Schoonover Waterfowl Protection Area

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It’s an age-old story on the prairie.

The grass grows tall, a fire sweeps through the area, the grass grows back and a healthy prairie is naturally maintained.

Prairie grass in Seneca Township’s Schoonover Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) is scheduled to be burned soon in an effort to further develop a prairie restoration project.

The 95-acre Schoonover WPA, located on the south and west side of Medina Road before it joins Canandaigua Road, contains about 34 acres of grassland.

Steve Duschane of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped plant prairie grass at the site in the late 1990s. The prairie contains big bluestem, little bluestem and Indian grass, among other plants, and wildflower seed will be planted after the burn.

Duschane said he’s set up to prairie in three test plots to compare management methods. He describes the sec

tion that had no management at all for the past three years as a mess. He uses the results of his tests to help property owners with their own wetland and prairie projects.

Duschane figures he’s worked on more than 500 wetland restoration projects in Lenawee and Hillsdale counties.

Duschane’s agency has until May 31 to conduct the burn at Schoonover WPA, but he expects the job to be accomplished long before then. His crew at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge east of Toledo completed the annual refresher course this week and they’re ready for burns whenever weather permits.

About 20 acres of grassland on the north side of the preserve will be burned. The plan calls for overseeding in the area that had no management.

The property encompassing the Schoonover WPA was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1991. In addition to the grassland, the site contains about 53 acres of wetlands and eight acres of upland forest.

Duschane isn’t aware of any recent survey of species, but a variety of waterfowl, wading birds and shore birds have been observed at the preserve. He spotted an osprey overhead during a recent visit.

As the name implies, the waterfowl production area was established as a means to produce ducks.

“It’s really a phenomenal spot,” Duschane said. “It’s a wonderful place for ducks.”

Not to mention the songbirds, pheasants, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and insects that also call the preserve home.

The preserve has a parking area on the north side off Medina Road and also on the east where Medina curves down to meet Canandaigua Road. The site is open to the public for a variety of activities, such as photography, environmental education, hiking and wildlife observation. Hunting is also allowed in season, but only if non-toxic shot is used.

There are no restricted seasons, however, human presence could be disruptive to nesting birds.

   - March 24, 2004
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