Protecting the land and fighting invasives the focus at New Troy Community Center

Posted on February 7, 2018

Find article HERE.

NEW TROY — Local efforts to protect natural areas from both human disruption and damage inflicted by invasive species took center stage on Saturday, Feb. 3, in the New Troy Community Center.

Chikaming Open Lands Executive Director Ryan Postema and Jared Harmon of the Berrien County Conservation District spoke to 20-plus people during a program on local land conservation issues sponsored by the Conservation District, Chikaming Open Lands and the Friends of New Troy.

Postema gave a brief history of the local land conservancy, noting that Chikaming Open Lands (COL) was founded in 1999, currently has 500 household members, and protects 1,755 acres through 12 Nature Preserves (400 acres) and 31 Conservation Easements.

The non-profit serves nine townships in southern Berrien County. Posterma said most protected land is in Harbor Country area, but added that the largest conservation easement is a 300-plus acre Mize property near Berrien Center.

“We’re a local organization based in Sawyer and we definitely have a community focus,” he said.

Two easements located close to New Troy are 40 acres along Pardee Road owned by Mike Jasper (30-plus agricultural, about 8 wooded) and 8 1/2 acres of Galien River Bottomland owned by Terry and Lorraine Hanover

“You can offer to your grandkids the chance to see the same thing that you grew up with,” Terry Hanover said.

Postema said a municipal easement involves development restrictions on lakefront lands owed by the Village of Michiana. He said COL also worked with Chikaming Township on its Park & Preserve and is informally helping Grand Beach’s in its efforts to acquire a parcel adjacent to COL’s preserve in that community.

Postema said COL’s main mIssions are land protection and stewardship, along with education and outreach (upcoming events include a Feb. 10 day of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire snow biking followed by a potluck lunch at Love Creek Nature Center beginning at 10 — RSVPs are sought by Friday, Feb. 9, at or (269) 405-1006).

Postema said an Andrews University student is involved in research on the eastern massasauga rattlesnake on a COL property and Michigan State University pupils have conducted bird surveys in the Sima Marsh near New Buffalo — an effort which will continue this summer.

Postema posed the question ‘Why protect land?’

Answers he gave include: protecting wildlife habitat; improving water quality by preserving/restoring wetlands and waterways; promoting recreational use such as kayaking and hiking; and saving such places for for future generations.

Land Protection Options mentioned by Postema include: deed restrictions (difficult to enforce and subject to change); conservation easements (used by/monitored and enforced by COL, they offer permanent protection present and future with details/allowed used worked out with landowner). And he said COL personnel also follow-up both on their own preserves by removing invasive, taking steps to improve water quality and restoring natural conditions, and by sharing their knowledge with easement owners.

“We provide advice, guidance and expertise in land management and conservation issues … if they’re interested in controlling invasive species on their property we can talk to them about what resources are available, give them advice on how to go about doing that,” Postema said.

He said there is no minimum acreage requirement, but there is a scoring system based on various factors that determines whether COL wishes to establish an easement. Nature preserves (properties acquired by or donated to, and owned by COL) also need to meet specific requirements. Adding value are factors such as the ability to connect to other protected properties and to provide wildlife corridors.

“If someone offers to give a property to us, we would evaluate it and see if it meets the criteria for natural areas or … if the location would promote or improve access for public recreation use,” he said.

Postema said a priority for COL is expanding and adding to existing nature preserves to provide buffers and to connect properties and to preserve wildlife corridors and greenways.

Tax benefits are possible that can lower income, property taxes (the local assessor makes such decisions) and/or estate taxes.

“Often easements are donated to us because the landowner wants to see their property preserved. We do on occasion also purchase easements … in recent years we’ve done a couple projects where we’ve protected agricultural land by purchasing the easement on the property because we’ve received federal grant money,” Postema said.


Jared Harmon of the Berrien County Conservation District, said the district is a local unit of state government overseen by elected board of directors and funded mainly by grants.

Its main missions involve soil and water conservation.

“We work a lot with agriculture, but we also work with local communities,” he said. “One of our most popular programs is MAEAP (Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program). That’s a volunteer program for landowners who conduct safe conservation practices. Typically it’s an agricultural program but we’ve expanded it to a new verification system … and we’ve also just added forestry and wetlands habitats.”

Harmon said the Conservation District is part of the three-county CISMA group composed of many organizations which battle invasive species. He noted that the negative impacts of such plants, animals and diseases cost an estimated $138 billion annually in the United States alone.

He also talked about many invasive plants and insects that are local and regional threats including:

Chinese Yam (an example of the value of early detection as Harmon said a few scattered infestations in the area were detected and removed), Tree of Heaven (he presented the similarities and differences with native sumac); purple loosestrife (an attractive plant known for its purple flowers which can take over wet areas); garlic mustard (another plant that can create its own monoculture areas as shown in a scene from a local forest floor shown during the presentation); phragmites (tall grasses that can crowd everything else out of wetland areas); Japanese Knotweed (a difficult to kill plant with volcanic origins that has an immense root system and can be spread by cuttings. Harmon said it can take five years of consistent efforts to treat the plant with herbicides to eradicate); and European Frogbit (a prolific water plant with 2-inch leaves).

Insects of concern include: the Asian Long-horned beetle (a serious threat to many species of trees including maples that is currently doing damage in areas of Ohio); and Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (once found in New Buffalo where it was contained. Harmon said n infestation of the tiny insect can kill hemlocks in 4 to 10 years).

Harmon also mentioned the Asian carp, which is so far being held out of Lake Michigan by an electric barrier in Chicago but continues to pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

Harmon said he enjoys investigating reports of invasive and can be reached at (269) 471-9111, ext. 3.

