Restoring Ecological Integrity

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is home to a wide variety of natural communities, including re-constructed prairies, successional forests, mature oak/hickory and beech/maple forests, hardwood and conifer swamps, marshes and prairie fens, Those communities support several species listed on state or federal “endangered,” “threatened” or “special concern” lists.

Restoring ecological integrity and providing guidance on land management are the goals of the Institute’s stewardship efforts. This restoration and education involves two major components: integrating natural processes such as fire to promote biodiversity and limiting the population of invasive species through early detection and rapid response.
Pierce Is Growing! (PDF) Pierce Hosts Researchers (PDF)

Prairie and Savanna Conservation

The state of Michigan has only a few small remnants of its original grasslands and savannas, and many associated wildlife species are in decline as a result.The Institute has converted over 100 acres of fallow farm field into native tall and short grass prairie habitat since purchasing the property in 1998 in hopes of preserving pollinator and grass..
The process of converting pre-existing agricultural fields into prairie ecosystem is a multi-year process. The stewardship department is committed to using species and seed genotypes natie to the Great Lakes region. Seeds are broadcast on the surface or drilled into the ground. Over several years of development, the prairie grasses and wildflowers will begin to visibly dominate the area. Over time and with the integration of natural disturbances, such as fire, plants will begin to establish and thrive in their preferred microhabitats.
The stewardship department manages prairies and savannas with prescribed fires intentionally ignited under a strict set of weather and site conditions. These prescribed fires reintroduce fire, an important ecosystem maintenance process and natural disturbance, to the landscape. Prior to widespread European settlement in West Michigan, fires ignited by Native Americans or by lightning strike served as an effective method for managing prairie, savanna and oak woodlands.The fire maintained the openings and set back encroaching shrubs and trees, allowing for increased light penetration, stimulating native plants, reducing competition from invasive plants and fertilizing the soil with ash. Without fires, Michigan’s prairies, savannas, and other fire-dependent ecosystems are quickly degradting into dense shrublands. Prescribed fire is helping to conserve them. Learn more about prescribed fires here.
The Institute’s oak savanna and oak woodland communities habitats continue to undergo management supported by grants provided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Wildlife Habitat Grant Program the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). Stewardship Department staff and Steeby Land Management Fellows work on monitoring, invasive species control, and mid-story thinning in management units to open mid-story canopy, increasing plant diversity within the understory and promoting oak regeneration. In addition to thes restoration activities, invasive species control and prairie mowing management has been ongoing at the recently established Little Grand Canyon oak savanna.


PCCI Prairie Burn PCCI Prairie Burn

Wildlife Conservation

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute strives to create resilient communities where wildlife can thrive and maintain healthy populations. The Institute manages overly abundant species like white-tailed deer that have detrimental effects on the natural ecosystems, while protecting and restoring habitats for a number of rare species such as eastern box turtles and eastern massasauga rattlesnakes. The Institute monitors the populaiton and health of several specieis on the prooperty on an annual basis.

Pollinator Conservation

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute's recreated prairies provide a refuge and habitat for resident and migratory insects, including monarchs. The Institute has ten certified Monarch Way Stations and is contributing to monarch conservation by providing a variety of milkweed plants and other nectar and host plants and uses sustainable management practices in our gardens and natural areas.

Bird Conservation

Many native wildlife species have been negatively affected by environmental degradation and habitat loss. In an effort to create a nesting habitat that is in short supply due to deforestation, the Institute has installed a series of bird nest boxes for a variety of native cavity-nesting birds. The most popular residents of our nest boxes are Eastern bluebirds, tree swallows, and house wrens. Staff and volunteers diligently monitor these nest boxes to determine nest success and ensure they are not being inhabited by undesirable non-native species such as European starlings, house sparrows, or infectived with parasites.
In 2021, the Institute installed a purple marting house donated by Mike and Michelle Duits that will be used to promote conservation and education of the species.

Watershed Planning Process

Cedar Creek Watershed Planning Process is Underway! Cedar Creek winds its way through central Barry County and is one of the defining features of the Institute’s 850 acre property. Largely seen as a pristine and natural waterway whose shores and waters harbor many wildlife and plant species that are symbols of our native landscape, current and future threats to water quality within the Cedar Creek watershed led the Institute and its partners to secure grant funding through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to develop a Cedar Creek watershed plan. Contact Field Station Manager Matt Dykstra at for more information.