By Christyl Burnett

Gary McClelland stands at the entrance of Circle Pines’ plant restoration site.

For the past few years, the Land Use Committee has been working with support and grant funds from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to restore native vegetation on the approximately eight acres of land at the corner of Mullen and Norris roads. For the past two spring-summer-fall seasons we have diligently been collecting bugs every week from traps at our site, as well as a DNR companion site, for the project’s bug study. At the same time, nearby Pierce Cedar Creek Institute has been doing the same on a comparable site on their property. Botanical studies of the sites have also been conducted each year. The DNR site is the “do nothing” comparable site in the project, meaning there is no action being taken to remove invasives and encourage natives. The Pierce site is conducting both mechanical and herbicide controls, while at our site we are strictly using mechanical methods; fire, hand cutting and pulling, and small machinery removal of woody invasives, such as autumn olive.  Additionally, both the Pierce site and ours have been seeded with native seeds. Some seedlings have also been planted.

Writing about the land use management efforts Circle Pines was engaged in, director Dr. David Sonquist stated in his annual report from May 26, 1945:

“There are several other significant developments in this area which are of great significance to us all. We are participating in the U.S. Soil Conservation program and the local field men have been testing our soils preparatory to laying out a soil map and planning a program of agriculture suitable to our soils.  We will have the most scientific plan and methods which it is possible to get at this time. These are men much interested in our Center and hope that the results on this farm will serve as a demonstration to the many similar farms in our area.”

The Land Use Committee feels we are continuing with this spirit of contributing to the conservation efforts in our local community by being an example, a case study, of how a small-holder can return their land to native vegetation without the use of herbicides, and largely by hand. Indeed, our partners on the project are quite impressed with our no-herbicide results thus far. Be sure to come by and take a look at what’s growing next spring and summer. We will be conducting more prescribed burning again by late April. Let us know if you’d like to get involved.