Little Traverse Conservancy: John and Tucker Harris Working Forest Reserve


The Little Traverse Conservancy acquired the John and Tucker Harris Working Forest Reserve in October 2016. While this transaction was in progress, Conservancy staff attended a NIACS adaptation workshop and considered how to incorporate climate change information into the management plan for the property. The management plan will be written in 2017. 

The Little Traverse Conservancy is incorporating climate change considerations into the management plan for a Working Forest Reserve acquired in late 2016.

Project Area

The Harris Working Forest Reserve covers 645 acres in Michigan's Cheboygan county, near the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. This property is adjacent to the Pigeon River, a state-designated Natural River and a blue-ribbon trout stream. It's also near the Pigeon River Forest, a special area of limited development, special management areas, and the largest wild elk herd in the eastern US. The Harris Reserve is also next to several Nature Preserves owned managed by the Little Traverse Conservancy, including the Reed's Pigeon River Nature Preserve, Helmers Dam Nature Preserve, and the Banwell Nature Preserve. This property has a mix of forest types, including aspen and northern hardwoods. The Harris Reserve has a history of grazing, which has led to some areas of compacted soils.

Management Goals

A mix of grassland and forest at the Harris Preserve. Photo credit: Little Traverse Conservancy

The Little Traverse Conservany identifies conservation values that are important for each of their preserves. For the Harris Working Forest, early-successional habitat for upland game birds is a value that the Conservancy will attempt to maintain through time through active management. The management plan for the reserve will specify more detailed management objectives. 

Climate Change Impacts

The existing road network present risks for invasive species colonization at the Harris Preserve. Photo credit: Little Traverse Conservancy
For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Extreme heat events may become more frequent in this part of the state.
Boreal plant and animal species may face additional stress under climate change.
Insect pests and invasive species may become more damaging in the future.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


It may become harder to regenerate aspen for early-successional habitat in the future
The forests on this property are already slightly degraded with invasive species due to the grazing history.


Other tree species can likely provide early-successional habitat in the future.
A longer growing season may benefit plants and animals in northern Michigan.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Upland game bird habitat
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
6.1. Manage habitats over a range of sites and conditions.
9.8. Move at-risk species to locations that are expected to provide habitat.
Create patches of early-successional forest in several locations across the property.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Create patches of young forests with species like maples that are expected to fare better under climate change.
9.3. Guide changes in species composition at early stages of stand development.
9.4. Protect future-adapted seedlings and saplings.
Encourage existing regeneration of red oak and other potential increasing species that provide mast for wildlife.
Plant white oak and other mast-producing species.
10.3. Realign significantly disrupted ecosystems to meet expected future conditions.
Consider managing for oak-pine barrens or savanna systems in areas that have been degraded.
Landscape-level planning
6.2. Expand the boundaries of reserves to increase diversity.
7.2. Maintain and create habitat corridors through reforestation or restoration.
Establishing the Harris Reserve further expands the corridor of protected areas along the Pigeon River and across the Pigeon River Country in general. This property also connects riparian habitats to upland habitats.

Next Steps

Staff for the Little Traverse Conservancy will be preparing the management plan for this property in 2017.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at:


Invasive species, Upland hardwoods, Early-successional habitat, Management plan, Wildlife habitat

Last Updated

Monday, January 30, 2017