Registration is open for Jack Pine Planting Day
Here's your chance to do something to help the Kirtland's Warbler!
Volunteers are needed to plant jack pine trees to create new Kirtland’s Warbler nesting habitat on Jack Pine Planting Day sponsored by the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance and Huron Pines in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and generous support from the Au Sable North Branch Area Foundation.
This year’s event will be held Saturday, May 1—Covid permitting. Volunteers will gather on Stephan Bridge Road, about a quarter mile south of Four Mile Road, at 9 a.m. with the goal of planting more than 1,100 trees on a one-acre site. The site is about 10.5 miles west-southwest of Grayling, Michigan. The Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance and its partners have developed a COVID-19 policy designed guide the day's activities and keep participants as safe as possible. We all look forward to the day when we can freely mix and mingle again. Until then, we appreciate everyone’s cooperation.
The Kirtland’s Warbler is a Michigan conservation success story. The tiny warbler, which spends it summers primarily in the northern Michigan jack pines and winters in The Bahamas, was on the brink of extinction in the mid-1980s with a population estimated at fewer than 400 birds. Today, the population is estimated at more than 4,000 birds because of good stewardship by the Michigan DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Still, the Kirtland’s warbler needs continual human intervention to create new habitat. Jack pine planting day is an effort to connect people with the whys and hows behind jack pine management by the DNR and the Forest Service. It’s also an opportunity for people to do something tangible for a bird that is such an important part of the jack pine ecosystem and is important to northeastern Michigan’s economy.
The DNR annually cuts and replant hundreds of acres of jack pine forests in northeastern Michigan to support the jack pine ecosystem, which includes the Kirtland’s Warbler and other wildlife including Wild Turkey, Snowshoe Hare, White-tailed Deer, and Upland Sandpiper. As part of the process, the DNR annually reserves acreage for volunteers to plant.
Volunteers should know that early May weather is unpredictable, so please dress according to the weather forecast. No matter the weather, volunteers must wear sturdy boots as they will be stepping over old tree stumps, limbs and trenches. Work gloves are optional but helpful. The level of effort is considered moderate; there is no heavy lifting, but there is considerable bending, stooping and digging.
RSVPs are kindly requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the names of all the members of your party and the best way to reach you in case of a last-minute Covid-related cancellation.
The Jack Pine Ecosystem
This is the Jack Pine ecosystem that is the center of the Kirtland's Warbler historic range in Michigan's norther Lower Peninsula. More than 90 percent of Kirtland's Warblers' nests are in one small area of northern Michigan, some 70 miles from north to south and 90 miles from east to west.
There's not much here -- Jack Pine trees, of course, along with grasses, sedges, blueberries in the undergrowth and a few shrubs and trees. The soil in this ecosystem is sandy and nutrient poor, which severely limits what can grow.
Fire is historically has been a fundamental part of the ecology of the Kirtland’s Warbler’s ecosystem. The warbler and the other plants and animals in this area have not just adapted to fire, they have come to depend upon it. But no species in this ecosystem requires fire more than the Jack Pine. The Jack Pine's cones usually remain undamaged by the heat from a wildfire because fire moves through the tree so quickly. After the fire, the wind can disperse the winged seeds onto the ash-rich ground as far as 130 feet from the tree.
The Jack Pine is one of the most common trees in northern North America. A Jack Pine belt stretches across Canada from the Rockies to the Atlantic Ocean, and extends south into northern Michigan and as far north as Hudson Bay. The Jack Pine is able to live on the thin, acidic soil of the Canadian Shield, on rocky outcrops on mountainsides and in wet riverbeds. So with all these Jack Pines across North America, why does the Kirtland’s nest where it does? The answer is in the ground.
That’s because much of the soil here is composed of Grayling sand. The combination of low-hanging, overlapping branches of young Jack Pines with this sandy, well-draining soil that rarely floods is perfect for a bird that nests on the ground.
Today, this ecosystem is managed by both the U.S. Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Through regular harvests and replanting, the agencies are creating new stands of young Jack Pines desirable to the Kirtland's Warblers.