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:
Last year's kayaking adventures were a blast! One of the most enjoyable was an evening's paddle at Island Lake State Park. We entered Island Lake State Park and gathered by the dam on Kent Lake. After shuttling our cars to Paceway, we set off on the Huron River for a leisurely evening of paddling. The blue sky was filled with billowing white clouds drifting above and it was a delightful 72 degrees with narry a bug! We saw Heron, turtles, snakes, heard a barred owl and spotted some large fish. The most enjoyable part was sharing so many good conversations in the most beautiful setting imaginable - all while exercising. Can't beat that! Our parent organization Six Rivers heads up the Adventure League events so check out their website below for more info. If you are adventuresome, sign up directly to get on the mailing list for each week's new activity by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org There will be hiking,, biking, and kayaking/canoe adventures - all kinds of activities coming up! Families and children are welcome! Visit Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy's page on Facebook for more photos or visit their website: http://www.sixriversrlc.org - Thanks to Heavners Canoe Livery for their ongoing support and sponsorship! I have attached the tentative schedule for this spring, summer and fall 2015. Please joint us!
Photo courtesy of USARK - United States Assoc. of Reptile Keepers
This is the time of year for turtles to start crossing the road. A couple of quick things to remember if you are like me and like to rescue these wayward reptiles from the dangers of motor vehicles. First, place them off the road IN THE DIRECTION THEY WERE HEADED and shoo them further away from the road if possible. Second, each turtle has its own habitat so do NOT take them to a nearby lake or stream. They live nearby and need that specific habitat in order to live and reproduce. Third, never pick up a turtle, even a large snapper, by the tail (as it will harm the turtle). Rather, get a towel, or sweatshirt and lift it carefully by the shell. I keep a cloth bag and old towel in my van for just this purpose. But be careful, snappers can do some serious damage so hold onto the portion of the shell near the back legs and scoop it into a bag or bin. Then place it where it was headed, way off the road. Thanks for your help! The rare Blandings turtles will be out on Tipsico Lake Road and nearby areas, so do your best to WATCH THOSE ROADS!
Each year with the arrival of spring comes a new onslaught of invasive plants. There are new characters each year to add to the old "favorites." Pictured above is Garlic mustard, a particularly insidious plant that can turn a forest of diversity into a mono-culture in no time. As soon as you spot this and other invasives, pull them out and dispose of them immediately so the seeds do not continue to spread. They are already flowering here in Michigan so don't wait!
Are you a landowner in the Huron River Watershed? Would you like to learn more about land protection options for your land?
The Highland Conservancy (now the Highland Chapter of Six Rivers Land Conservancy) invites you to an information session on land conservation in the Huron River Watershed on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 (7:00-8:30pm at the Chalet at Camp Dearborn) An alternate session is coming up this Thursday, April 30th, 2015 at 6:00-7:30pm at the Highland Township Hall. This presentation will introduce you to the importance of and threats to the watershed’s water quality, land protection options available to landowners, and the opportunity for a free field assessment.
This is in partnership with Livingston Land Conservancy, Michigan Nature Association, North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy, SEMIWILD (a collaboration of land conservancies in Southeast Michigan), and the Huron River Watershed Council.
Please RSVP to SEMIWILD@heartofthelakes.org or (248)326-4751.
Can't attend a session in Highland? Feel free to attend any that work best with your schedule:
Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
Superior Township Hall
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Highland Township Hall
Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
The Chalet at Camp Dearborn
Thursday, May 14th, 2015
Dexter Township Hall
Earth day is celebrated every April, yet here in Highland Township and Milford, Michigan there was a very special afternoon of family fun! On Sunday, April 26, 2015, the Huron Valley Green Team and Carls Family YMCA off Commerce Road in Milford hosted a free earth day event packed with activities for families, children and anyone who can attend. There was face painting, arts and craft activities, dancing, top notch musicians, and the International Academy put on a "green" fashion show (one year there was a dress made entirely of brochures!). There were a wide variety of booths with everything from how to protect your lake's water quality to the "insect man" with cocoons, caterpillars and info on insects. Finally, winners of the Huron Valley earth day poster contest were given their awards and the YMCA was decorated with dozens of awesome posters created by local students. This is an annual event put on by the Huron Valley Green team each year so if you missed the fun this year, I urge you to make sure you attend next year's earth day.
