this summer … but most of our work is done in the spring. The Adopt-a-Highway is done three times a year, in the spring, summer and fall.”
“Putting easements on land is another ongoing initiative… We’ll have another meeting in October. We meet in the old Highland library. There’s only about eight of us and we could always use more hands.”
“The mission of the Highland Conservancy is to ‘encourage and facilitate the conservation of land and natural resources to preserve the rural character of Highland Township.’ Our mission reflects our dedication to protecting the horse farms, greenways, natural areas and habitat for wildlife throughout our beautiful township. Some of our current initiatives include:
• Facilitating the development of conservation easements, wildlife corridors and green spaces in Highland
• Educating the public about preserving and protecting Highland’s lake, streams, parks, and natural areas
• Partnering with other conservancies and organizations to protect land and natural resources in Highland Township
• Working with the township to create guidelines and update ordinances to protect land and critical habitats
• Assisting in stewardship of local parks and land held in conservancy.
Krupa is also the editor of the Highland Conservancy e-newsletter and the group's website:
www.highlandconservancy.net. The conservancy meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of most months at the Huron Valley Council for the Arts, 205 W. Livingston Road, across from the Highland Fire Station. Meetings are open to the public.
Are you seeing many bats this summer? I've seen a few, but nowhere near as many as I used to see careening through the evening skies. White Nose Syndrome is a growing problem, attacking bats around the U.S. In a nutshell, the fungus is spread to a cave full of hibernating bats. It causes the bats to awaken from hibernation far more often than normal (every 3-4 days instead of the usual 10-20 days). Since it is winter, there are no insects for the bats to eat and eventually they die of starvation. So what can we do? Do not touch bats or visit their caves. If you must go caving, destroy clothing and clean and bleach boots to prevent the spread of this horrendous disease. Work with your local scouts or others to build and install bat boxes and research how to install these in bat friendly locations. For a detailed explanation and an excellent article on this problem and ways to help, visit the bat conservancy website:
This is our ongoing blog with articles on the environment, local news and events, and issues related to land conservation.