What a great idea!
The Genesee Conservation District is working to protect natural resources in our community. Promoting natural resource conservation in our community.
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What a great idea!
It's officially the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year!
The solstices occur each year when the tilt of the Earth's axis puts your hemisphere at its maximum tilt away from (or toward) the sun. So while long summer days seem as far away as possible for us right now, the Southern Hemisphere is currently experiencing its summer solstice!
Soil is ancient. It’s minerals beaten free from solid stone by a millennium of pounding raindrops. It’s the plants that died a thousand years ago and decayed away into water-retaining, carbon-harboring organic matter. It’s sand that once covered an ancient seafloor where reptilian giants swam.
Yet it’s also completely new and ephemeral—it’s one single bacterium that was just born an hour ago but which will be long-dead by tomorrow. It’s the waste from an earthworm’s recent meal. It’s the roots of your lawn. It’s the water from the last rainstorm. It’s algae. It’s fungi. It’s insects. It’s worms. It’s LIFE. And without it, our lives would end.
World Soil Day was last week, but here at GCD, we don't spend just one day a year acknowledging soil. Life as we know it on this planet cannot exist without it, and it's actually pretty fascinating stuff once you get to know it!
Appreciate and celebrate your soil, on World Soil Day and every day, by keeping it clean and keeping it covered so that it does not erode away. In return, it will continue to sustain us for generations to come.
"Out of the long list of nature's gifts to man, none is perhaps so utterly essential to human life as soil." -Hugh Hammond Bennett
Monday was World Soil Day, but we spend a lot of time thinking about soils here at GCD! These unique ecosystems need our conservation efforts just as much as the larger systems we're used to thinking more about. And they directly benefit us, too, as all of our food comes, in one way or another, from soil!
Soil is where food begins.
98% of the food is directly or indirectly produced on our soils (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) )
aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being through healthy soil 🌱
Learn more: bit.ly/WorldSoilDay2022
Someone's been busy! 🍂🍁
As you celebrate the upcoming festivities with a holiday feast, take a moment to consider the farmers who produced that food. Do you know where they are likely to be located? Check out this article to find out!
As we wrap up the harvest season and slide into the holiday season, let's take a moment to thank farmers for our favorite holiday commodities. We also thank farmers for completing their Census of Agriculture and other USDA-NASS surveys that provide data about U.S. agriculture.
We've been encouraging you to leave your leaves in place this fall, but do you know what wildlife might make use of them if you do? Check it out!
Showcasing the DNR: Don’t burn that butterfly’s blankie! Michigan Department of Natural Resources sent this bulletin at 11/10/2022 05:20 PM EST Share or view as webpage | Update preferences Showcasing the DNR Don’t burn that butterfly’s blankie! Leaf litter is the one kind of litter conserva...
I know we've said it before, but it bears repeating as fall is upon us again. Mulching leaves in your yard instead of bagging and removing them is great for your soil, your wildlife, and you! Who really WANTS to spend hours raking up and bagging leaves anyway?
We thought we’d take a break from our river series this week to talk about a chore that many of you are undertaking right now: managing the leaves in your yards. Did you know that mulching the leaves instead of raking them up and throwing them away may not only be easier on your back, but also be better for your soil and wildlife? Chopping the leaves up with a lawnmower ensures that they won’t smother your lawn, but they will still be able to decay over the winter to release nutrients back into the soil. What’s more, numerous small animals like insects, reptiles, amphibians, and even birds and mammals use fallen leaves for food, shelter, and nesting material, so leaving the leaves in place makes your lawn more wildlife-friendly!
If you really want to remove the leaves from the lawn altogether, consider making a pile of leaves that you allow to decompose. It can be used to improve fertility, soil structure, and water retention properties in your garden in the spring. AND you won’t be adding all that yard waste to a landfill where it will take up more space. A win-win!
We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small from the USDA-Rural Development agency for taking the time to visit Genesee County yesterday. She joined us for a brief bus tour showcasing conservation projects in our local community that have been led by Genesee Conservation District, followed by a discussion and tour of a local farm who has worked hard to reduce their energy consumption. We had a wonderful morning discussing what conservation at the local level has looked like in Genesee County, and how the USDA’s recently-announced Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities may be able to further aid our local producers with market access, energy savings, and other barrier-breaking assistance to help bring sustainably-produced commodities to the masses whether a farm is large and traditional, small and historically underserved, or anywhere in between.
