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.

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

Current Projects

Climate-Resilient Sugarbush Forest Restoration

KNC's Fern Valley Trail cuts through a beautiful area of beech-maple forest that was also dominated by ash trees. Once a lush and shady place for visitors, Fern Valley Trail now features acres of dead ash trees laid to waste by the emerald ash borer, a devastating invasive insect. As ash trees died, openings in the canopy let unexpected sunlight onto the forest floor, creating a window of opportunity for invasive shrubs like honeysuckle and autumn olive to flourish and grow. Shrubs took over, blocking regeneration of native trees, and leaving KNC with a huge problem.   

KNC’s stewardship team has been working for the last year to clear this area and to prepare for replanting a new sugarbush, but the decision to replant is complicated due to climate change. Research shows that plants and animals are already adapting to new climate patterns and changing their ranges. Experts warn that not all of our native trees will be well adapted to the warmer and wetter future that is projected. Sadly, in Kalamazoo’s future, beloved trees like eastern white pine, aspen, paper birch, and even sugar maple may be unlikely to thrive. KNC’s restoration plan takes both our history and this uncertain future into consideration.

To donate to this project click here

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.


Pictured: 2019 KNC Stewardship Field Crew after cutting, treating and stacking invasive glossy buckthorn.