Green Ribbon Initiative Volunteer Workday at Petersburg State Game Area
On February 20th, a group of volunteers with leadership provided by the Green Ribbon Initiative and The Nature Conservancy met to work on an ongoing restoration project at the Petersburg State Game Area.
A group of University of Toledo students, local volunteers and staff from The Nature Conservancy met at Petersburg State Game Area (PSGA) to work on restoring a remnant natural area as part of ongoing work by the Green Ribbon Initiative’s Interagency Restoration Team.
Late in 2011, partners of the Green Ribbon Initiative created an ecological model identifying priority conservation and restoration lands in the Lakeplain Oak Openings. Petersburg State Game Area (PSGA) was identified as one of the last and largest contiguous areas of wet-mesic and mesic prairie in the Lakeplain Oak Openings Region of the Western Lake Erie Basin. Through funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Nature Conservancy has created an Interagency Restoration Team which coordinates and focuses staff and volunteer restoration efforts in the Lakeplain Oak Openings.
Petersburg State Game Area’s rare natural communities are home to many special plants and animals. Notably, PSGA is a release site for federally endangered Karner Blue Butterflies which are captive-reared at the Detroit Zoo. The primary host plant for this butterfly is wild lupine, and it is still found in abundance at PSGA. Fire suppression and habitat destruction have reduced the oak savanna communities which support wild lupine populations and therefore limit the range of the Karner blue butterfly. The lack of fire and altered hydrology allow for aggressive non-native plants like autumn olive to crowd out the native vegetation such as the lupine and other butterfly nectar sources. Other species expected to benefit from restoration activities along with the Karner Blue Butterfly are game species such as deer and turkeys for which the preserve was originally established.
In 2012, the IRT crew began to work in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to improve the quality of the habitat for species of greatest conservation need at Petersburg State Game Area. With crews and contract work, nearly 100 acres at PSGA have been treated to remove invasive species and restore the savanna and prairie communities found in the game area. Knowing that the restoration endeavor at Petersburg is a large undertaking, the GRI crew enlisted the help of a group of students from University of Toledo (UT), led by their professor Dr. Todd Crail. In January, representatives from the GRI and The Nature Conservancy taught the UT students how to make special tools that would be used out in the field, which were then put to use in February. The day was spent learning why the work at PSGA was important for the mission of TNC and GRI, and how the volunteer efforts help accomplish restoration goals in the region. A few other volunteers were able to join with the students, including one volunteer who lives near the property and did not have much knowledge of the game area, plus another volunteer who is a member of the Oak Openings Landowner Registry and is very interested in invasive control methods for use on her property.
While the work is far from being complete at the Petersburg State Game Area, many important goals were accomplished at the volunteer work day. New relationships were established, and participating volunteers learned of a rare and wonderful area not far from where they live and go to school. Volunteers were able to see their work being a part of a larger project which is conserving globally rare communities, and that their outputs can be monumental when dealing with the challenges of managing fragmented habitats within the lakeplain oak openings landscape.