Thank you also to the National Association of Conservation Districts, National Conservation District Employees Association, and the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts for organizing the event, to the congressional staffers, Michigan USDA staff, and local Genesee County producers who attended, to our hosts The Local Grocer and Szikszay Family Farms, to Good Church for the loan of a bus, and to the press who showed interest in covering the event. Successful natural resource conservation requires collaboration, and our meeting yesterday demonstrated how all levels of government as well as non-government local stakeholders can come together to make that happen.
I imagine you've heard a lot about the wonderful things wetlands can do- they filter our water, provide critical habitat for wildlife, sequester carbon, serve as the "lungs" of our planet... the list goes on and on. Did you know that they also help to mitigate floods?
A poignant local example of wetland flood relief can be found in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. When the Midland-area dams infamously failed in 2020, the refuge opened its water control structures to take on as much floodwater as it could. 10,000 acres took on 10 feet of water, water that otherwise would have destroyed more homes and possibly resulted in loss of life. In all, this massive wetland complex soaked up an estimated 15% of the flood... and filtered it, removed contaminants, and provided habitat for massive numbers of wildlife. When it comes to landscapes that provide tremendous ecological benefits, wetlands are heavy hitters!
Spooky season is upon us, and among other "creepy" critters, people start thinking more about bats. Did you know that these graceful little aerial acrobats can actually be as clumsy as us humans? High-speed camera studies have recently revealed that they actually crash into each other all the time. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPEPX4z4KBw. Now I feel a LITTLE better about myself after shutting my thumb in a door last week.
Learn some steps you can take to aid bat conservation in your own back yard here: https://www.batcon.org/about-bats/bat-gardens-houses/
Hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from a hole in the ground, and scientists with high-speed video cameras are there to make sense of the overwhelming spec...
Why do leaves change color in the fall? Actually, some of those pigments were there all year! As trees prepare for winter, they stop producing chlorophyll and begin storing energy instead, and as the green chlorophyll fades away, other pigments are able to shine through.
BUT did you know that there is one very special pigment at play? It's called anthocyanin. Recent research indicates that this pigment is only produced as fall approaches, and once the chlorophyll is gone, anthocyanin turns leaves to the brilliant scarlet hues we all know and love. It turns out that anthocyanin is a natural sunscreen that protects the leaves from the harsh autumn sun while the tree finishes absorbing the last of their nutrients back into its woody parts in preparation for its winter dormancy. How cool is that?!
Remember that HPAI is still a danger to your backyard poultry, especially as wild birds migrate through Michigan. Remember to try to keep wild birds separate from your flocks, and sterilize your footgear/wash your clothing after visiting others who have poultry!
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Detected in Genesee County Backyard Flock Michigan Dept of Agriculture & Rural Development sent this bulletin at 10/11/2022 11:04 AM EDT Immediate Release: October 11, 2022 Sick Domestic Bird Calls: 800-292-3939 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Detected in Genesee....
I bet you're familiar with geese noisily migrating through our fall skies, and you probably know that a lot of our songbirds migrate as well. But did you know that raptors migrate, too? Our falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls are on the move, and SE Michigan presents some great opportunities to see them! Learn more here: https://gl.audubon.org/news/sink-your-talons-raptor-migration-michigan#:~:text=In%20September%2C%20Broad%2Dwinged%20Hawks,hundreds%20or%20thousands%20each%20day
If songbirds are more your thing, you can look at the forecast of their nocturnal migrations in the coming days here: https://gl.audubon.org/news/sink-your-talons-raptor-migration-michigan#:~:text=In%20September%2C%20Broad%2Dwinged%20Hawks,hundreds%20or%20thousands%20each%20day. While we're reaching the tail end of their migration through our area, they're not quite done yet, so please continue to keep nocturnal light pollution to a minimum!
Don’t forget to look up this fall!
Did you know that bumblebees are important pollinators, especially later in the year once the weather starts to cool off? They are one of the few types of bees who are still able to fly in temperatures lower than 55 degrees since they have more insulation than many other insects and they are also able to vibrate their wing muscles to warm themselves.
