Since it was founded in 1982, the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy has served as a fiduciary, contractor, supporter, educator, and trainer of volunteers. On occasion, the non-profit organization has even been involved in political and legal battles. In 2012, the Conservancy served in all those roles while celebrating three decades of conservation efforts.
Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
the Conservancy played a key role in the St. Clair Reef construction,
administering a $75,000 construction grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s Coastal Grant Program. The
cost of constructing the reef was more than $335,000, with most of it covered
by other federal grants. The
Conservancy’s effort allowed for the reef to be larger and more effective, and
in spring of 2012 came the “proof in the pudding.” Numerous sturgeon used the reef for spawning
and divers were able to film the remarkable event. To view some of the footage go
and click on “Sturgeon Reef Video” under Community Events.
Once common and widespread, the lake sturgeon
dramatically declined around 1900. It
now has a limited distribution in the Great Lakes region, and is a threatened
species in Michigan waters.
The new reef is located at the head of the Middle
Channel in the St. Clair River delta, where the water currents and bottom type
are well-suited for reef construction.
The St. Clair River historically served as an important spawning grounds
for many other native species as well as sturgeon. But channelization, loss of coastal wetlands,
filling/armoring shorelines, water pollution, and dredging limestone bedrock
and gravel caused the sturgeon population to drop to less than one percent of
its former abundance. The St. Clair
River reef will likely help walleyes, whitefish, the endangered northern madtom
and other fishes in addition to sturgeon, and its success will be a catalyst for
similar projects in the future.
In August of 2012, the Conservancy received a
grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) to educate landowners about wild boars and the problems caused
by this invasive exotic species. At least
22 meetings plus small-group informational sessions will be conducted by MWC
over the next twelve months in many parts of Michigan. The Conservancy has already conducted work
sessions at multiple sites in the central Lower Peninsula. The effort is part of a push for early
detection and removal of Eurasian wild boars.
The Conservancy has long been a leader in battling
the species, which destroys crops, lawns, wildlife and a host of related
resources. In 2010, the organization
launched the Michigan Wild Hog Removal Program, a partnership between the MWC
and USDA’s Wildlife Services branch.
Private-sector groups that have contributed financially to the Program
include the Michigan Pork Producers Association, the Michigan Corn Grower’s
Association, and the Michigan Forest Association.
The aim is to increase the number of wild hogs killed
annually, and thereby reduce damage to property and resources and/or slow the
invasion of wild hogs into new areas. A
secondary objective is to obtain samples from free-ranging wild hogs to test
for pseudorabies and other diseases. The
important features of the program include the purchase and lending of hog traps
to landowners and other citizens, dissemination of information on wild hogs and
trapping options, and training volunteers to work with biologists on monitoring
and reducing wild hog numbers.
The Conservancy has teamed with USDA to conduct
several group training sessions for volunteer hog trappers, and produced
web-site training materials. Wildlife
Services has the traps made and delivers them to landowners and other
volunteers. The Michigan Department of
Agriculture occasionally provides veterinarians to sample caught hogs for
diseases, and recently provide funds for traps and two USDA employees directly involved
in the effort. In addition, a grant
through USDA’s NRCS provides financial incentives for certain landowners to
trap hogs in Arenac, Bay, Gladwin, and Midland Counties. One (near Midland) has now trapped more than
25 wild hogs in an area of less than one square mile.
The new effort by MWC will boost landowner
awareness and skills. Given Michigan’s
mix of private and public land, citizen involvement in hog control is
critical. Unless landowners can be
quickly educated about the importance of rapid responses to wild hogs, private
properties will continue to serve as “refuges” where hog numbers will build and
then expand onto adjacent properties.
The Conservancy started to develop another
citizen/landowner effort in 2012, one focusing on getting people to actively
participate in the collection of information about wildlife. The organization is emphasizing use of trail
cameras to detect not only nuisance species like wild boars, but rare species
such as cougars, and wolves in the Lower Peninsula. For a
good example of the kind of information citizens can collect see the MWC
website http://miwildlife.org/index.asp and click on the “Training for
Volunteers – Michigan Wild Hog Removal Program” under Community Events.
Conservancy staff were also very active in 2012 in
political/legal arenas supporting Michigan’s ban on possession of live wild
hogs, calling for the permanent separation of Lake Michigan from the Illinois
River to stop the entry of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, and supporting
measures to improve Great Lakes Water Quality.
“This has been a very busy year for the Michigan
Wildlife Conservancy,” said President Bill Taylor of Duck Lake in Calhoun
County. “We are facing some of the most
serious challenges in our state’s history, and citizen involvement in resource
management has never been more needed.”
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