A bird’s-eye view of Pottersville State Game Area in Eaton County, Michigan.
By Ben Beaman, Coordinating Wildlife Biologist – Michigan
Until recently, Eaton County Michigan was what the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) calls a public land “cold zone,” an area with little to no publicly accessible land for hunting and other outdoor recreation. But the recent acquisition of the 445-acre Potterville State Game Area (SGA) northeast of Charlotte is a major step in the right direction.
The property is reminiscent of Michigan’s not-so-distant past – a working farm with small fields for a mix of cash crops and livestock grazing, separated by hedgerows. There are a few larger woodlots, pothole wetlands and a meandering river.
New public access is always a win, and this property was specifically acquired with an eye toward grassland management for pheasants and other upland wildlife.
To help achieve that goal, Michigan PF and Eaton County PF Chapter #546 are partnering with Michigan DNR to restore 200 acres of former crop fields into native grasses and wildflowers. Habitat work began this past spring, when nearly a quarter of the restoration fields were planted wildlife habitat using funds raised specifically for Potterville SGA through the PF-driven Michigan Adopt-A-Game Area Program. Remaining fields will be restored in the same manner over the next two to three years. The result will be a contiguous grassland complex of significant size by Michigan standards.
Eaton County PF provided additional sweat equity and seed to plant a 10-acre food plot adjacent to the newly planted grasslands, and is building an educational kiosk that will showcase the property and provide information about the benefits of grasslands and grassland wildlife.
The Eaton chapter has been engaged with this project since the very beginning. Additional habitat improvements are being planned by the local Soil and Water Conservation District, and will include restoring several degraded pothole wetlands on the property and enhancing hedgerows by removing invasive vegetation and replacing with native, fruit-bearing shrubs.
This project is a classic example of how good, comprehensive conservation takes a solid partnership of like-minded organizations to come together efficiently.
This story originally appeared in the 2021 Fall Issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Pheasants Forever member today!