GLADWIN – In the Northwest region of Gladwin County, the North Branch of the Cedar River flows through the 270-acre Little Forks Conservancy George and Sue Lane Nature Preserve allowing visitors to take in the important tributary. The Cedar River serves as both a vital resource for the Gladwin County area and as a natural habitat for brown and brook trout. The Leon P. Martuch Chapter of Trout Unlimited (LPMTU) aims to protect and increase exactly this type of habitat.
A section of the Cedar River is accessible to the public at the George and Sue Lane Preserve, which is owned by The Little Forks Conservancy (LFC) while the riparian area is managed in partnership with LPMTU. Before an improvement plan could be drafted for the river frontage, a baseline survey was first conducted to identify the trout population size.
“The initial baseline survey indicated that the trout population in the stream within the Lane Preserve was good, but could certainly be improved. Natural reproduction was evident as at least three generations of fish were observed,” explained Steve Wilkowski, Vice President of LMPTU. “The Biologists from the Michigan DNR indicated that the trout numbers were slightly below what was expected for the stream and recommended habitat improvements would likely improve reproductive success and decrease predation, increasing the numbers and quality of trout and other fish species on the Preserve.”
With the survey results in hand, LPMTU approached Josh Zuiderveen at South Peat Environmental to create a habitat improvement plan and draft up the appropriate permits. Working closely with Elan Lipschitz, Director of Land Conservation for The Little Forks Conservancy, the partners were able to procure matching funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through their Wildlife for Partners program. The funds were used to clean-up key areas and install six habitat structures covering 1,100 linear feet of the shoreline along the Lane Preserve.
“We designed and permitted six large habitat improvement sites in this portion of the stream,” Josh Zuiderveen explained. “These habitat improvement sites consisted mainly of woody cover, made up of logs with partial branches still attached. They appear natural while providing habitat for both fish and macroinvertebrates.”
They also cleared a number of logjams throughout the entire property. These were largely made up of dead ash trees that had fallen across the stream. Opening up the middle section of these logjams will promote natural sediment passage and decrease erosion.
“This project would have made George Lane so happy as someone who spent his life trying to improve and protect the North Branch of the Cedar River,” commented Elan Lipschitz. “This project ties into the overall picture of the Lane Preserve to not only improve access to the river but to work to improve habitat both within and near it.”
With nearly half of the shoreline projects completed, LPMTU is seeking grant money from their national parent organization, Trout Unlimited, to complete the remaining stretch of river but also to improve access to the river for more recreational opportunities. Increased knowledge of the benefits of Michigan’s outdoor recreational industry, from health and community benefits to economic development, access to natural environments has been key to creating more jobs and bolstering local economies.
“Measuring the economic impact gained by these types of improvements is always challenging, so it would be difficult to predict if access would bring more people and money into the local economy,” commented Steve Wilkowski. “That said, the opportunity for people to enjoy the Lane Preserve by increasing access and habitat quality certainly should help draw people to the Gladwin area and enjoy the beautiful legacy left by George and Sue.”
While results may not be immediate, projects like this led by conservation- and community-focused partners continue to raise awareness of our many natural environments where recreational activities are available throughout Mid-Michigan and our state.