Land Management at KNC

The historic beech-maple forests of Cooper’s Glen were the keystone of the original Kalamazoo Nature Center property when the organization was first founded. Today, KNC owns nearly 1,500 acres representing many of SW Michigan's diverse habitats including native prairies, coastal dunes, and hardwood forests. While some forests on KNC’s grounds have been relatively undisturbed for the last hundred years, other parts of the property have been challenged by invasive species and other ecological threats. Through support from grants and private donors, our team works to protect, conserve, and restore our ecological heritage through a variety of sustainable land management practices. Whether removing invasive plants from fen wetlands to protect endangered rattlesnake habitat, planting climate-resilient species for forest restoration, or using prescribed fire to manage prairie ecosystems, KNC's experienced team works to enhance the ecological health of lands that have been entrusted to our care.

Contact Us

Ryan Koziatek                                            Pronouns: he/him/his                              Stewardship Field Director                      rkoziatek@naturecenter.org 

Kyle Martin                                            Pronouns: he/him/his                              Stewardship Field Manager                    kmartin@naturecenter.org

Current Projects 

Prairie Fen Wetland Management

One of the land management priorities at the Kalamazoo Nature Center is maintaining our high quality fen wetlands. Fens are characterized by their unique hydrology and plant communities that support numerous rare, threatened, and endangered plants and wildlife. Many of these species are not shade tolerant and depend on these fens to remain open to sunlight. With the introduction of invasive species and the lack of natural disturbance, restoration of these wetlands is sometimes neccessary to keep these unique ecosystems open with minimal trees and shrubs. Our primary management tool to maintain and restore these open fen wetlands is prescribed fire. Fire is used to knock back and stunt the growth of woody vegetation and to stimulate new growth for some of the unique herbaceous plants. In addition to prescribed fire, we also do mechanical woody invasive species management by hand using tools like chainsaws, brush cutters, loppers, and more.










Climate-resilient Sugarbush Forest Restoration

Early in 2020, the Kalamazoo Nature Center (KNC) began restoring the land adjacent to our Alice Batts Apkarian and Ara Apkarian Maple Sugar Shack. Over the last decade, this area was increasingly overcome with dead ash trees and invasive shrubs. Our Conservation Stewardship team had worked to clear out most of the dead trees and to remove aggressive, non-native plants. Thanks to the help of several community donors and a 2020 tree planting grant from the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance, KNC staff has now planted diverse trees and shrubs in this location and completed the initial restoration effort.

In October 2020, KNC staff members and local high school students from KNC’s Heronwood program planted 66 trees and shrubs of 14 different species at the restoration site, investing in KNC’s ecological health and future programming. The project gave students an opportunity to work alongside natural resources professionals, see restoration work in action, and have quality time in nature during a difficult year.

Local leaders in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby also offered financial support for this project to help KNC become more resilient in a very different climate future. The restoration plan targeted species that are typical of a beech-maple forest, but also included species like hackberry and chinkapin oak that can tolerate a variety of conditions. Sadly, sugar maple trees are not expected to adapt well to the climate conditions projected for the southwest Michigan region of the future, though they are very meaningful to KNC traditions. As an experiment in adaptation for our sugarbush restoration, the team sourced sugar maple trees grown from Ohio seed sources. We hope that their slightly more southern genotypes may be better adapted to the likely warmer temperatures of our future, and that we can continue to offer the Maple Sugar Festival for generations to come.