Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sibley Prairie Dedication - 29 Aug 2015

On Saturday, 29 Aug 2015 I attended the dedication of the recently-acquired Sibley Prairie parcel (39-acres) in Brownstown Twp, Wayne Co., MI by the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy. The parcel is located at the corner of Arsenal and West Roads here in Brownstown, and is literally just a stone's throw from Brownton Abbey (in the Del Webb community of Bridgewater), where Robin and I call home. Ok, so its about a ¼-mi away, but I have a strong arm... So, what is the significance of this parcel?

Sibley Prairie is an approximately 400-acre remnant of what was once a 16,000-acre tallgrass lakeplain prairie that existed in parts of Wayne and Monroe Counties. The largely clay-based and sand-covered beach that was deposited by receding glaciers produced an ecologically-important and unique habitat here in the heart of Southeast Michigan that is found nowhere else in the world! It supports as many as 200 spp. of plants and animals, including endangered Indian Grass, Big Bluestem, Marsh Milkweed and Short-fruited Rush. Surrounded by mature maple and oak woodlands it represents the largest remnant of the original prairie. And its right across the street.

Unfortunately, the lakeplain prairie remnant has been fragmented by development: farming, industry and residential. A look at the map reveals that much of the prairie is privately-owned with only small tracts that are protected. This is where the folks at SMLC have come in. With donations from private citizens, public and private trusts, they have acquired a 3-acre parcel of the Sibley Road Site, and most recently acquired the 39-acre Beech Daly Road Site. SMLC is building a Sibley Prairie Nature Preserve that will soon allow daily access of this site. And with any luck, and funding, more parcels of this unique and valuable habitat will be preserved.

Jack Smiley
Founded in 1988 by Jack Smiley, SMLC is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization; their mission is to conserve and manage wildlife habitat "in order to foster healthy ecosystems, protect air and water quality, provided scenic enjoyment". To date, SMLC has protected ~3400 acres in 7 counties. Major projects include the Superior Greenway, the 538-acre Lost Lake Nature Preserve, and the Sibley Prairie. Two local chapters are located in Monroe and Superior Township (home of their Superior Greenway). In addition to a Board of Directors, daily operations are staffed by the following:

Jill Lewis
Jill Lewis is Executive Director.

Erick and Wendy
Wendy Pellerito is Office Manager, and Erick Elgin is their Stewardship and Outreach Specialist.

A good turnout of people showed up despite threats of afternoon rain. After introductions by Jill and members of SMLC we were given a bit of history about the Sibley Prairie site, its ecological importance, its uniqueness.

Steve Woods, Nature Conservancy and Program Manager at Oak Openings (NW Ohio) and Lindsey Reinarz, Nature Conservancy / Oak Openings discussed plans for prairie restoration. One look at the property and one immediately notices that place has been clearcut. The plan is to remove invasive plants and trees, bulldoze the ground, do a controlled-burn, and re-seed with native prairie plants (?).

Erick described invasive species and the toll they take on our habitat. One does not have to look far to see the Giant Phragmites, Teasel, Glossy Buckthorn and Purple Loosestrife everywhere here in Brownstown Twp..

Bob Smith from Michigan Botanical Club identified some of the native plants unique to the area, and some of the surprise findings that they found earlier in the day. Of note was the anticipation of flowering Blue Gentian that they found during their survey.

A short walk through the woods, and closing comments from Steve and Jill and Erick inspired many of us to return to this unique parcel. I look forward to seeing succession process over the next several years.

Congratulations, SMLC! and Congratulations to the people of Brownstown Twp. You have a real gem in this parcel of the Sibley Prairie.


Cathy Carroll said...

This is encouraging. Thanks for this dedication.

Wendy Pellerito said...

Great write-up and beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing!

Mark Wloch said...

The Black Swallowtail larva was a nice find.

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