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Green Ribbon Initiative Volunteer Workday at Sumpter Prairie in Sumpter Township

On April 12, with leadership provided by the Green Ribbon Initiative, The Nature Conservancy and one brave volunteer met on a cold and wet day to work on an ongoing restoration project at Sumpter Township Prairie

A student from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and staff from The Nature Conservancy met at Sumpter Prairie 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. Sumpter Township Prairie and the surrounding area were identified as one of the last and highest diversity areas of lakeplain wet-mesic and lakeplain 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.
Sumpter Township Prairie’s rare natural communities are home to many special plants and animals. Notably, Sumpter Township Prairie has two state threatened species and five state special concern species. Fire suppression and altered hydrology allow for aggressive non-native plants like autumn olive and spotted knapweed to crowd out the native vegetation which helps improve water quality and the health of the land surrounding the prairie.
In 2012, the IRT crew began to work in cooperation with the Sumpter Township board members to improve the quality of the habitat for species of greatest conservation need at Sumpter Township Prairie. With crews and contract work, nearly 60 acres at Sumpter Township Prairie have been treated to remove invasive species and restore the prairie communities found in the area. Due to the numerous piles of trash dumped on the property, navigating the property and treating invasives has been tricky. Knowing that the restoration endeavor at Sumpter is a large undertaking, the GRI crew enlisted the help of a group of students from University of Michigan-Dearborn, advised by Assistant Professor Dr. Saarinen. Cold weather and finals were the main culprits in the low turnout for the volunteer work. However, one brave student, Tyler Dolin, made the trip to assist the crew in their efforts. The day was spent learning why the work at Sumpter Township Prairie was important for the mission of TNC and GRI, and how the volunteer efforts help accomplish restoration goals in the region. While trash cleanup is not the main focus of the crew, it can be a hindrance in their restoration efforts and cleanup efforts like this are a huge help.
While the work is far from being complete at the Sumpter Township Prairie, many important goals were accomplished at the volunteer work day. New relationships were established, and the volunteer learned of a rare and wonderful area not far from where they live and go to school. The volunteer was able to see his work being a part of a larger project which is conserving globally rare communities, and that volunteer outputs can be monumental when dealing with the challenges of managing fragmented habitats within the lakeplain oak openings landscape.
This is not the first time the GRI crew has utilized the volunteer stewardship help of university students. In February, University of Toledo students assisted the crew in restoration efforts at Petersburg State Game Area. The GRI plans to have additional volunteer days in the near future. If you are interested in helping the crew in their efforts, please contact us to learn more.