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Cutting Trees To Fight Climate Change

Leona Larson

A forest restoration project in Van Buren County is tackling climate change to help protect Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline. It’s a critical habitat for migrating species.

Birdsong and the hum of vehicles along I-94 were common sounds in the Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve in Covert Township. At least they were before workers with heavy equipment began cutting down about 45 acres of red pine in early May 2021.

Credit The Nature Conservancy of Michigan
The Nature Conservancy of Michigan
Map showing restoration work at the Ross Preserve

Planted for use as lumber by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's and 40's, the trees are now too close together. Chris May is with The Nature Conservancy of Michigan that runs the preserve. So far, he says nearly 6,800 pines have been cut for lumber to make room for new varieties.

“A normal forest will have multiple layers to it: an understory, a midstory, and the highest trees that people often think of when they think of a forest. And having all those three different layers is better for wildlife; it’s better for disease resistance; and it just makes a healthier forest.”

May also says the work at the preserve will also help restore the way it was before.

“We are cutting red pines that are not native to this part of the state. They normally occur farther north."

The Conservancy will plant 2,300 oak, maple, elm, and white pine seedlings that better tolerate warming temperatures. The Ross Preserve is closed to the public until August or September while the work is underway.