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.

Want to make improvements to your own landscape? Check out our contracted services for corporate, municipal, and private landowners: Ecological Services.

Blue Eyed Marys

Find a Rare Animal or Plant Species at KNC? We have an App for that!

KNC is comprised of a mosaic of habitats that many rare plant and animal species call home. This includes prairie fens that the federally threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) uses for their winter hibernation. It also includes beech-maple forests blanketed each spring with the state special concern blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia verna). If you spot a rare species while walking our trails, we want to know.
The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), the leading source of biodiversity information in Michigan, recently created a rare species reporting form that’s easily accessible from a mobile device via QR code on the MNFI site here. After scanning the QR code, you’ll be directed to open their form in either a web browser or the Survey123 app. If you haven’t previously downloaded the form within the Survey123 app, click the download button and follow the prompts. Once downloaded, follow the same link again and select “open in the Survey123 field app” to automatically open the form in the app. Your observations will both inform land management activities performed by our Conservation Stewardship staff, and be added to MNFI’s Natural Heritage database. Decision makers, developers and government agencies use the database information to direct state-wide conservation efforts. Learn more on the StoryMap here >

Current Projects

Beech Tree

Forest Carbon Management

In 2021, the Kalamazoo Nature Center committed to a bold goal, aiming for net zero greenhouse gas emissions from facilities and operations by 2035. As a nature center with responsibility for managing over 1,500 acres of land, we also wanted to explore nature-based strategies for climate action. By quantifying the carbon in our forests, we have established a benchmark to protect our existing carbon stocks and have built a plan to improve our land’s ability to sequester carbon in the future. Taken together with our emissions reduction strategies, the Kalamazoo Nature Center is making sustainable climate action a priority in how we operate, how we engage our community, and how we care for our land.

View our StoryMap to learn more: Managing Forest Carbon at KNC . Please note: the StoryMap, which scrolls down using a mouse or arrow keys, is best viewed on a desktop or laptop. Mobile views may be more difficult to navigate.

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 necessary 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. Scroll through our interactive StoryMap for a thorough look at our work >

This work is currently funded with 2021-2023 support from the NFWF Sustain Our Great Lakes grant program and charitable gifts in honor of Dr. Betty Rita Gómez Lance.

Slide below to see the Sugarbush progress!

Sugarbush restorationSugarbush restoration

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.

You can help! Become a Friend of the Forest here >