Planting Trees for Water Quality, Climate Resilience

Rick Karbon, of Rogers City, with a freshly planted tree. He has been coming to Herman Vogler Conservation Area since he was a kid to fish the Trout River.

Volunteers made quick work of planting 55 trees at Herman Vogler Conservation Area in Rogers City May 1. Huron Pines led the event alongside Presque Isle Conservation District, which manages the 270-acre recreation area northwest of Rogers City. Twenty-five volunteers installed trees at three sites in an effort to improve water quality and establish a forest that’s more resilient to climate change. Volunteers were each given trees to plant on their own properties, extending the effort throughout the area.

The trees will help keep the Trout River and Lake Huron cleaner by filtering out pollutants found in stormwater runoff during rainstorms and snowmelt. Runoff can carry salt, dirt, oil and fertilizer across the ground where it can drain directly into the river and indirectly into Lake Huron through drainage pipes. Polluted runoff can result in beach closures and degraded fish and wildlife habitat which can impact recreation, tourism and the environmental health of communities. 

Tree root systems absorb and filter stormwater before it has a chance to drain into nearby bodies of water. The canopy, or above-ground section of trees, slows down and deflects stormwater, releasing it into the atmosphere to reduce the amount of water that reaches the ground in the first place. 

Huron Pines Board Vice Chair Greg Bator, Presque Isle Conservation District Forester Brittany VanderWall, Cecilia Bator and Huron Pines Water Program Director Samantha Nellis (l-r).

“Natural resource conservation is part of the community’s identity in Rogers City,” said Samantha Nellis, Water Program Director for Huron Pines. “They are eager to take action, and planting trees is just one step in our restoration goals for the area.”

Tree species included silky dogwood, sugar maple, bur oak, white birch, red oak, Eastern red cedar and serviceberry. The bur oak and red cedar were chosen specifically to see how they fare beyond the northern extent of their traditional range.

Eric Roorda, of Harrisville, is reforesting his father’s property and attended the volunteer event to pick up a few tips on successfully planting trees.

“It’s an experiment to add some climate change resiliency to the property,” said Brittany VanderWall, District Forester for the Presque Isle Conservation District.

Rogers City Mayor Scott McLennan was among the volunteers that morning.

“Everyone needs to accept that it’s natural resources which make Rogers City the place to live,” he said. “It’s great to see the next generation embracing that. It’s a big deal.”

Rogers City DDA Community Events Director Kim Margherio and Mayor Scott McLennan attended and planted trees.

The project was supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Sustain Our Great Lakes Program. Planted trees came from Barker Creek Nursery in Williamsburg, while volunteers were sent home with additional trees from the conservation district’s tree sale. Morgan Composting donated potting mix.

Herman Vogler Conservation Area was established in 1989 when Presque Isle Conservation District acquired the property from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as a recreation space for the public.

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