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.
Stewardship efforts are focused on identifying best land managment practices to promote biodiversity and resilient natural communities and sharing our findings with landowners and other conservation institutions. Primary components of these efforts include promotiong natural processes such as fire; limiting spread of invastive pests, patnogens, and plants; and incorporating bioloigcial field station and experiemental resoration findings into land management strategies.

Prairie and Savanna Conservation

Contrary to common knowledge/belief, southwest Michigan historically had many fire dependent communities of prairie, oak savanna, and woodlands. Today only a few small remnants of plants and animals associated with these communities remain, and many are in decline as a result. The Institute has converted over 100 acres of fallow farm field into native tall and short grass prairie since purchasing the property in 1998 to promote pollinator and other grassland species while also serving as a reference site for education and research.
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 native to the Great Lakes region. Seeds are broadcast on the surface or drilled into the ground. Over several years of development and prescribed mowing, prairie grasses and wildflowers will begin to establish. Over time and with the integration of natural disturbances, such as fire, plants populations will begin to expand and thrive in their preferred microhabitats.
Fire is an important natural disturbance to the landscape. The stewardship department maintains prairies and savanna structure and diveristy with prescribed fires intentionally ignited under a strict set of weather and site conditions. Prior to widespread European settlement in West Michigan, fires ignited by lightning strike or more commonly Indigenous people managed open characteristics of 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 degrading into dense shrublands. Prescribed fire is helping to conserve native ecosystems. Click here to learn more about prescribed fires.
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 herbacious plant diversity within the understory and promoting oak regeneration. In addition to these restoration activities, recent prairies/ oak savannah establishment is occuring on the Jones parcel, near meadow lodge, and adjacent to the Storybook walk.


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 populaitons and health of several species on the property 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.
In 2021, the Institute installed a purple martin 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 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to develop a Cedar Creek watershed plan. Contact Field Station Manager Matt Dykstra at for more information.