Searles Nature Preserve

Owned by the Washtenaw Bird & Nature Alliance (WBNA), Searles Nature Preserve is a 48.3-acre high-quality natural area in Augusta Township, Washtenaw County, MI. It consists of mixed deciduous forest and shrub-carr wetlands, hosting the headwaters of Stoney Creek. This protected land offers a wealth of ecosystem services and benefits.

Ninety-seven percent of North American landbirds require animal, primarily insect, protein to raise their young and most insects require specific, native, host plants for successful reproduction. This is why supporting a biodiverse ecosystem of native plants is critically important to supporting bird populations. More information on this here. Native plants are also ideal for soil conservation because they uphold soil structure and health, slow surface runoff and wind erosion, and buffer against climate variations. They protect water resources by filtering nutrients, improving water infiltration, and buffering natural water bodies such as lakes, rivers, and streams from surrounding agricultural and residential land use. These habitats are vital havens for pollinators, birds, mammals, and other wildlife. Natural lands also bring aesthetic appeal to the landscape, offering the community a place to enjoy natural beauty, recreate, and discover Michigan’s natural resources. Furthermore, these areas provide educational opportunities to inspire and teach environmental stewardship.

Bioreserve Assessment and Ecological Integrity

In 2018, the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) conducted a standardized bioreserve site assessment using Washtenaw County’s standardized ranking system for natural areas based on the ecological services they provide. This assessment combined the Washtenaw County Bioreserve Map GIS model rankings with field assessment scores to rank each habitat type (forest, wetland, and creek) in two categories: ecological integrity and level of disturbance. The overall site ranking was Medium High. Both habitats received a higher than average score for the field assessment, with the forest being one of the highest scoring ecosystems in the HRWC’s field assessment database. HRWC stated the score exceeded their maximum expected value because of the wide diversity of plants found during the assessment (over 70 native species). 

History

In the 1800’s, this are a was entirely white/black oak forests. A review of aerial images show the upland forested areas on both sides of the wetland were in agricultural production in 1940. These areas were apparently taken out of production sometime before 1960 and seemingly left unmanaged as natural succession took place. The steeper ridge and low-lying wetland appear to have been untouched for at least the last century. The 1940 image suggests a lack of woody vegetation in the wetland, but woody vegetation seems to develop with the return of surrounding ag fields to fallow habitat from 1960 forward. Acquisition documents suggest the previous owner, Fuller D. Searles, conducted some conservation work on the property at least through 1977, but no other documentation of these efforts is known to exist. Kiosks and trail signs were installed many years ago by Boy Scout Troop 200, Stony Creek Square Club, Ypsilanti, Michigan. 

The land was granted to WBNA by the preserve’s namesake, Fuller D. Searles, on December 29, 1977. Per the acquisition agreement, WBNA is obligated and committed “to maintain, preserve, promote, and conserve the wildlife and natural beauty of the property”.

Restoration and Maintenance

Washtenaw Bird & Nature Alliance hosts monthly ecological restoration workdays where the public is invited to participate in invasive species removal. See the events calendar for upcoming dates. 

Visiting the Preserve
Visitors are welcome to explore Searles Nature Preserve. Please note that there is no designated parking area available; however, visitors can park along the road. Enjoy your visit and help us preserve the natural beauty and wildlife of this special place.