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Chippewa Watershed Conservancy Purchases Floodplain Forest Area

The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy is working to protect land in Isabella County.

They recently purchased their first urban natural area, 17 acres of floodplain forests.

Volunteers have been removing invasive species like buckthorn, autumn olive and Japanese barberry.

At the same time, volunteers are also planting native trees.

So far more than 250 native trees have been planted in this area, including swamp white oak, maple and hackberry.

“All the native insects evolved with native plants, so that’s their food source. The native birds rely on berries. They rely on insects to eat the native plants. And you know, the mammals, they rely on the same thing. So if we don’t have those native plants out here, we’re going to see a reduction in those other native species,” says Mike LeValley, executive director of the conservancy.

The urban natural area is on the left side of the road if you’re pulling into Chipp-A-Waters Park.

A family owned this property for the last 40 years.

The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy was able to purchase the land through a $70,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation.

The conservancy says this area serves as an important corridor connecting already protected land.

This spring volunteers have been clearing out invasive species in the natural area.

“These invasive species that actually crowd out native plants, they don’t provide the same habitat value as native plants, even though many of them provide berries that birds eat. They don’t have the right kinds of nutrients for them.  And some of these plants actually change soil chemistry and make it so that the native plants can’t grow there at all,” says LeValley.

Once the conservancy removes most of the invasive species they plan to build a trail system along the river.

The money will also be used for restoration efforts over the next five years.

The conservancy says the natural area is important to protect because several animals live there.

That includes Blanding’s and wood turtles, who are on Michigan’s Species of Special Concern list.

“Those turtles, they rely on floodplain forests and floodplain forests are one of the most endangered habitats in eastern North America. Both of those turtle species actually will come up onto land out of the water and spend a big portion of the summer in that floodplain rather than in the water. So if we don’t have that habitat, we won’t have those species,” says LeValley.

For more information on the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy, you can .