Why do we care about strong, active communities? Huron Pines has updated our organization’s Strategic Vision to define ways we can do more for nature and people in our region. Along the way we noted the interconnectedness of strong, vibrant communities and appreciation of natural resources, realizing you can’t have one without the other. That’s why our staff and Huron Pines AmeriCorps members are helping people make connections to the outdoors statewide.
With our Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative partners we lead place-based education experiences where students use hands-on learning to connect to careers, have fun and make a difference in their community. At Charity Island in 2016, students mapped threatened Pitcher’s thistle and the density of invasive phragmites while applying science and math. They learned about the importance of habitat for biodiversity conservation and how Huron Pines is restoring the island’s ecosystems.
Big Charity Island, located in Saginaw Bay, boasts a historic lighthouse, scenic shoreline and important habitat for many plants and animals, including the threatened Pitcher’s thistle and many migratory and colonial nesting birds. The Charity Islands are part of the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and closed to the public in order to protect sensitive habitat and species. Unfortunately, invasive Phragmites threatens to crowd out Pitcher’s thistle and is degrading shoreline habitat used by native birds, amphibians and reptiles. To address this issue, Huron Pines coordinated a series of meetings with a diverse network of partners and landowners to identify shared goals for protecting native species and their habitat. Huron Pines then developed a partnership agreement (LINK) and began treating invasive phragmites in 2015 and 2016. A unique aspect of the project is participation of K-12 students from Au Gres-Sims School District, who visit the island each spring and fall to help inventory Pitcher’s thistle plants and do pre- and post-treatment monitoring of phragmites. This not only adds value to our restoration effort, but also provides local youth with place-based outdoor learning experience with a real-world application. Students are learning to identify plants, operate GPS technology, set up monitoring transects and collect scientific data in the field.
Contact: Watershed Project Manager Josh Leisen, email@example.com (989) 448-2293 ext. 16