The Natural Resources and Conservation Division within the DNR will conserve, protect, and enhance habitats for fish, wildlife, and cultural resources for the continuing benefit of the Tribal citizenry. Services offered to the Pokagon Band include conservation, management, and propagation of the Tribe's fish and wildlife resources. These services will be offered through 3 main services:
Terrestrial (forest/woodland) and aquatic habitat (rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands) assessment
Restoration of lost or declining habitat and vegitation
Management of culturally significant habitat such as Black Ash swamps and Sugar maple forests will include conservation, management, and species propagation
Prescribed burning is a very important management tool for maintaining and enhancing grasslands. Fire was an important natural part in the development and maintenance of grasslands, forests, and wetlands, throughout history. To many of us, fire is a feared enemy that destroys everything in its path. Because of this, the use of controlled fires, such as prescribed burning, is underutilized as a management tool for improving and maintaining habitats. For thousands of years, tall grass prairies and open brush lands were kept free of trees by the occasional wildfires that cleared the landscape every two to 50 years. These fires were caused by lightning, or set intentionally by early Tribes. They had discovered that fire killed woody plants, but encouraged fruit bearing shrubs, and forage producing grasslands.
Present day research and experience have shown that prescribed burning can be an effective management tool. Prescribed burns are used most frequently to maintain and restore native grasslands. Prescribed burning can recycle nutrients tied up in old plant growth, control many woody plants and herbaceous weeds, improve poor quality forage, increase plant growth, reduce the risk of large wildfires, and improve certain wildlife habitat.
Brush lands can be invigorated and maintained with fire to benefit species such as bluebirds and sharp-tailed grouse. Burning old fields controls saplings and woody vegetation, and improves grasslands for use by nesting wildlife and grazing livestock. Forest openings can be manipulated with burns to benefit more than 150 wildlife species. Upland nesting cover used by pheasants, waterfowl, and songbirds will remain productive if periodically burned. Cattails and sedges are returned to vigor by an occasional burn. Lastly, if you want more oaks in a hardwood stand, a fire will kill off less tolerant species such as maple, and basswood, allowing the oak to compete more successfully. Burning is also more cost-effective than other treatments like bulldozing, cutting, or chemicals.
On November 6, 2014, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources added seven species to the aquatic invasive species list:
- Stone moroko: part of the minnow family, this species is a known carrier of a parasite that can negatively impact other fishes.
- Zander: a close relative of the walleye, this species could compete with the native fish or reproduce with it and create a hybrid.
- Wels catfish: this fish is considered a serious danger to native fish populations.
- Killer shrimp: this species is an aggressive predator and could severely threaten the trophic levels of the Great Lakes by preying on a range of invertebrates.
- Yabby: this large crayfish would negatively impact other crayfish species.
- Golden mussel: similar to zebra and quagga mussels, this species has destructive qualities that would threaten native biodiversity.
- Red swamp crayfish: this species can quickly dominate waterbodies and is virtually impossible to eradicate.
Wildlife Mangement Activites
- Assist the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi develop hunting and fishing rules and regulation to preserve, protect, and enhance fish & wildlife resources on tribal property, and assist with issuance of tribal hunting, fishing, and gathering licenses and permits.
- Conduct baseline fish and wildlife inventories to be used in the development of forestry, wildlife, and fisheries habitat management plans. Prepare written reports concerning fish & wildlife populations and habitats and issue recommendations.
- Implement and manage: Wetlands Reserve Program and Natural Resource Conservation Service – WHIP & EQIP projects, through establishment of warm season prairies, shallow wetland marshes, food plots, and annual prescribed burning.
- Keep abreast of new environmental policies and legislation. Contribute ideas about changes to policy and/or legislation, based on ecological findings.
Spotlight Project: Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
The WRP is a specially designed U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resource Conservation Service program in which the Band was able to enroll 1,147 acres of property near North Liberty, Indiana in 2008. The program is aims to restore vegetative conditions and the re-creation of marsh and other wetland habitats using sometimes new and innovative methods of vegetation management and low impact earthwork. Many of these practices have been successfully implemented by the DNR to achieve a successful wetland management program. Since 2008, the property (formerly in conditions to those of the Grand Kankakee Marsh) has experienced several different types of wetland habitat re-plantings with native vegetation, undergone prescribed burns in the messic prairie zones, and was fit with water-control structures to rebound the natural flow of the surface water and to restore the original state of the wetland.