Allegan Pine Plains Natural Area Tour|
Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials today announced a May 17 walking tour of the Allegan Pine Plains Natural Area in Allegan State Game Area.
This family-oriented tour, starting at 9 a.m. at the Allegan State Game Area Headquarters, 4590 118th Avenue, explores an exquisite example of Michiganís rare oak savanna landscape during a spring wildflower bloom. The tour will last up to 3 hours and will remain in reasonably level areas, although not necessarily on established trails. It is the first of six tours planned in this yearís Natural Areas Tour Series.
A savanna is an area of grasses and wildflowers interrupted by scattered small trees and clumps of mature trees. Although oak savanna may once have been much more abundant in Michigan and the American Midwest, it is now one of the rarest natural communities. With few remaining examples, Allegan Pine Plains is one of the best representatives of this type and perhaps the most beautiful.
Without natural disturbances or ongoing management, savannas would ultimately grow into wooded communities. Allegan Pine Plains has a long history of management, including prescribed fire, used to retain and restore this unique natural community.
In addition, Allegan Pine Plains represents an important site in Michigan for the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. Although the butterflies will not emerge until later, lupine, the food plant on which they depend, should be in full-bloom, creating seas of purple-blue.
The natural areas movement in Michigan began in 1925, when State Parks Chief P.J. Hoffmaster recommended the acquisition and preservation of the Porcupine Mountains in the western Upper Peninsula. In 1972, Michigan passed into law the Wilderness and Natural Areas Act, which finally provided legally binding protection for natural areas. Today, more than 130,000 acres statewide are managed as natural areas under this program.
More information about natural areas in Michigan and this yearís Natural Areas Tour Series can be found on the DNR web site at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr. The Natural Areas Program is supported in part by Nongame Fish and Wildlife Funds. Michigan residents can support these efforts by purchasing a wildlife habitat license plate for their vehicles.