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 Save Earth's Animals: Protect Animal Habitats. A wide variety of excellent posters were submitted and most even included in-depth research on the problem of loss of animal habitat that is causing monarchs, tigers, pandas and other animal's to lose their homes. These posters were put up around the gym, so everyone was able to enjoy our HVS student's ideas and creativity.
Each spring, a Mallard duck comes to lay her eggs in the protected comfort of our school atrium. At first she tried nesting under Oxbow Elementary's playground slide, but as soon as recess brought out a gaggle of kids, she decided to find a safer spot! There are plants, shrubs and flowers and we put out a small tub of water for her, so she is pampered! When the chicks are born, we open the door, and a line of teachers gently urges her toward the nearest exit. (It always makes me think of the famous ducks at the Peabody hotel in Memphis who are escorted daily to the hotel fountain). When our duck arrives, we know Spring is here!
Announcing the 18th National Water Trail
Recognizing the achievements of federal, state, and local partners, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has designated the Huron River Water Trail as the 18th trail of the National Water Trails System. From construction projects that fix up dam portages, increase accessibility and provide new launch and landing spots, to new way-finding signs, to a waterproof map book and online trip planning tool, the Huron River Water Trail has come together. The Huron River Water Council led the initiative and application for the National Water Trail designation. Their vision is of a Huron River that is a focal point for recreational activities, while boosting local economies and adding a richness and breadth to historical and cultural events along the river. How exciting to achieve national visibility! This designation will bring positive economic impacts including increased tourism, assistance with stewardship and sustainability projects, assistance with recognition and special events highlighting the trail, and more.
The National Water Trail System is a network of national exemplary water trails from Puget Sound to the Hudson River. It is an inter-agency collaborative effort administrated by the National Park Service. LEARN MORE at www.hrwc.org! For a full article on the efforts of the HRWC to make the Huron River more accessible for river-goers, read this article: http://www.annarbor.com/health/huron-river-watershed-council-hopes-water-trail-will-boost-river-tourism/
Photo courtesy of WorldWildlife.org
According to the LA Times, federal protection has been restored for the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes region - including Michigan. This is good news for our wolves which were recently hunted after they were taken off the endangered species list. Wolves used to number in the tens of thousands throughout North America but currently are estimated at about 658. Often misrepresented and maligned, wolves are an important part of our ecosystem. This new ruling by U.S. Disrict Judge Beryl Howell calls for "more stringent standards for taking an animal off the endangered species list" per the Dec. 21st article in the L.A. Times. However, the fight to protect our wolves is not over. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife is still proposing to remove the wolf entirely from this list and a ruling on this could come as early as 2015.
Highland Township is proposing an ordinance change that will outlaw all brush burning. Under the current ordinance, homeowners with properties in excess of ten acres can request a burning permit to burn brush piles during times of the year when burning is safe. Burning is prohibited within 50 feet of a structure. Burning of trash and leaves is never permitted. Burning in small lot subdivisions is already controlled. The new ordinance will put brush and stumps in the “never permitted” category. Only logs over two inches diameter will be allowed for burning.
Maintaining private lands is already difficult. Township ordinances should assist the homeowner rather than interfere. Maintaining these private lands preserves the “rural character” of Highland. It is critical that you attend the public hearing on this proposed change and voice your objection. The public hearing is on Wednesday December 17 at the Highland Activity Center (Township Hall) at 6:30 PM. I am told that this proposed change is not coming as a request from the Fire Department. Perhaps this will be explained at the hearing.
For decades Highland Township has worked to permit development without losing its “rural character”. Although the Township has a large amount of State Park land, the “rural character” is preserved primarily by large acreage homeowners. But land does not remain “natural” if left alone; it needs active management. In the 1990s the rural homeowner’s task began to seriously ramp up as invasive plant species came into the area either intentionally or by accident from Europe and Asia. These aggressive, invasive plants require serious work on the part of the homeowner to be controlled. Cutting and burning these plants is the most powerful way of controlling them. In addition, insects and pathogens have completely eradicated American elm and ash trees among others, resulting in dead trees toppling over in wind storms throughout the area. Burning is the only reasonably efficient way of dealing with all of this dead brush. If not burned, seeds will germinate thus making the land management task harder. Please let all large parcel landowners know of this proposal and urge attendance at the hearing.
This is our ongoing blog with articles on the environment, local news and events, and issues related to land conservation.