Helping wildlife to thrive has become much more complex over the years. As originally conceived by the Conservancy wildlife restoration meant restoring water levels in drained wetlands, removing excess sand from trout streams and replanting prairies. However, time and human behavior has forced us to broaden our focus as so frequently happens on important endeavors.
We started life doing what everyone in wildlife restoration was doing – habitat restoration and enhancement projects. But before the 1980’s were over we found ourselves restoring wild turkeys to Southern Michigan and moose to the Upper Peninsula. Why, because the opportunities to restore these important native animals became obvious.
In the late 90’s the same thing happened again – this time with cougars in the Upper Peninsula. Three men, MWC founding President Dan Robbins, MWC member Mike Zuidema and DNR Deputy Director Frank Opolka provided credible evidence of Michigan’s apex predator, the cougar, surviving north of the Straits. We were harassed and cajoled until we agreed to look into the cougar issue. Our readers know the “rest of the story.” Indeed, we have a cougar population in both peninsulas that are probably descended from native Michigan animals.
By 2000 it became obvious to us that the invasion of harmful aliens by sea and on foot were a serious threat to Michigan’s wildlife. The conservancy started getting involved politically in protecting what may be Michigan’s greatest asset – our Great Lakes resources. Today our freshwater seas are being threatened by saltwater shipping from the east and Asian carp from the Mississippi River system. The value of the Great Lakes is incalculable, and these waters define us. We must protect them.
At the same time, an extremely destructive and dangerous threat came to us from Eurasia– the wild boar. The boar has now spread to 70 counties and is establishing itself in our state. The Conservancy is leading an effort to rid the landscape of boars but the task is formidable. We will continue to help mobilize Michigan’s resources against the wild boar.
While the Conservancy has continued to perform habitat restoration projects current conditions also require us to focus on controlling invasive and exotic species. We will continue to strive to provide Michigan an abundant and diverse wildlife legacy. The Conservancy must succeed because like Russell Bengel and our supporters, the Conservancy leadership chooses to follow the words of Aldo Leopold – “There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot – for those who cannot the choice is clear.”