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Restoration settlement funds paid for 230 acres of coastal plain marsh and buffering upland forest on the west side of Michigan's Garden Peninsula on Big Bay De Noc in northern Green Bay. The land acquisition added to a larger habitat protection project completed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) that now encompasses over 650 acres and six miles of Lake Michigan frontage. The Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council approved funding for the project in 2004.
"This is a spectacular piece of property and we were fortunate that the owners care about conservation," says Jeff Knopp, TNC's director of protection for the Upper Peninsula. "We don't often get a chance like this often to save miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and a spectacular hemlock forest." The new preserve, Garden Bluffs Conservation Area, will be owned and managed by TNC and open to the general public for passive recreational pursuits such as hiking, fishing and cross country skiing.
The Garden Bluffs Conservation Area contains several exemplary natural communities from white-cedar conifer mesic forest and coastal wetlands, to Great Lakes sand beach and extensive alkaline cliffs with rare ferns. Federally threatened dwarf lake iris carpets the forest floor, while at least six other state-listed species can be found on the property.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has identified the coastal areas of the Garden Peninsula as outstanding cool and cold-water fisheries due to the natural topography of the area. This includes the shallow shoals and coastal plain wetlands, most notably, shoreline areas in and around the Garden Bluffs. These coastal areas provide important nursery and foraging habitat for a variety of native fish species such as walleye, smallmouth bass and lake whitefish that were harmed due to the release of PCBs into the environment.
Birders have long considered the Garden Peninsula a haven for nesting and migratory shorebirds and songbirds. "While visiting the area with the Trustee Council's Restoration Technical Representatives Team in 2004, we found a bald eagle nest on the property with a pair using the nest," Knopp recalls. "The group also saw a pair of ospreys fly overhead." The area contains good habitat for other coastal birds including Caspian tern, common tern and black-crowned night heron.
Project partners include The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Attorney General's Office and two private land owners.
Colette Charbonneau is restoration coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Green Bay. For further information on NRDAR projects, contact Colette Charbonneau, (920) 866-1726.