Use of the Forest

Public use of Saginaw Forest is encouraged. Rules for the public's use include (but are not limited to):

Monday, February 27, 2012

Volunteer Day coming up (tentatively April 1)

I have been thinking about having another volunteer day for doing larger-scale maintenance projects that I cannot do alone. These would be things like removing invasive plants from a section of the property, doing some basic trail maintenance (such as raking away years of accumulated leaves), or picking up some trash from along Liberty Road.

Right now, even though the winter has been effectively non-existent this year, I am thinking that it would be a good thing to wait until the start of April; perhaps even April 1 (no joke!). There will be other opportunities for people to volunteer during this summer, but right now, I think that a tentative April 1st work day ought to be penned into my calendar.

Since the property doesn't have too many tools - only enough for me, after all - volunteers would have to bring their own work gloves and tools. (Things like loppers, pruning shears, and hand saws ought to do the trick for most of that I am thinking about tackling.)

I still have to get final approval from the University for having a volunteer day, but I don't imagine that it will be a serious problem (and there might even be some funding available for refreshments).

I don't know how much of  a draw there will be from the student body, but I am also planning an early-May volunteer day so that students who are still in town will have fewer reasons not to come out on a weekend to help maintain a property.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ice continuing to recede from Third Sister Lake

IMG_2419stitchedv2The amount of icecover on the lake is diminishing steadily now. Last week, it was a thin skein across most of the lake, extending all the way to the southern shore. Today, even with the snow from yesterday and this morning, the amount of ice cover - and thickness of the remaining ice - has seriously diminished.

IMG_2423stitchedI think that this is the year that winter didn't really come; it just "hung around" for a few days, preferring - apparently - to take a trip to the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gas delivery

Gas delivery this morning. Guy asked me if I was still heating the cabin with it, since it was apparently not too big of a refill. I guess that the warm winter is really messing with the company's prediction software.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rain tomorrow, snow on Friday

The various forecasts that you can find on indicate that there is a good chance for a decent amount of rain on the afternoon of Thursday, February 23, and a good chance for some snow on the next day.

Luckily, perhaps, the weekend isn't supposed to get too far above freezing, so at least it shouldn't slushy and muddy again... at least until Monday (which is supposed to get well above freezing).

What a weird "winter".

UPDATE: It looks now like it will be rain/snow on Thursday afternoon/evening/night and perhaps a little more snow to pile on top of it on Friday...

Beer cans in the forest

On my rounds this morning, I happened upon some empty beer cans. Seriously?

Beer drinkers: you took the time and effort to lug your beer cans into the forest to drink them here (which is against the rules anyway). Could you at least be half way decent and take them back out with you? (After all, they are much lighter than when you brought them.)


Friday, February 17, 2012

On this date: 2005 news about the return of forests

On this day in 2005, the Detroit Free Press ran a story ("Forests Return; Future Uncertain") about the return of forests in Michigan, and the author interviewed the then-caretaker for the article. Since the article is behind a pay wall, I will only use excerpts from it that are descriptive. As with previous references to caretakers, I will continue to only use initials.
Trees cover more of Michigan's landscape than a decade ago, but the growth may have more to do with quantity than quality.


[I]t's not necessarily towering stands of stately old trees that the word "forest" often conjures. Instead, it's typically early-stage growth of smaller, densely packed trees that fight vigorously with one another for sunlight and space. It will take decades for the slower-growing oaks and maples to take over such fields, providing the airy, shade-dappled forests that exist in many protected parts of the state.


[In Michigan, the] increase is part of a national trend that saw 10 million acres of forest added to the landscape [from 1990 to 2000], said Brad Smith, a U.S. Forest Service expert on the nation's estimated 300 billion trees - about 1,000 for every U.S. resident. "We're continually growing more than we're cutting," Smith said. "People think urban sprawl is eating all the forest - we can't say that."

But counting overgrown fields as forest can give a false sense of progress, said [M.R.], a forest service specialist with the Sierra Club's Michigan chapter.

"Yes, there is more forest, but it's like saying I had three Cadillacs once, and now I have nine Ford Pintos," said [M.R.], who also is caretaker of the 80-acre Saginaw Forest owned by the University of Michigan outside Ann Arbor. "Just because I have more cars than I did before doesn't necessarily mean it's more desirable."

The existence of both types of forest has spawned vigorous debate about how to manage them - whether to clear-cut more areas to provide young forest habitat conducive to hunting and logging, or pursue a more hands-off approach to allow hardwoods to thrive and provide the solitude and majesty found only in stands of towering trees.


Other factors, including better fire suppression, also have led to some increases in forest cover. But that's sometimes a double-edged sword: Oak trees, for example, sprout prodigiously in burned-over land, giving them an advantage over maple trees, which don't.

"We're not lacking for hardwood maple forests," said [M.R.]. "But we are lacking for oak savannahs."