Sadly, like many animals, some bumblebee species are experiencing sharp declines. You can learn more about the awesomeness of bumblebees as well as bumblebee conservation here: https://www.xerces.org/bumblebees.
Because they are essential pollinators, loss of bumble bees can have far ranging ecological consequences. Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group, indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. While s...
With Autumn approaching, leaves are going to begin to fall. There is a way you can help keep our waters cleaner by preventing leaves from going down the storm drains. As leaves decompose and release nutrients, this causes an increase in algae. In turn, when algae die and decompose they use oxygen that fish and other animals need. You can bag leaves in a paper bag and set them at the curb or mulch them with the lawnmower. Here are some ways you can help keep our waters healthier:
With migration picking up, it's important that we help our feathered friends make their journeys safely. Reduce your impact (and save energy!) by turning off outdoor lights if possible.
We are partnering on a Gilkey Creek cleanup this Saturday! Can you join us?
Can you imagine being a butterfly that can fly 100 miles per day? That can cross the Great Lakes? That will travel up to 2,500 miles in its lifetime to overwintering grounds where it has never been before, but which it somehow instinctively knows how to find? Watch our Michigan skies between now and the end of this month, and you'll see some of these incredible insects beginning one of the most famous migrations of the animal world.
I have magical memories of being a child in Texas 25 years ago, watching the sky turn from blue to orange with migrating monarch butterflies heading South. Sadly, those days of thick clouds of butterflies are dwindling; their population has plummeted 85% in the last two decades, such that the IUCN red list classified the migratory monarch subspecies as endangered this past July.
However, there is hope! Awareness of the plight of these remarkable insects has increased, and efforts from everyday people have helped to keep the marvelous monarch from slipping into oblivion just yet. Find out some ways that you can help here:
Milkweed is starting to flower, creating a sanctuary for many visiting creatures.
The Genesee County Fair is this week!! As usual, we will be there all week. Come and see us and our Drain Commission partners to test your water conservation knowledge and win prizes!
We'll also be available to chat about invasive species, programs available through the District such as MAEAP and Produce Safety assessments, or just to chat nature/natural resources in general if that's more your thing. We hope to see you there!
Can your turf/garden plants do this??
Some of our native grassland species can be more deeply-rooted than some trees! Check out this photo of a clump of Indian grass, compass plant, and big bluestem grass. Roots that pe*****te soil that deeply have a TON of environmental benefits including flood mitigation, soil stabilization, groundwater recharge capabilities, carbon sequestration, and a bunch of others, not to mention being incredibly drought-resistant!
Photo credit: https://onpasture.com/2015/11/09/great-grass-farmers-grow-roots/
The invasive spotted lanternfly has reached Michigan :( What's more, the population that has been discovered so far is just one county away from us so it may reach Genesee County very soon.
Please keep an eye out for this insect and its nymphs and egg masses so we can try not to spread it further! See this press release for more info: https://www.michigan.gov/mdard/about/media/pressreleases/2022/08/11/slf_pr
Today we have some unfortunate news to report, the spotted lanternfly has now been detected in Michigan. Now it is more important than ever to check your trees for spotted lanternfly. If found, please make sure to report your sighting immediately and include photos! By remaining vigilant, you can help prevent the further spread of this invasive insect that threatens dire consequences for Michigan's natural resources and agriculture. Read more about the detection here. https://www.michigan.gov/mdard/about/media/pressreleases/2022/08/11/slf_pr
Spiders: Unsuccessfully trapping hikers since, like, forever.
We’ve all walked through a spider web at some point. Are there ways to avoid a web on a trail? Not really, but we can offer a few tips that may lessen the shock.
🕸 As you walk, use a stick to make first contact with any potential webs. This way you can avoid using your face.
🕸 Invite a tall person to join you and walk behind them. After repeated web encounters, encouragement and compliments may be needed to keep this person in front. (Also, act surprised after each web encounter. You might want to say, “wow, that never happens,” or “I bet it was just the one.”)
🕸 Sleep in and let the early risers clear the trail for you. Amateurs.
🕸 Make the most of the little dance people do when they walk through a spider web and try to get it off. Let’s not scare anyone. Pull back. Pull back!!!!