Volunteers Clear out Invasives at Burns Prairie Preserve Article

Posted on November 27, 2017

Check out the article from Harbor Country News HERE.

GALIEN — There was a lot less invasive autumn olive growing at Chikaming Open Lands’ Burns Prairie Preserve following a Nov. 11 stewardship day.

A group of 10 volunteers removed the plants (which range in size from shrubs to small trees) which can take over an area as they were in the process of doing in a wooded area next to the restored prairie at the 12-acres Chikaming Open Lands (COL) preserve located near Galien.

COL Stewardship Committee Chairman and Board Member Bob Tatina said autumn olive plants produce a fruit that birds eat (and then distribute the seeds  far and wide). They are identified by narrow leaves dark green on the top and silvery white underneath. He noted that while many invasive plants like autumn olive came from overseas, some that are native to the Western Hemisphere have invaded in the other direction.

Tatina showed volunteers how to apply herbicide with a PVC pipe tool tipped with s sponge to the cut off stems after most of the plant had been removed to keep them from growing back.

Loppers, saws and one chainsaw wielded by COL Executive Director Ryan Postema were used to remove the existing autumn olive plants.

Postema said Burns Prairie Preserve was donated by Lloyd and Pat Burns, who still live nearby.

Originally farm and pasture, Postema said the preserve was the site of a prairie restoration project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service several years ago.

“We converted it from an old farm field to a native prairie (with) a couple wetland pond areas,” he said. “The purpose of the restoration was to improve habitat for waterfowl and grassland birds.”

Among the prairie plants that were part of the restoration effort are big blue stem and little blue stem, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower and goldenrod.

While most of the preserve is now tallgrass prairie, there are still a few pockets of woodland including tree lines and a low-lying area that was once a quarry.

Other Chikaming Open Lands preserves include Grand Beach Marsh, Jens Jensen Preserve, Louis J. Sima Great Lakes Marsh, Robinson Woods, Critter Haven, Dayton Wet Prairie, Eleanor O’Connor, Wilson Woods, Flynn Woods, The Woods, Turtle Creek Preserve and The Merritt Family Preserve. COL also holds 29 conservation easements. For more, go to


Posted on November 22, 2017

Across the country people are putting away their Thanksgiving leftovers and will #OptOutside instead of going Black Friday shopping. 

This campaign started by the outdoor gear store REI, is all about getting everyone to enjoy the great outdoors instead of the hustle and bustle that is associated with Black Friday shopping. It is a great way to start a new holiday tradition with friends and family that takes you out in nature, helps shed a few extra pounds from the Thanksgiving feast, and helps create a more active lifestyle. 

#OptOutisde has been become a new family tradition in many households so why not start a new one for yours on Friday, November 24! Join us as we #OptOutside and check out a few of our nature preserves with trails:

1) Robinson Woods Preserve

2) Flynn Woods Preserve

3) Turtle Creek Preserve

4) Grand Beach Marsh Preserve

5) Jens Jensen Preserve

Not going to be here locally for the holiday weekend? On Friday, November 24 the Michigan DNR is also going to #OptOutside by waiving the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that enable vehicle access to Michigan state parks, trails and boating access sites. Visit here for more details.

Put away the leftovers and go outside and enjoy the beauty of Michigan's best outdoor destinations. We hope to see you #OptOutside. 

Mighty Acorns Article by Harbor Country News - Check it out!

Posted on November 7, 2017

It is officially the beginning of the second Mighty Acorns season, and here at COL we could not be more excited!

The fall field study trips are complete for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades at both River Valley Elementary and New Buffalo Elementary. Each field study trip involves three interactive activities that directly correspond into what the students learn in the classroom. River Valley Elementary came out to Robinson Woods and participated in nature exploration, a nature game and stewardship activities by helping plant native plants along with removing invasive species on the preserve. New Buffalo Elementary has an easy walk to the adjacent Turtle Creek Preserve and also did nature exploration, a nature game and stewardship by starting to remove the invasive species, oriental bittersweet. 

Article can be found here.

Keep up the good work Mighty Acorns and see you in the winter at our next field study trips!


Posted on October 17, 2017

Chikaming Open Lands is excited to start the second year of the Mighty Acorns program. Last year COL started the environmental education program with River Valley Elementary School and was a huge success. This year COL has brought on an additional school, New Buffalo Elementary.

Mighty Acorns is an environmental education program that connects 3rd-5th grade students to multiple, meaningful and sustained interactions with their local ecosystems. During the fall, winter and spring of each year, students take a field trip to a local natural area and engage in a Field Study Activity to explore the habitat, learn about the ecosystem and participate in environmental restoration work. Before and after each trip, students complete a pre field study activity and post field study activity. These activities guide students to explore components of local ecosystems, issues that threaten the balance and biodiversity of local habitats, and actions we can take to care for nature.

“The great part of the program that it is no additional work for the teachers and that we cover all costs from classroom curriculum materials, to busing and the field study equipment.” Says Ryan Postema “The kids really enjoy being outside you can see it in how hard they work during the stewardship part of the field study.”

The Fall Field Study dates have been set and next week is the start for River Valley 4th and 5th grade at Robinson Woods Preserve on Wednesday, October 18. New Buffalo Elementary will start their fall field study trips in the first week of November at Turtle Creek Preserve which is conveniently located a few steps away from the elementary school.

If you want to learn more about the Mighty Acorns program contact Casey Struecker the Education and Outreach Coordinator for Chikaming Open Lands at (269) 405-1006 or at