Sunday, September 13, 2015

Celebrating 35 years of Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Management Area

Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Management Area was established on September 3, 1980 in response to the need for more land dedicated to the recovery of the endangered Kirtland’s warbler The management area is made up of 125 tracts of land totaling more than 6,000 acres located throughout eight counties in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is one of few wildlife management areas in the Midwest Region.

Male Kirtland's Warbler. Photo by Joel Trick/USFWS.
Male Kirtland's Warbler. Photo by Joel Trick/USFWS.
If you’re hoping to get a good glimpse at the management area’s namesake species, you’re in luck! When the weather is nice, visitors have a good chance of seeing the Kirtland’s warbler, as well as many other neotropical migrant bird species. Visitors can view wildlife, take photos, enjoy interpretive tours and learn more through educational field trips. You may even see upland sandpipers, spruce grouse, American badgers, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes and golden-winged warblers! During hunting season, hunters visit in search of migratory game birds, upland game and big game species.

An aerial view of Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area in Michigan. Photo by USFWS.
So, what’s the difference between a national wildlife refuge and a wildlife management area? In this case, not much!

While most refuges are managed for the benefit of a variety of species, this area is managed primarily for the benefit of the Kirtland’s warbler. Kirtland’s warbler habitat is managed to mimic the structure and composition of a recently burned jack pine forest. However, since Kirtland’s warbler population goals have been met for the past nine years, managers are increasingly looking into expanding the goals and objectives of the area and focusing on providing habitat for a wider variety of species.

Even though Kirtland’s Warbler Management Area is more or less a refuge, it provides some interesting management challenges. Management actions are driven by the Endangered Species Act and don’t always match up with the Refuge Improvement Act. For example, most managed Kirtland’s warbler habitat poorly emulates natural conditions, while the Refuge Improvement Act and Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health policies encourage the natural range of variation in ecosystems to mimic what the area looked like when settlers first arrived.

Learn more about Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Management Area and plan your trip at