Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge New Area Master Plan and Public Access Study

Client Organization: 
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
Project Location : 
Berlin Charter Township, Monroe County, Michigan
Summary of Project Idea: 

Goals & Objectives

Students will create a management plan for the new 43-acre Taylor Unit recently donated to the existing 6,107-acre Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge by Clive and Clarice Taylor. The plan will include:

  • analysis of current site conditions and its relationship to existing natural areas, including any significant natural features;  
  • landscape design for 20-acres of fallow fields;
  • an innovative and feasible public use plan for the entire unit,
  • proposed budget; and
  • long-term stewardship plan.  

A second component will provide a plan for incorporating the Unit into the Refuge’s larger Visitor Services Plan, and a strategy for connecting the property to the new $6 million visitor center. The project will seek to incorporate feedback from community members local to the site, and to potential or actual visitors in the greater Detroit region.

Iterations of the document will receive input by Refuge staff and stewardship volunteers, general public, and the Taylors.

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, whose goal is “to create a connected conservation community.” They state, “to garner broad support for conservation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must provide a reason, and opportunities, for urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond. Therefore, engaging our urban neighbors, and fostering a sense of stewardship, reflects the heart of the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.”

The proposed project would enhance DRIWR’s ability to fulfill this mandate of connecting urban residents to the natural world and inspiring their continued support and stewardship. It would also help the Refuge best utilizing a new parcel of land, and support their ecosystem recovery goals.

Specific Activities & Duration

Students will review DRIWR’s existing land management and public engagement plans to support the creation of a land management plan for a new parcel, to ensure the new land is managed in a way consistent with the goals of the Refuge and maximizes the new unit’s contribution to the Refuge. The project will require site visits and knowledge of the area’s historical and current ecosystem, as well as staff and community member interviews.

Integrative Approach: 

The proposed deliverable is a land-management plan that incorporates public access goals. This will require landscape planning and design, social science-based community research, and GIS/mapping skills. 

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Environmental Informatics
Environmental Justice
Landscape Architecture
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Bob Grese
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Ya Cai
  • Audrey Pangallo
  • Chen Zhang
Project Status: 
Past Project