Land Conservancy Waiting On Draft Plan To Restore Mt. Baldhead Trees
The Land Conservancy of West Michigan is nudging state of Michigan officials for a prompt restoration program of the Mount Baldhead trees in the City of Saugatuck, unintentionally devastated by a herbicide application the conservancy itself oversaw in 2010 and 2011.
“Ideally, we would like to start planting trees this fall,” Vaughn Maatman, executive director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, told Observer Newspapers Wednesday about ongoing efforts with the state.
“We know that there are 148 trees on the slope that are dead or will not recover. There are other trees that did recover; there is a cluster of trees in the center that somehow remained unaffected,” said Maatman.
Trees that are tagged with a blue plastic (marker) will need to come down. “(The affected area) is in a critical dune area; anything we move forward on is ultimately subject to state-approval (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality),” he said.
The damage was an unintended consequence of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved herbicide called Habitat, applied to the property in 2010 and 2011. The herbicide was intended to eradicate oriental bittersweet, an invasive plant whose vines strangle and cover trees up to 70 feet tall.
“In this particular case we used a herbicide that is persistent,” said Maatman. “The problem was that in the winter of 2012 we had lower than regular precipitation which helps the herbicide to break down in the soil and take part of the microbial activity.”
The spring of 2012 was marked by a wave of unusually warm temperatures, then cold, then a drought.
“It couldn’t have been worse for us,” said Maatman.
Mount Baldhead had the largest infestation of oriental bittersweet in an eight-county area.
Other properties that were sprayed with the herbicide Habitat included Castle Park in Laketown Township, Holland State Park, Camp Blodgett in Grand Haven Township and the Palomita Reserve on Perry Street in Park Township.
“The land conservancy has been proactive in the restoration efforts for Mount Baldhead,” said Kirk Harrier, Saugatuck city manager. “We appreciate all of their efforts and the open channels of communication between us and them. We look forward to the completion of this project.”
The conservancy is now consulting with Cardon JFNew - an environmental restoration firm - and Arbor Consulting on a restoration plan.
Maatman say he expects to be presented a draft of that plan in a few days and he will then review. Restoration is expected to begin this fall and continue into the spring of 2014.