Gourdneck State Game Area

Goal: The DNR's primary goal is to restore the historic prairie and savanna complex that was once associated with Prairie Ronde Township (Kalamazoo County) and provide grassland and savanna habitat for species associated with these communities. Prairie and savanna ecosystems are biologically diverse and are home to a variety of plant and animal species. Much of Michigan's prairie and savanna ecosystems have been lost due to agricultural developments.

Watch the change!

Gourdneck SGA, condition prior to clearing prairie

Condition prior to clearing prairie
Aug. 5, 2005
Gourdneck SGA, desired prairie

Desired prairie from another location at Gourdneck SGA
Aug. 5, 2005

Click on a year/topic to read more about what has happened and what is still to come!

Benefits          2005          2006         2007-2009          2010          2011          2012-2015          2018

Frequently Asked Questions About Gourdneck SGA

Benefits

Karner blue butterfly
  • Benefits to wildlife:
    • Prairie habitats benefit a variety of wildlife, both game and non-game birds and mammals. Cottontail rabbits and wild turkeys have already shown a positive response to the work and are expected to do even better in the future.
    • Other species that have been targeted by the DNR Wildlife Division for management include eastern meadowlark, bobolink, red-headed woodpeckers and white-tailed deer.
    • As 75 percent of a prairie ecosystem's biomass is underground in roots, lichens, moss, invertebrates and small mammals, a large variety of plant and animals species will benefit from the prescribed burns and following rejuvenation.
    • Prairies are also home to some of Michigan's endangered species including the rare Karner Blue Butterfly.


wild turkey
  • Benefits to hunters:
    • So far, comments have been mixed from hunters using the area; some enjoyed hunting in the brush before it was removed, while others have commented positively about the clearing of the fields and ease of access to some of the more remote areas of the SGA.
    • As the area continues to be developed, hunters will continue to benefit from the effects.
    • It is anticipated that deer and turkeys will continue to thrive in the prairie and savanna complexes as well as rabbits, squirrels and possibly pheasants.

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2005

The project began in the summer of 2005.

  • Work began with the initial bulldozing of the permanent burn line around the entire project area. This work helped to define the project area and will serve as a boundary for future prescribed burns.
  • Three small fields were cleared of brush and trees during the late summer months.
  • Rye was broadcast on the burn line and on some of the newly opened fields to provide green forage through the winter.
Gourdneck SGA, portion of burn line shortly after clearing

Portion of burn line shortly after clearing
Aug. 5, 2005
Gourdneck SGA, what the area will look like after the project is completed

What the area will look like after the project is completed
Aug. 5, 2005

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2006

  • Additional bulldozer work was completed to clear brush and trees from several other old fields within the prairie portion of the project.
  • After that, rye was planted to aid in weed control and provide winter forage for wildlife.
Gourdneck SGA, view from the rest area

View from the rest area
Oct. 13, 2006
Gourdneck SGA, old tree line during early stage of clearing

Old tree line during early stage of clearing
Sept. 22, 2006

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2007-2009

  • From 2007 to 2009, a timber sale contract was in place to remove some of the biomass in the slash piles.
  • This resulted in a general reduction in size of the piles; however, smaller or poorer-quality wood remained.
  • Unexpectedly, the fields were left in poor condition following the use of large equipment.

Gourdneck SGA, panoramic view of prairie from the rest area prior to consolidating piles

Panoramic view of prairie from the rest area prior to consolidating piles
Dec. 29, 2008

Gourdneck SGA

Northeast corner of prairie looking towards rest area with track marks from the machinery
Dec. 29, 2009

  • Late in 2009 it was determined that the site was ready for prairie planting and the remaining slash piles would be allowed to decompose naturally or with the use of fire.

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2010

  • To prepare for planting the prairie, seasonal DNR staff were charged with consolidating the remaining piles of brush and smoothing the prairie area. This was accomplished in the summer of 2010.
  • In September 2010, rye was aerial-seeded on the site to reduce soil erosion and provide winter forage for wildlife.

Gourdneck SGA, panoramic view of prairie from the rest area after consolidating piles

Panoramic view of prairie from the rest area after consolidating piles
Sept. 22, 2010

Gourdneck SGA, preparing the helicopter

Preparing the helicopter
Sept. 23, 2010
Gourdneck SGA, project area from the east

Project area from the east
Sept. 23, 2010
Gourdneck SGA, aerial seeding of rye

Aerial seeding of rye
Sept. 23, 2010

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2011

  • In the summer of 2011, DNR staff installed the prairie and monitored the success of the planting through the summer and fall.

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2012-2015

  • Each year between 2012 and 2015, the prairie will be assessed for possible spring burning. When conditions are appropriate a spring burn across the entire project will be conducted. This will aid the restoration of the prairie and woodland.
  • Fire reduces the growth of weeds and increases the reproductive capacity of flowering prairie plants.
  • In 2012 it was determined that the conditions did not warrant the use of fire on the unit. The prairie had not established itself according to the standards that would support burning. Further monitoring will occur to determine if burning in 2013 should occur.
  • In 2013, DNR staff planted 32 acres of prairie grasses. Wildflower plantings will be added to the prairie grass over the next few years.

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2018

  • Following the last annual burn in 2015, there will be two consecutive non-burn years (2016 and 2017).
  • Another burn will be conducted in 2018.
  • After this, a normal maintenance schedule can be established.

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