Ohio DNR and The Nature Conservancy Demonstrate the Power of Partnerships

   01.09.12

Great partnerships are the cornerstones of great accomplishments, and with the signing of a two-year agreement last week, the DNR and The Nature Conservancy are poised to demonstrate how.

Beginning in 2012, The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Chapter, will commence efforts on the Petersburg State Game Area in Monroe County to restore native lakeplain wet prairie and oak savannah communities.  These are natural communities that existed prior to European settlement, and that have since been lost through altered hydrology, fire suppression, invasive species and conversion of lands to other uses.

“This is an exciting opportunity,” said Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “By partnering with The Nature Conservancy, we are able to accomplish important habitat restoration work on public land that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when conservation partners come together to achieve mutual goals in habitat conservation for threatened species.”

The Karner blue butterfly, a threatened species inMichigan, relies on these native grassland communities for breeding, and is one of many species that will benefit from this initiative. Other benefits include restoring altered ecosystem function, and reinstating native grassland species on the landscape.

Under the partnership agreement, The Nature Conservancy will utilize some of the funds from an $869,000 grant received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation using funds provided under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to implement land management practices to meet long-term ecological objectives. Work on the State Game Area will include removing invasive species, and reducing aspen and white pine cover that shade out grassland vegetation. The grant covers a larger restoration effort throughout the Lake Erie region ofMichiganandOhio.

“What a great example of a public/private partnership! DNR and TNC have the same goals and this project allows us to take advantage of each other’s strengths,” said Steve Woods, Oak Openings Program Manager of The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Chapter. “Petersburg SGA is an important part of the Oak Openings and protects some very rare habitat types and we are excited to work with DNR to restore a part of our natural history that was almost completely lost.  We are grateful that the Fish and Wildlife Foundation saw how important it was that conservation groups work together inSoutheast Michiganand provided the financial support to make this project possible.”

According to Michigan DNR wildlife biologist Joe Robison, “The benefit of working with a partner like The Nature Conservancy, which isn’t limited by geo-political boundaries, is that we can take a more holistic approach to conservation efforts across the landscape, and in this case, across state lines.”

The Nature Conservancy agrees. Josh Knights, state director for The Nature Conservancy inOhio, said, “Working across political boundaries is critical to protecting whole systems like the Western Lake Erie Watershed.  Ecosystems don’t stop at the state line so neither can we.  Healthy ecosystems are good for everyone; the wildlife, the people and the land and we are glad to have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Michigan DNR and hope this stands as an example of successful multi-state conservation action.”

In addition to the work conducted on the Petersburg State Game Area, The Nature Conservancy will be contacting landowners nearby to encourage similar natural community restoration work on privately owned land.

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