Augusta Floodplain Forest: purchase completed!
We are excited to announce a new preserve for the benefit of southwest Michigan: the Robert and Rosalie Emmons Augusta Floodplain Forest! It protects 290 acres along the Kalamazoo River with some of the best quality forest habitat in the southern lower peninsula.
In early February 2016 we finalized the purchase of the 220 acre Emmons property which, along with the transfer of the adjacent 70 acre TNC Augusta Floodplain forest property, completes the first phase of our efforts to conserve land along the Kalamazoo River between Augusta and Galesburg. Together, these two properties have about 2 miles of frontage along the river opposite the DNR’s Fort Custer State Recreation Area and consist of seasonally inundated wet forests with islands of beech maple uplands and agricultural land along Augusta Drive/Business 96. The Emmons property was purchased with funding from a USFWS’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant that is coordinated by Ducks Unlimited.
This project is part of our on-going efforts to protect water resources in southwest Michigan and was identified as one of the top 10 sites in the Kalamazoo River Watershed Conservation Plan that we completed last year in collaboration with the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council and about 40 governmental and conservation partners. The site has been identified by Michigan Natural Features Inventory and research faculty from MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station as an extremely high quality floodplain forest worthy of protection.
The floodplain forest corridor is critical for migrating and nesting birds. Bird surveys on a neighboring property include a list of 200 species, of which 20 are state-listed. The plant communities on the property are some of the most diverse in the region, abundant with orchids, state threatened Queen-of-the-Prairie, and a mature forest that stretches for miles. A plant inventory of the initial 70-acre parcel was published in the Michigan Botanist and identified 287 species – we expect more to be discovered as we more than doubled the amount of protected habitat! The dense forested wetlands are one of the few places in the region where you can get a sense of “forest primeval”. Without a compass (or a smart phone) this is a place where you could easily get lost in the wilderness.
The Emmons Augusta Floodplain Forest will be a limited-access preserve, open for field trips and research (a railroad crossing limits unrestricted public access). In 2017 we anticipate taking the 40 acres of row crops that are currently leased to a farmer out of production and begin a prairie restoration project utilizing seed from on-going restoration work at the Fort Custer site across the river.
Living in Southwest Michigan wouldn’t be the same without wild places and iconic habitats to explore, and clean, safe water to fuel that exploration. That’s why it is so important that we take action today to protect the land, nature and quality of life that is so quintessential to what it means to live here. SWMLC is excited that we can add the Emmons Augusta Floodplain Forest to our portfolio of preserves working to those goals.