Growing up, many local kids are told that Michigan is just an extensive forest and that a squirrel could run from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron without touching the ground. Historically, though, this state was home to a myriad of fire-adapted natural communities, including many open grasslands featuring species more typically found in the prairies of the great plains. Prairie and savanna systems that once covered over one million acres in southern Michigan have declined by over 99% and as a consequence, many plants and animals that relied on these habitats are also in serious decline. To help expand conservation efforts aimed at recovering these fire-adapted community types, MNFI partnered with the US Forest Service and the Michigan DNR to identify the best remaining examples in the Cadillac District of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. This presentation will cover their methodology for identifying important conservation targets, show some of the surprising highlights, and discuss potential management approaches and prioritization of the identified areas.
Jesse has spent 13 seasons as an ecologist at MNFI. The work takes him all over the state to some of our most unique and intact natural places. It is a perspective not always available to most people and he enjoys sharing images and lessons learned from our wild places.