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Supporting the Kirtland's Warbler Alliance

by Tom Wessels

During our October, 2020 meeting, the Au Sable North Branch Area Foundation Directors voted a $500.00 contribution to support a Jack Pine Tree Planting Day coming up in May, 2021 and organized by the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance.

The Kirtland’s Warbler was one of the first animals placed on the list of U.S. endangered species back in the 1960’s. When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, there were only around 200 breeding pairs known in 6 Michigan Lower Peninsula counties. Since then, their population has rebounded to well over 2000 breeding pairs. As of Oct, 2019, they are no longer considered “endangered”. So why are we still supporting such efforts?

Turns out, jack pines – on which Kirtland’s Warblers rely for breeding habitat – can be an important part of our North Branch ecosystem. Jack pines are “pioneer” (in other words, fast-growing and shade intolerant) species that tend to colonize dry, sandy soils where other tree species would struggle. In better soils, jack pines can succeed to other pines, spruces, firs and even oaks. Along a river bank, they can help shade and cool the water, stabilize banks, bind sandy soil to prevent erosion, and eventually provide woody debris.

The ASNBAF Directors have supported the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance in the past. And to the extent their efforts help to enhance and maintain our North Branch ecosystem, are happy to do so again. Mark May 1, 2021 on your calendars (Covid permitting) for a chance to put your “boots (and shovels) on the ground”.


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