NMU President meets for an hour with students trying to save environment research project; Dr. Les Wong given ongoing petition with nearly 900 signatures to stop Native Plants Project from being uprooted to build dorms
Dr. Wong impressed with students knowledge, preparation: NMU is “producing young scholars who want us to do the right thing”
Students to explain effort to save the Native Plants Project at Lake Superior environment conference
(Marquette, Michigan) – Students presented an ongoing petition with nearly 900 signatures to Northern Michigan University President Les Wong during a one-hour meeting today and left his offices with renewed hope to save an environment research project from being uprooted to build dorms.
The Native Plants Project will be destroyed to build dorms if the proposed NMU Master Plan is not changed.
NMU student Michael Rotter, a senior biology major spearheading the petition drive, and representatives of three other student environment organizations attended the meeting with NMU President Les Wong that lasted about an hour on Thursday (Oct. 25, 2007).
NMU Student Michael Rotter is leading the fight to protect the Native Plants Project that has involved the blood, sweat and tears of hundreds of students
“I found the meeting encouraging,” said Rotter, adding the students presented Dr. Wong with petitions signed by nearly 900 NMU students who hope to save the Native Plants Project from being destroyed to build dorms.
Five students met with Dr. Wong including Amber Masters, social chair for the Environmental Science Organization; Cory Howes, president of the Students Against Sulfide Mining; Eric Miller, president of the Superior Geography Club; and NMU senior Emily Wessels, an NMU senior and environmental science major.
“Dr. Wong seemed very supportive and open to our opinions – but no promises were made,” said Rotter, a member of the Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper Student Team.
“We showed him maps of the area and we talked to him about future ideas for the study area,” Rotter said.
The five-acre Native Plants Project is located on the northside of the Northern Michigan University campus. (NMU Native Plant Project Photos by Professor Dr. Ronald Sundell)
NMU President Wong has stressed the master plan is a proposal and a final decision has not been made.
Dr. Wong said he “was thoroughly impressed with the students’ knowledge and preparation.”
“Their ideas have merit and their proactive manner in helping me think through the issues was deeply appreciated,” Dr. Wong said. “I’m proud of the role NMU played not only in their education but in producing young scholars who want us to do the right thing.”
“I look forward to future meetings with them,” Dr. Wong said.
Students are learning a great deal about the environment as the work inside and out on the Native Plants Project at NMU
Dr. Wong was presented with future plans for the Native Plants Project including planting white pine and red oak trees to protect students from bitter winter weather in an area of the five acre Native Plants Project that Rotter described as “a wind tunnel that channels the wind through the buildings.”
“He really liked some of ours ideas to reduce the winds in the area during the winter and to rearrange the sidewalks for students to have better access to classes and other areas of campus,” Rotter said.
Rotter said some of the white pine trees will be 10-feet tall when planted so there is an immediate effect that will provide increasing protection with the growth of branches.
Northern Michigan University students are trying to save their four-year-old Native Plants project that will be a valuable seed tool for other northern Michigan environment efforts and help attract students to the campus along Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula if its not destroyed to make dorms“Dr. Wong gave us some advice on who we can talk to in the administration about keeping out native plants study area intact,” Rotter said.“Dr. Wong was very open and very inviting to our ideas on the native plants area,” Rotter said. “He could not guarantee us anything but it was very encouraging none-the-less.”Rotter said the students were given information on how to be put on the agenda of the December NMU Board of Trustees meeting to make a presentation about the native plants.The students will continue the petition drive and other efforts to spare the Native Plants Project from being uprooted.“Our next step is to continue to meet with members of administration and talk to the Board of Trustees and to continue collecting signatures on our petitions,” Rotter said.Students have gathered about 900 signatures in an attempt to stop NMU from removing the Native Plants Project that has received $24,000 in state and federal funding, said Rotter, who spent many hours protecting the plants from this summer’s drought and is spearheading the petition drive with help from other students.Thousands of students hours have gone into making the project a success and it includes The project includes field sampling of vegetation, insects, birds, small mammals, and is expected to attract reptiles and amphibiansNMU President Wong said that “there is no clear consensus on the location of the residence halls and there is considerable opinion that any structure that impinges on the Native Plant Project would not have campus-wide support.”
If the native plants project is taken off the chopping block, President Wong and other members of the NMU administration will prove the university is sincere when it uses the slogan “Northern Naturally” to promote the campus, Rotter said.
The native plants outdoor classroom will include a northern open pine barrens, a retention pond/wetland area, upland mesic forest and shrub types representing various northern Michigan habitats. The project has attracted insects, birds, and small mammals and is expected to attract amphibians and reptiles.
Over the past four years, hundreds of NMU students have worked hard to build the Native Plants Project that will soon become a beautiful part of campus if it’s not destroyed by NMU dorm planners
The outdoor classroom is used to study ecological modeling, plant identification, native plant propagation, restoration techniques and water quality.
Dr. Sundell said that campus planners have other areas to build dorms instead of destroying the native plants area.
“We understand the work that has gone into the planting project, and that some of the plants may not do well if moved,” said Dr. Wong, who has toured the project. “We want feedback on the big ideas.”
Rotter is receiving support from student organizations including the NMU Environmental Science Organization, Superior Geography Club, Sustainable Agriculture club, and the Students Against Sulfide Mining.
Native plants help keep waterways clean, build habitat for animals and other organisms, Rotter said.
The student founders of the project hope to be able to show to their children what they helped start.
“I have always told my students that the project they started is part of a long term green-scaping of the campus,” Sundell said. “The university has started an environmental sustainability committee to make our campus greener and address other issues like reducing our energy requirements, and less pesticide and fertilizer use.”
Beautiful flowers are part of the project that is coming of age and will soon have many flowering plants in brilliant colors
“Our Native Plants Project is a prime example to the university committee and the general community on how to develop more sustainable systems on campus and the U.P.,” Sundell said.
“In the plan they state this a would be a green corridor – this is already a green corridor,” Sundell said. “If they carry through with the plan they have a building that would block that green corridor.
“The native plants are part of a current green corridor that stretches north from classrooms in the new science building to the existing dorms,” Sundell said.
Hundreds of students from the student environmental science organization and NMU classes have assisted in development of the Native Plants Project site, Sundell said.
NMU students who have helped Professor Sundell develop and manage the Native Plant Project over the past four years are Mike Stefancic, Jason Woodhull and Michael Rotter. The three students each spent a summer managing the native plants including planting, maintaining and developing of the site Sundell said.
This map shows the five acre project at NMU that is growing each year but now faces destruction to make way for dorms and other student housing.
Despite the worst drought in U.P. history the student volunteers added about 11,000 native plants to the project this summer, Sundell said.
“This Native Plants Project is valuable as an educational and research site and a native seed bank for future environmental restoration project in the central U.P.,” said Sundell. “As the project moves forward NMU will become a major seed source for environmental restoration projects in the central U.P.”
The Native Plants Project is coming of age and will add beauty to the campus including flowering plants and grasses in various shades of white, yellow, pink and purple, Sundell said.
NMU students put loving care into the five-acre Native Plants Project on the north side of campus (NMU Native Plant Project Photos by Professor Dr. Ronald Sundell)
Student Michael Rotter can be reached by calling 231-250-3061
The NMU EK Student team can be reached by calling 906-475-5068
Project Prof. Dr. Ronald Sundell can be reached at 906-227-1359