Michigan Nature Association

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The Michigan Nature Association is an association in the U.S. state of Michigan which was established in 1952. It is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting Michigan's exceptional natural habitats and extraordinary and endangered plants and animals. It has preserved 172 nature sanctuaries in 58 counties throughout Michigan.


It all started with bird watching. Bertha Daubendiek and a few of her friends started an organization for the birds.

In 1951, a bird study group in Macomb County was formed to protect wildlife, hoping to keep Michigan in a natural state. Their first project was protesting the destruction of a tern colony at Metropolitan Beach. This is also when the first name change came about to the St. Clair Metropolitan Beach Sanctuary Association. They started weekend nature exhibits, guided tours, and published a study course. In 1955, the Junior Nature Patrol (JNP), a branch of the St. Clair Metropolitan Beach Sanctuary Association, was formed. In two years, the membership of JNP reached 5,000. But even with all of the educational efforts, the group realized that no wild land was being saved. This is when the organization began its preservation of nature, as we know it today.

The first purchase, made in 1960, was Red Wing Acres in St. Clair County. Soon after, three more properties were purchased. During this time of land acquisitions, the St. Clair Metropolitan Beach Sanctuary Association did not stop in their efforts to protect wildlife. They led a fight for pollution abatement in Mill Creek near Yale and protested drilling in the Port Huron State Game Area, keeping their plates full of environmental issues from every angle. In 1965, they once again changed their name to the Eastern Michigan Nature Association. More properties were purchased, and a gift was given resulting in eight sanctuaries in Northern Michigan, thus leading to the last name change in 1970 to the Michigan Nature Association (MNA). In the same year, MNA started a project in the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is one of MNA's prize sanctuaries known as The Estivant Pines.

By 1971, MNA had grown so large that Bertha Daubendiek, founder of the group in 1951 and executive secretary since 1952, changed her part-time volunteer status to full-time. MNA continued to protect Michigan's wildlife, and in 1974 Bertha received an award as one of Michigan's top ten volunteers by Governor Milliken.

MNA started to see they were on the right track. Endangered species lists for Michigan and the rest of the country were published, revealing that a significant percentage of the species on the list (endangered, threatened, and rare) were already protected in MNA preserves and sanctuaries. 1978 brought about the first show of support by another conservation organization in Michigan, The Detroit Audubon Society, which purchased 75 acres (300,000 m2) next to an MNA project in St. Clair County. They later purchased two additional parcels, protecting a total of 224 acres (0.91 km2) in this joint effort." Also around this same time, Charles Eshbach published, "From Sawmill to Sanctuary, The Estivant Pines Story," dedicated to MNA's effort to save the pines.

By 1979, MNA had achieved a goal of 50 wholly owned sanctuary-preserves. Also in this year, Bertha Daubendiek was recognized for her work again by the Detroit News as Michiganian of the Year. The early 80's were abundant in land purchases. MNA added 16 sanctuaries and preserves in just two years. The Michigan Nature Association also experienced a tragedy in this same time period. The Leaning Giant, Michigan's State Champion White Pine and runner up for the National Champion White Pine, in the Estivant Pines was damaged by fire. Later because of this fire damage and gale-force winds, the Leaning Giant fell to the ground.

After just five years from the previous goal of 50 sanctuaries, MNA reached another mile marker. The American chestnut project achieved its goal of having every Michigan native tree species on MNA preserves. This was also the 99th project for MNA. These were two great achievements by a small organization.

Over the next few years MNA continued to purchase more land and take more steps against developing the natural habitat. MNA had convinced the Oakland County Road Commission to re-route a road that was proposed to run through one of MNA's Sanctuaries. They had also accumulated more properties now; the count was up to 110 preserves and sanctuaries. Another publication was also underway; Bertha Daubendiek and Edna S. Newnan had been extremely busy over the last year assembling "In Retrospect" a book highlighting the past 28 years of preserving Michigan's wild and rare natural lands. The publication also served as a guide to 26 of MNA's easiest to visit sanctuaries and consists of 221 full-color nature photos taken on MNA lands by 41 Michigan photographers. The proceeds from the sales go to the MNA Endowment fund.

In 1989 another book was printed entitled "Walking Paths in Keweenaw" by Charles Eshbach. Mr. Eshbach reported that during the first two weeks of October there was an average of 1,000 visitors per day at the Estivant Pines.

1990 was a busy time for fundraising around MNA headquarters. MNA received a total of $286,000 for the Estivant Pines. A 10-acre (40,000 m2) Memorial Grove was established with contributors who gave $5,000 per acre. The sanctuary was increased to 377.5 acres (1.528 km2). MNA also ended its four-year search for a spruce grouse sanctuary. MNA was still purchasing other properties in the Keweenaw Peninsula; in 1992, four more sanctuaries were purchased in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

1994 was yet another busy year for MNA. In addition to the preservation and education activities, they published the 7th Edition MNA Nature Sanctuary Guidebook.

The Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary was added in 1997. This is one of MNA's larger properties consisting of 174 acres (0.70 km2). Other sanctuaries and preserves that were added this same year include: White Cedar Swamps, Baraga Old Growth Forest, Scapaticci, Bullar Lake Fen, Riley Shurte, Sand Creek Prairie, and an addition to Gratiot Lake bringing the count for MNA to nearly 150.

In 2001, Bertha Daubendiek announced her retirement as Executive Secretary. In December of that same year, Jeremy Emmi began work as MNA's new Executive Director.

In 2002, MNA relocated to the city of Williamston, to be more centrally located in the state and be closer to a major university system (MSU).

In 2003, MNA began to develop a strategic vision for the organization, focusing on expanding our acquisition program while adequately maintaining our existing nature sanctuaries and plant preserves around the state. In spring of 2004, we started our new stewardship program with the hiring of Statewide Stewardship Director Sherri Laier. Our stewardship program then encompassed over 150 nature sanctuaries and plant preserves relyaing on the maintenance by our staff and hundreds of volunteer stewards who look after these natural areas with guidance from MNA.

In August 2004, MNA kicked off its Statewide Land Protection Campaign, which was a three-year, three million dollar campaign to protect ten properties in the Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Through 2007, MNA continued to grow, gaining new members and building a top-notch stewardship program.


Below are a few of MNA's sanctuaries listed by county

County Sanctuary
Alger Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve
Allegan Lawrence A. and Mary Bell Wade Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Alpena Colby Plant Preserve
Julius C. and Marie Moran Peter Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Antrim Cedar River Nature Sanctuary
Baraga Baraga Old Growth Nature Sanctuary
Berrien Trillium Ravine Plant Preserve
Branch Kope Kon Nature Sanctuary
Cass Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary
Vernon and Velma Radebaugh Memorial Plant Preserve
Wilding Plant Preserve
Clare Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Clinton A Looking Glass Sanctuary
Genesee Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary
Save It Creek Nature Sanctuary
White Cedar Swamps Nature Sanctuary
Houghton Robert T. Brown Nature Sanctuary
Huron Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Thelma Sonnenberg Memorial Plant Preserve
Ingham Red Cedar River Floodplain Nature Sanctuary
Jackson Columbia Nature Sanctuary
Lefglen Nature Sanctuary
Keweenaw Black Creek Nature Sanctuary
Dean Webster Memorial Plant Preserve
Eagle Harbor Red Pine Dunes Nature Sanctuary
Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary
Gratiot Lake Overlook Nature Sanctuary
Keweenaw Shores Nature Sanctuary
James Dorian Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Garden Brook
James H. Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Brockway Mountain
Redwyn's Dunes Nature Sanctuary
Lapeer Myron and Isabel Zucker Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Petite Wetland Nature Sanctuary
Lenawee Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary
Martin Beland Miller Plant Preserve
Livingston Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary
Luce Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary
Mackinac Beaver Dam Nature Sanctuary
Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary
Macomb Wilcox Warnes Nature Sanctuary
Midland Bullock Creek Nature Sanctuary
Montcalm George and Jessie Krum Memorial Plant Preserve
Newaygo Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary
Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary
Oakland Big Valley Nature Sanctuary
Brandon Township
Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary
Morgan Porritt Plant Preserve
Rose Center Wetlands Plant Preserve
Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary
Yntema Wildlife Oasis
Oceana Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary
St. Clair Alice W. Moore Woods Nature Sanctuary
Alton D. McGaw Memorial Plant Preserve
Bertha A. Daubendiek Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Elmer P. Irene Jasper Woods Memorial Nature Sanctuary
James and Alice Brennan Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Louis G. Senghas Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Stephen M. Polovich Memorial Plant Preserve
Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary
St. Joseph Sauk Indian Trail Plant Preserve
White Pigeon River Nature Sanctuary
Van Buren Hamilton Township Coastal Plain Marsh Nature Sanctuary
Washtenaw Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve


  • "Nature group to build boardwalk". The Romeo Observer. 2008-08-06. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  • Ivey, Diane (February 15, 2008). "Recent invader Threatens Upper Peninsula plants". Capital News Service via MLive.com. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  • "ATVs mar land sanctuary in Rose Twp". The Detroit News. November 9, 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  • "Giving nature a hand". Huron Daily Tribune, The (Bad Axe, MI). November 14, 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-12.

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