Biodiversity Stewardship Areas

Comments Regarding “BIODIVERSITY STEWARDSHIP AREA” designation
For the Jordan River Watershed

Friends of the Jordan welcome the Biodiversity Stewardship Areas designation initiative by the DNRE and the Core Design Group. We commend the hard work by the many individuals involved over the years and are encouraged that these efforts are making progress. The areas proposed are clearly unique habitats representing diverse ecotypes throughout Michigan.

We are concerned however that the original Core Design Group’s consensus recommendations were significantly downsized. In so doing, the concept of fostering biodiversity is diminished by further isolating these select high quality habitats. We hope further consideration will be given to linkage within and among the various ecosystems.

Biodiversity is the ecological result of the biological integrity of an ecosystem. Biological integrity is the condition whereby all the interrelated components that drive, nourish and sustain living communities are functional and self-sustaining over time. The watershed ecosystem represents the most fundamental environmental entity which incorporates and integrates the biologic, chemical, geologic and hydrologic forces on a landscape level. Watershed ecosystems thus contain, within a definable land mass, the key ingredients that constitute biological integrity which allows for biodiversity.

One reason for the continued decline of our natural world is the failure to view it in a comprehensive, integrated manner. An endangered species requires suitable habitat. Wild rivers depend on unfragmented hydrology. Eagles, song birds, trout, salmon and countless other species migrate up and down their native ecosystems. All along their respective journeys, complex webs of life weave an interdependent fabric of biodiversity.

Previous attempts at conservation and environmental protection have too often been limited in scope or narrow in focus. Rarely does biodiversity flourish on an isolated tract of land or a certain reach of stream. Fragmentation of natural ecosystems simplifies biological integrity and diminishes biodiversity. It is essential that we recognize and respect biological integrity as a prerequisite for biodiversity and pattern our management practices to reflect this complexity. Watershed-Based Ecosystem Management addresses this paradigm in a realistic, comprehensive manner.

The Jordan River Watershed embodies some of Michigan’s most outstanding natural treasures. Widely known as the “Jordan Valley” its unbroken forests, free-flowing streams and near wilderness setting have provided numerous generations with unparalleled natural splendor. Rich and diverse plant and animal communities flourish in this premier watershed ecosystem. Conifer swamps along the streambanks and its vast wetland habitat give way to the majestic hardwood forests and meadowlands. These natural habitats are essential for biodiversity and sustainability.

Cold water springs bubble out from the high glacial plains in northeastern Antrim County, meandering down the steep forested hillsides, merging to form the legendary Jordan River. The river and its tributaries derive over 90% of their flow from groundwater discharge, not runoff, so their flow rates, water temperatures and purity are unusually constant and of high quality. These features are unique among Michigan’s rivers and contribute to the Jordan River’s renowned fishery. In all, nearly 100 miles of streams join and then disperse into a rich and biologically diverse floodplain or estuary at Lake Charlevoix’s South Arm. Collectively these features meld, making the Jordan River Watershed a rare vestige of a natural riverine ecosystem.

The Jordan River Watershed Ecosystem is widely recognized as the “Crown Jewel” of Michigan’s watershed ecosystems. It possesses a full range of ecological components resulting in a high degree of biological integrity and biodiversity including; large blocks of forested land, unfragmented headwaters, intact riparian zones, contiguous greenbelts and ecological corridors. Its 125 square miles traverse from its headwaters aquifers (elevation 1,190 feet) to the floodplains of Lake Charlevoix (elevation 590 feet). The Jordan Valley State Forest (25,000 acres of undeveloped public forest land and a protected part of the Mackinaw State Forest) is managed for multi-use sustainability in a near natural setting by the Jordan Valley Management Plan. The 100 miles of free-flowing streams unite to form the pristine Jordan River, a blue ribbon trout stream and the first river in Michigan to be designated “Wild and Scenic” under the state’s Natural Rivers Act of 1972.

The exceptionally well preserved biological integrity of the “Jordan Valley” is testament to the resilience of nature and the vision of conservationists who, collectively through the generations, worked to conserve and protect this incredible place. The Friends of the Jordan therefore submit that the Jordan River Watershed, in its entirety, is uniquely qualified to be designated as a Biodiversity Stewardship Area. We further submit that the hydrologic watershed, which includes the critical groundwater recharge zones (see map below) and the “Conservancy” protected lands along the lower river corridor, all the way to Lake Charlevoix, be included. These rich and crucial lands are key components to the biological integrity of the watershed. We also contend that the previously nominated “Old Growth” and “Natural Areas” should be considered as these features are seriously under- represented in Michigan’s State Forests. The Jordan River Watershed is a priceless natural heritage and should be an important component as well as a vital link to other ecosystems in Michigan’s “Living Legacies.”

Respectfully,

The Board of Directors, Friends of the Jordan River Watershed Inc., 1/10/11