November 03, 2008

Protecting wetlands, woodlands and fields

Almost 35 acres of green space in Farmington Hills, Michigan are now protected from development, thanks to a conservation easement established by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Regional Community of Detroit.

hillsNamed Mercy Refuge, the Sisters continue as its owner with the Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy serving as its trustee. “The Sisters of Mercy wanted to preserve the undeveloped parts of our property as natural habitat for the flora and fauna of the area,” says Sister Judith Frikker, RSM, a member of the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas - West Midwest Community, successor to the Regional Community of Detroit.

A conservation easement is an agreement between owner and conservancy that restricts uses of land in order to protect natural resources and watershed values, maintain and enhance biodiversity, retain quality habitat for native plants and animals, and maintain and enhance the natural features. The Mercy property contains wetlands, woodlands and fields that provide significant natural habitat in which many species of fish, wildlife, plants and the ecosystems that support them, thrive in a natural state.

According to Donna Folland, executive director of the Six Rivers Regional Land Conservancy, the new conservation easement is important from an open space standpoint both for the Mercy community and for the larger region due to its connectivity with the Rouge River watershed. “The property provides a large green space in this urbanized area of southern Oakland County,” she says. “Its conservation and restoration as a natural area will provide an important ecological corridor and buffer for the Ravines Branch of the Rouge River.”

For the Sisters of Mercy, establishment of the conservation easement is a final step in implementation of an environmental plan that began with a campus audit of elements that impact the bioregion’s air, water, land and all of nature. The audit was completed in 2003 and recommendations have been gradually implemented ever since. Environmental improvements have included installation of a green roof system at the McAuley Retirement Center, invasive species removal and control, wetland fringe creation and plantings, and stream bank stabilization with vegetation, meadow plantings and rain gardens to help improve the condition of the pond and quality of storm water runoff entering the Rouge River from the Mercy campus.

As part of the Mercy commitment to “act in harmony and interdependence with all creation” use of the property will continue to be restricted to contemplation, prayer and protection of the beauty of these natural areas.

For more information, see Sisters of Mercy protect green space

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