P.S. The average spider can spin/repair a web in about 30 to 60 minutes. Something to keep in mind if the trail is not a loop.
Image: Morning dew collects on a spider web at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park, TX.
Happy 11th annual National Moth Week!!
This colorful bug MUST be a butterfly, right? Nope! Meet the sunset moth, a day-flying species whose wild, kaleidoscopic iridescence puts many butterflies to shame.
Moth species outnumber butterflies 9 to 1, but because a lot of moths are nocturnal and drably colored, they don't get the attention that butterflies do. However, some are incredibly colorful, some are day fliers, some have wingspans of up to 12 inches, some are important pollinators, and ALL of them are super cool in their own ways! Which species is your favorite?
Did you know? The USA banned the pesticide DDT in 1972. In the 40 years since then, populations of the iconic bald eagle rebounded in a fantastic conservation success story, going from the brink of extinction in the 1970s to such healthy populations that they were officially removed from the endangered species list 15 years ago.
To help celebrate these milestones, check out this video where renowned bird illustrator David Sibley teaches you how to sketch a bald eagle!
This is "Draw a Bald Eagle with David Sibley" by Audubon.org on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.
Do you own agricultural land that you might be interested in taking out of production and putting into conservation instead? We have a CREP technician here at GCD who can help. For more information, contact Rowan at the information listed on the flyer below.
Do you graze livestock, or are you interested in learning more about grazing? We're teaming up with MSU-Extension and Red Leg Farms to hold a pasture walk on Thursday, July 21st. They've got cows, sheep, horses, and pigs, so there's something to learn no matter what livestock you keep!
Join us to see how the switch to intensive grazing has worked on this farm (spoiler alert- it's worked REALLY well) and meet some other livestock farmers as well as educators in our area who can help you learn more. You can also earn MAEAP Phase 1 education credit by attending!
There is no charge to attend, but we need to know how many people to expect. Please register here by July 20th: https://events.anr.msu.edu/event.cfm?eventID=DDC4909A749CB0E40601E1AFA178233E557AE1F802DD2E966B6F9A837E67548F.
Hey farmers (or residents interested in learning more about regenerative farming practices), our friends up in Saginaw County are planning a field day in Frankenmuth on July 25th. This should be a great opportunity to network with other mid-Michigan producers, learn about soil health, and more! Follow the link for more details.
Saginaw Watershed Farmer Network Field Day
Happy National Pollinator Week! Need, birds, bats, and insects are an essential partner for gardeners and farmers and anyone who loves to eat. Without pollinators we would be without some of our favorite foods (like cucumbers and melons).🌸🐝🍅🌼🦋🥒🐞 🌻
To learn more and get involved in helping our local pollinators visit for information, garden designs and tips on what you can do to support pollinators in your community.
Happy National Pollinator Week!
Did you know planting pollinator habitat can both help pollinators and improve water quality in the watershed? Vegetation can filter pollutants, reduce erosion, and slow down runoff. When thinking of what to plant for pollinators there are many factors to consider including your soil type and the size of the area you have for planting. From flowers to trees, everyone can find something they can plant to benefit pollinators. Here at the Conservation District we can work with you to make those determinations FOR FREE, just give us a call!
The soil won’t get wet- what the heck??!!
While cleaning up raised beds at the Meekin’s Garden- GCD staff noticed something curious while watering, the soil underneath the first few centimeters was not wet. After turning over the newly watered soil- her suspicions were confirmed, the soil is hydrophobic. Hydrophobic soils is a dry soil that repels water so rather than absorbing it, the soil repels the water.
Hydrophobic soil can be immediately fixed by adding a wetting agent to the soil. These wetting agents break up the soil tension and allow water to be absorbed by the soil again, instead of being repelled.
To solve this problem in the future, compost was added to the soil and straw mulch will be used around the produce. This will add much needed organic matter to the soil and the mulch should help the soil retain moisture during the growing season.
1525 N Elms Road
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Genesee Conservation District was established in 1946. Since then the district has worked to promote natural resource conservation in our community. We work with our community members to help each individual reach their personal conservation goals; from improving your backyard wildlife habitat to conserving the soil on your 1,000+ acre farm operation. We are here to help you!
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