ACRES preserves prairie, quaking bog
By KPC News
ACRES Land Trust has acquired two new properties in northeast Indiana: a seven-acre piece of native prairie and 40 acres of adjoining wetlands in Warsaw; and a 126-acre property surrounding Quog Lake in LaGrange County that includes a rare, quaking bog.
The prairie, along U.S. 30, may be the easternmost example of original Midwest prairie grassland, ACRES said in its recent announcement of the acquisition.
“This prairie is rare. It has a high conservation value because of the species that flourish here,” said Casey Jones, director of land management for ACRES, which is protecting more than 6,000 acres across northern Indiana and into Ohio and Michigan.
For years, area botanists and prairie conservationists have collected the seeds of the native tall prairie dock, goldenrod and bush clover on the property. Native cottonwood trees rim the Wayne Township prairie, and there are a lot of native grasses.
The next step for the ACRES land management team is to protect the native plants from several highly-invasive non-native species. A preserve work day, with support from community volunteers, was organized for Dec. 10.
“Everything woody in the prairie is a non-native invasive species that has been left to grow and spread undisturbed,” Jones said. From the upland prairie, the property stretches down to swamp and marsh.
“When the invasives are gone, these native habitats will spread and flow more,” Jones said.
Prairies are rare in Indiana, says Nate Simons, executive director of the Angola-based non-profit Blue Heron Ministries, a conservation and restoration organization.
The Kosciusko County Community Foundation, Zimmer Biomet, and a discount from the previous owner funded more than 60 percent of the cost of the property, and ACRES needs $34,000 to complete the project.
The bog acquisition expands the scenic corridor in LaGrange County.
“It’s a significant natural area that needs to be preserved,” said Mike Metz, LaGrange County’s parks and recreation director. The acquisition supports the department’s master plan goal to preserve natural areas in the county.
LaGrange County’s comprehensive plan also documents the need to ensure scenic areas are maintained as part of the county’s character.
The Quog Lake nature preserve adds to seven parcels of land spanning 681 acres in the immediate area collectively owned and managed by ACRES Land Trust, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and LaGrange County. The protection of the Quog Lake property results in a total of 807 acres of scenic and natural area in close proximity to one another.
“Quaking bog” – the origin of Quog Lake’s name – describes the floating mat of sphagnum moss along the shore of the lake. One of a few remaining quaking bogs in the state, its adjacent wetlands drain into the north branch of the Elkhart River.
In addition to the quaking bog, the property features a forested swamp, cattail marsh, and small patches of open water. Dense vegetation helps encourage a secluded wildlife habitat; state-endangered Marsh Wrens and Massasauga rattlesnakes are among the residents
The Quog Lake nature preserve provides habitat for a variety of migratory waterfowl and forest birds. Recent bird surveys documented 75 bird species within a two-mile radius of the property. The wetland complex surrounding the area acts as a buffer for the habitat to flourish with very little disturbance.
With project partners and donors, ACRES has secured 94 percent of the funding for Quog Lake, with $48,200 left to raise. It received a $25,000 grant from the LaGrange County Community Foundation for Quog Lake’s purchase. Other funding assistance came from the Bicentennial Nature Trust, Indiana Heritage Trust, the Indiana DNR Division of Nature Preserves and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
This land is being conserved, in part, by funding made available as mitigation for habitat loss or forest fragmentation caused by the construction and maintenance of the NIPSCO Reynolds Topeka Electric System Improvement Project.