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.
Southeast Michigan's largest forested wetland, a quiet, awe-inspiring sanctuary, is located within Springfield's borders.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Fish and Wildlife Service link to Poweshiek Skipperling
- Stopping Extinction of a Prairie Butterfly – Poweshiek Skipperling
- Downloadable Description from Michigan Natural Features Inventory
Click on the links below to read assessments performed on some of the area's distinctive natural resources: