Chippewa Watershed Conservancy acquires 25th nature preserveEight-acre parcel named Starks Preserve

What’s happening: The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy (CWC) has recently acquired its 25th nature preserve. The preserve is located in Deerfield Township of Isabella County on Bruder Drive. There are mowed trails that wind through the preserve’s wet-meadow habitat, providing the opportunity to recreate on the property. The eight-acre parcel of land was donated to the CWC by the Gilbert and Kay Starks Family Trust. The preserve has been named accordingly, as its official name will be Starks Preserve.

Why it’s important: There is no act of conservation too small to be counted, and there is no parcel of land too small to be worthy of conserving; small acts of local conservation comprise the greater whole of wildlife and land conservation. The donation of Starks Preserve is an excellent example of this. 

Of the donation, Gil Starks, owner of the Gilbert and Kay Starks Family Trust, says, “[It’s] my little way of helping the environment. It’s a habitat for hundreds, multi-thousands of organisms, and I feel good about that—even though I don’t know their names.” 

Starks has recognized that a deep understanding of the nuances of ecology is not a prerequisite for conservation. Oftentimes, the most important conservatory action taken is to ensure that a parcel of land is protected in perpetuity.

This sentiment is echoed by CWC director Mike LeValley. Speaking on the new preserve, LeValley says, “As wildlife agencies across the country continue to look at pollinator population declines, small pockets of habitat such as Starks Preserve have the potential to play an outsized role in conservation as refuges and sources for pollinators.” 

Starks Preserve is the latest of the CWC’s many efforts to establish habitat refuges in mid Michigan. 

How it’s unique: According to LeValley, Starks Preserve is one of four preserves near each other in the residential areas on Meridian and Blue Grass roads. These preserves protect 16 acres of land in aggregate, while also providing recreation opportunities for the public. Starks Preserve is the largest of these and holds unique habitat features that are not found on the other preserves. 

“While [the] other nearby preserves are wooded, Starks Preserve is largely open habitat, providing home for a completely different suite of organisms. Starks Preserve really shines in the late summer when its open areas are filled with blooming wildflowers such as asters and goldenrods, making it a pollinator paradise,” says LeValley. 

Starks Preserve will allow visitors to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the importance of pollinator habitat, something which comes easy once eyes are laid on the color and beauty of such places.

How to participate: An official dedication of Starks Preserve will take place on the property at 5 p.m. on June 9. Until then, and beyond, the preserve is open to the public for visitors to enjoy the sights and sounds of all that lies within its borders. Visitors can then head to one of the CWC’s other preserves, of which a complete list can be found here. Volunteer opportunities with the CWC, in Starks Preserve and elsewhere, can be found here.
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Read more articles by Owen Howard.

Owen Howard is an Isabella County native with a deep appreciation for all it has to offer, in both people and places. He currently works as a biologist in the environmental department of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. He is an alumni of Central Michigan University, having received both a bachelor's and a master's degree. In his free time, Owen could be described as 'chronically outdoors.' Owen has a passion for telling stories and for listening to other people tell theirs. He loves getting the chance to allow people to share their passions and stories with a larger audience.