...Michigan forests "are on the verge of recovering the beauty, grandeur and biological diversity which was the norm in Michigan before they were decimated," reads the Sierra Club's Michigan chapter Web site....

Mature forests also provide habitat for species that don't thrive in young forests, said [M.R.], such as moose, pileated woodpecker and the northern goshawk.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Melty, soggy, forest... again.

The snow is melting again, making it all muddy again. It was beautiful to walk outside this morning: the fog from the snowmelt was hanging heavy in the air.

Oh. Also got more water delivered. (No, I much prefer the taste of the Arbor Springs water to that of the very mineraly groundwater.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Property committee meeting

The property committee met today to discuss the conditions and problems of the three SNRE-managed properties: Saginaw Forest, the Newcomb Tract, and Stinchfield Woods. I discussed the continued problem of falling ash trees, and the possibility of removing these trees in the forest - for issues of safety and access.

Similar problems are found in the other properties.

Other topics were discussed, too.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Warm(ish) weather, dog walkers, and leash laws

Saturday's weather was quite warm, and - as I made my rounds of the property - I came across several people who were walking their dogs off-leash. Each person that I encountered got the same message: please put your dog on its leash, and please come back when you want to follow the rules. The rules are - again - very simple: dogs must be on leash. Saginaw Forest is not a dog park. Saginaw Forest is not public lands. Saginaw Forest is a research facility of the University of Michigan. As such, failing to follow the rules of use of the land owner constitutes a failure to follow the law.

Even if it were public lands, state law requires that dogs be on leash in public unless they are working dogs. However, the only kind of dog that can be "working" in Saginaw Forest by visitors is a guide dog, which - by necessity - must be on its lead.

Again, if people do not like the rule (or the law that supports the right of the landowner to set the rules of use for the property), then they can make complaints to the appropriate people. However, the fact remains that if you are not following the rules, then you will be informed that you will be welcome to return to the forest once you care to follow the rules, but that until that time, you must leave.

If your dog does not like walking on leash (or you don't like walking your dog on leash), and you don't want to get angry at being informed you that you are breaking the law, then don't bring your dog to Saginaw Forest and let it off its leash.

Woodpeckers back

Last week, a flight of robins was rustling through the leaves near the cabin. The other day, a small "V" of geese flew overhead. Today, there are woodpeckers knocking through the woods.

Did I do a Rip Van Winkle? When was the winter?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Soggy ground

All the snowmelt has not yet drained through the already saturated soil, and so the paths and the lawn are - in places - quite mushy. It feels like March weather... on Groundhog Day.

BTW, the groundhogs probably stuck their noses out of their burrows today, thought that winter was already over, and called it a day. I kid, but with the way that the weather has been this year, I'm surprised that there aren't more buds on trees and spring flowers popping up.

Also, at some point last year (or perhaps in 2010) a large oak branch partially broke off of one of the oaks standing above the cabin. It had been hanging there, and it was questionable whether it would crash on the roof or just along side it once it fell. Well, last night it fell, with the thick part of the branch landing - with a thump - just four feet from the corner of the cabin and the rest of it being hung up on the electrical wire that runs to the barn. It was not the most fun place to wield the chainsaw, but thankfully, the electrical wire is reinforced by a support cable. After about 10 minutes the obstacle was cleared, about 1/3 of it going into the burn pile.

Snowy owl sighting?

I saw an owl flying through Saginaw Forest as I came home tonight. It was too dark to tell much from its silhouette other than it was an owl, and about the right size for it to be a snowy owl. This, of course, could have been me having snowy owls on my mind from the reported sighting almost 1 month ago. Imagine my interest when I saw this news story about snowy owls migrating southward in record numbers:

Apparently, there is an "irruption" of snowy owls. From the USA Today:
Scientists say the likely reason for the explosion is that the owls' chief food source, small animals called lemmings, was abundant last summer, allowing the adults to raise more young. Now, in search of food, young owls are heading farther south.

Although there are a few snowy owls spotted in Michigan every year, "I can tell you this winter is highly unusual," said Karen Cleveland, bird biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.


By early December, there were 60 sightings in 10 lower Michigan counties and 34 in the Upper Peninsula, according to bird experts who track sightings.

New ones are reported almost every day, although some may be the same birds.


In Michigan, the owls mostly eat small voles, mice and rabbits. Some are healthy, but others are weak and stressed. As youngsters, not all are good hunters yet.

The birds are federally protected, and possessing them without a special permit is against the law. People should keep their distance from the birds and be careful not to disturb them, said Cleveland, with the state Department of Natural Resources. Spooking them causes them to use up energy and weaken them. Unless a bird is clearly injured, it shouldn't be disturbed, she said.

Well, the possible presence of snowy owls in the forest could explain why I haven't seen (or heard) too many small rodents around the cabin...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

All snow melted (again)

The temperatures of yesterday (which rose into the 50s) helped melt all the snow in the forest (well... save for where the snow got piled up when the plow came... seemingly ages ago).