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High Quality Wetlands, Rich Plant Life, Rare Coastal Habitat and more…Findings from a Forest Biologist.

Updated: Jun 19

Forest biologist and botanist Liana May of  Borealis Consulting toured the lakeshore  property targeted for acquisition and protection with NCV Vice President Beth Linnea Verhey, along with a review of  available ecological historical data on this environmentally-rich area of Leelanau.


This first blogpost on her report focuses on the wetlands on the property. May found that the existing wetland complexes on the property were historically part of the interdunal wetland, wood dune and swale complex and ‘rich conifer swamp’ that naturally characterize this part of the Leelanau Peninsula.


The former Timber Shores property currently has several kinds of wetland habitats, including two swamp varieties and an emergent marsh. There are also two fresh water creeks that run through the property and into Grand Traverse Bay. 

Ennis Creek is the larger of the two creeks flowing across the property, flowing through the northern third of the parcel. A smaller, unnamed creek runs from Ennis Creek south and then east into Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. Not only do these creeks support important marsh and wetland flora and fauna, but Ennis Creek’s high-quality aquatic habit supports native brook trout. 


Part of what makes these valuable wetlands possible is a dune and swale complex that covers nearly two-thirds of the property. Past man-made disturbances have “disconnected” some of the previously inter-connected wetland complex. The good news is that these previously filled and disturbed areas can be restored, to once again contribute to cleaner water flowing into the bay. 



The once prominent Rich Conifer Swamp is largely gone from the interior of the parcel. However, high-quality remnant parcels have survived along that portion of Ennis Creek that runs along the northern portion of the property and also across approximately 6.5 acres in the southeast corner of the property that was not used for the former campground facilities and parking. This rich conifer swamp area near the 1,800 feet of shoreline on Grand Traverse Bay is prime for successful restoration. 


The Hardwood-Conifer Swamp is the largest vegetation type identified on the parcel.  Swales that once defined the property were filled and altered so that the linear formations are now small, unconnected wetland depressions between the former, gravel-fill campground pads. 

Not surprisingly, these swales are vegetated with early successional aspen (Populus tremuloides), balsam poplar (P. balsamifera), white ash (Fraxinus americana), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), American basswood (Tilia americana), northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), willows (Salix spp.) and riverbank grape (Vitis riparia). Herbaceous vegetation includes bulrushes (Scirpus atrovirens, S. cyperinus), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), and sedges and grasses. 


In sum, this unique property boasts a coastal landscape defined by sand and gravel beaches, interdunal wetlands, wooded dune and swale complexes and the remnants of a rich conifer swamp that are all ranked as vulnerable in the state of Michigan, with interdunal wetlands ranked as imperiled habitat. Such a special landscape is what helps to define Leelanau and protect our watershed, and it is deserving of conservation, restoration and careful stewardship. 


Globally, and in Michigan, wetlands are decreasing. Wetlands are critical in supporting coastal resiliency, water quality, birds, fish habitats, and plants. An important part of developing our region sustainably is recognizing the environmental and economic value of preserving wetlands. 


If you’d like to help protect the property, please consider supporting NCV. 

NCV appreciates Liana May’s scientific study on the property.  In the next blogpost, we look into the plants she observed that make this parcel so special. 

Who is Borealis Consulting? Borealis works for many conservation groups including federal and state agencies, municipalities and non-profits, including The Leelanau Conservancy.  Owner-operator Liana May does natural resource management planning, floristic inventories and quality assessments, wetland delineations, threatened and endangered species surveys, invasive species surveys and management and is certified to write Michigan Forest Stewardship Plans, NRCS Fish and Wildlife Conservation Activity Plans, and NRCS Forestry Plans. For more see  Borealis Consulting.

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