Springfield Township's landscapes and natural resources are not just pleasing to the eye; they are also rare. Unlike other areas that were extensively farmed, Springfield's generally poor agricultural soils, abundant wetlands and steep slopes spared much of it from the plow. The result is that Springfield is home to remnant, rare resources and ecosystems that look much as they did hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Consider that:

Springfield Township is steward to one of Michigan's largest, most pristine prairie fens: a globally rare wetland system known for its spectacular array of native wildflowers and rare wildlife.

Prairie Fen showing field and flowers

Southeast Michigan's largest forested wetland, a quiet, awe-inspiring sanctuary, is located within Springfield's borders.

Forest trees and ground cover

Springfield Township’s complex, intact ecosystems, comprised of uplands and lowlands, hardwood forests and flowering wetlands, vernal pools and river corridors, provide habitat for rare plants and animal species that have disappeared from other parts of Michigan and most of the United States.

 flowers and plants  The Shiawassee River winding through a fen  Closeup of plants  Forest wetlands showing trees and swamp
At least one rare species and its local habitat are being studied by wildlife scientists as part of a major research project.

Springfield Township’s Shiawassee Basin Preserve, known for protecting one of the highest quality prairie fen wetlands in Michigan, is also one of the last places on earth to sustain a critically endangered butterfly known as the Poweshiek skipperling.  The Poweshiek skipperling is a small (<1.25” wingspan) butterfly that depends on high quality prairie habitats like our fen for its survival.  Until recently, the Poweshiek was one of the most common prairie butterflies in North America, being found in many states and provinces from the Great Plains region to the Midwest, but around 2005 the population began a mysterious decline in abundance.  Today, there are less than five hundred individuals occurring in only a handful of locations across their former range.    
Poweshiek skipperling butterfly sitting on sunflower  Poweshiek skipperling butterfly sitting on plant stem
The recent stark decline in Poweshiek numbers relative to their prior abundance is confounding to many scientists working with this species, since it does not appear to be tied to management actions or habitat changes at several of the sites they formerly occupied.  As a result, several hypotheses are being tested to suggest why the species is in decline and how we might save this species from extinction in the immediate future.  Here at Springfield Township we intend to work with researchers to learn more about this species and what actions could contribute to their conservation in the Shiawassee Basin  Preserve.  This species, as well as other butterfly species such as the monarch, are considered ‘canaries in the coal mine’ because their declines signal changes in the environment which could affect other wildlife species and humans.
Grassy field with flowers

In the coming years, a ‘head start’ program will be developed for two populations (one of which is the Shiawassee Basin Preserve population) to enhance the survival rate of the remaining individuals.  This head start program will focus on capturing egg laying females, collecting their eggs and raising the larvae in a controlled setting at the Minnesota Zoo where the chance of surviving to the adult phase is much more likely.  Once the larvae pupate and become adults, they will be returned to the habitat at the Preserve where they can help to bolster the wild population.

To learn more about this endangered species, please visit the following links:

Natural Features Assessments
Click on the links below to read assessments performed on some of the area's distinctive natural resources: