The northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) along the river banks provide needed shade to maintain the cold-water fishery of the river. The presence of the cedar sweepers at the water line provides protection for the fish, increases the amount of large woody debris in the water, as well as the preservation of the riverbank by locking in the soil.
Anglers of the Au Sable have been a supporter and participant from the very beginning of the “Cedars for the Au Sable” project, which encourages river property owners to replant native northern white-cedar seedlings along the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers to help maintain the delicate balance of the river’s ecological system. Since the beginning of this project in 1997 by the Au Sable River Property Owners Association (ARPOA), over 12,000 northern white-cedar seedlings have been planted and protected in enclosures.
Building cages in front of Gates Au Sable Lodge – 2008
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Trekking to the River – 2008 Cedar Planting Crew
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In 2003 the Anglers signed a stewardship agreement with Howard Johnson of the Bay City Club. The agreement called for 250 trees over a five year period including their annual maintenance and subsequent replantings along the South Branch in the Mason Tract. Several dedicated members have volunteered their time and talent building cages, clearing ground, planting seedlings or watering growing trees. The cages are built on Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend while the seedlings are planted during the annual river cleanup held the following Saturday.
There is virtually no natural reforestation of northern white-cedar in northern Michigan. Many believe it is due mainly to the tremendous deer population in our northern counties. River property owners have realized the complete absence of any young cedars in the area. They have attempted to plant replacement cedar seedlings only to have the deer and hares eat them again. Recognizing this problem existed; ARPOA board member Howard N. Johnson formed a committee to begin the packaging of northern white-cedar seedlings into a “planting kit”.
Each year, river property owners plant and protect approximately 1,000 northern white-cedar seedlings. The river property owners purchase the “planting kit” for $15.00. Included in this planting kit are: 10 northern white-cedar seedlings, protective fencing material, wooden stakes, weed guard material, and complete planting instructions. The actual cost for all the materials in the kit is $40.00. Many river conservation groups, including Anglers of the Au Sable, subsidize the cost of the kit. Other river conservation groups that financially subsidized the project include: Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter (Grayling) of Trout Unlimited, Headwaters Chapter (Gaylord) of Trout Unlimited, William B. Mershon Chapter (Saginaw) of Trout Unlimited, Paul H. Young Chapter (Detroit Metropolitan Area) of Trout Unlimited, Lansing Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Challenge Chapter (Bloomfield Hills) of Trout Unlimited, Arnold J. Copeland Chapter (Bay City) of Trout Unlimited, Leon P. Martuch (Midland) Au Sable River Watershed Restoration Committee, and Craig Hinkle – Re/Max of Grayling. Project grants have been received from The Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation, The Trout and Salmon Foundation, The Hal & Jean Glassen Memorial Foundation, The Sierra Club, and The Michigan Fly Fishing Club.
Various sections of the main branch of the upper Au Sable River, including the north branch and south branch, have been inventoried. Each planting site has been marked using GPS coordinates and an unscientific count of seedlings and size at each site has been recorded. (The quantity count only reflects the seedlings that can be seen while floating by the planting site, not an actual count on the property; therefore any small seedling more than 10-15 feet from the water’s edge was likely overlooked and not counted.)
The Mason Tract Northern White-Cedar Restoration Project is a component of the “Cedars for the Au Sable” project. This project, administered by the Au Sable River Property Owners Association, is using an “adopt-a-bank-segment” approach to restore northern white-cedars to ecologically appropriate sections of the South Branch of the Au Sable River within the boundaries of the Mason Tract. A working partnership has been formed with Huron Pines and Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Forest Management Unit to help begin the reforestation of native Northern white-cedars within the Mason Tract.
Volunteer river conservation groups have been assigned a segment of the river by MDNR Forest Management. The volunteer groups plant and protect a minimum of 50 Northern White-cedar seedlings each year for five years in their assigned segment. MDNR will determine the exact planting location of each seedling. Huron Pines RC&D will maintain a schedule of required planting, maintenance and monitoring. The “Cedars for the Au Sable” volunteers will provide the cedar seedlings and all necessary wooden stakes and fencing materials. The Mason Tract Northern White-cedar Restoration Project is the first northern white-cedar planting and protection on state owned land.
Anglers of the Au Sable completed their fourth planting in the High Banks area within the Mason Tract by planting and protecting an additional 50 northern white-cedar seedlings…bringing their total to 200 seedlings in that area in the past four years. Other groups participating with the planting within the Mason Tract on the south branch of the Au Sable River include: the Headwaters Chapter (Gaylord) together with the Mason-Griffiths Founders Chapter (Grayling), The Sierra Club, and the William B. Mershon (Saginaw) of Trout Unlimited, Paul H. Young Chapter (Detroit) of Trout Unlimited, The North Branch Boys of Toledo, Ohio, Grayling High School, Boy Scouts of America, and the Michigan Fly Fishing Club.