Press Releases:

Urban Wildlife Program offered by Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Angola, IN, May 1, 2019 - Residents of several metropolitan areas of Northern Indiana have the opportunity to participate in the Urban Wildlife Program offered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The program was outlined at the April 25th meeting of the Friends of the St. Joe River, held in Angola, Indiana. Jessica Merkling, Urban Wildlife Biologist for the North Region of Indiana, described the program to board members 

and guests.

The program is designed to support sustainable, wildlife-friendly practices in highly populated areas. It provides cost-share opportunities to establish habitat, technical assistance for wildlife-friendly planning, workshops, and guidance to reduce conflicts with wildlife. The program currently focuses on keeping animals wild, conservation practices to support monarch butterflies and other pollinators, and promoting the replacement of turf grass lawns with native landscaping.

The current target areas of Indiana include South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Fort Wayne and the greater Indianapolis area. Merkling can be reached by calling 260-244-6805. Habitat questions for residents of other areas in Indiana can be sent to

In regular business activities during the same meeting, the Board of Directors of The Friends of the St. Joe River re-elected the same slate of officers for the coming year; President-Jeff Reece, Vice President-Daragh Deegan, Secretary-Dona Hunter, and Treasurer-Kim Sinclair. The 2019/20 budget was approved and approval was given to send a wind turbine policy letter to the Branch County, Michigan planning commission.

The next meeting will be held on Thursday, May 23, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. At the Three Rivers, Michigan Public Library. Meetings are open to the public.

Contact: Carol Higgins at 269-496-7711 for more information about this event

McCoy Creek Mainstay Honored for Conservation Efforts

Buchanan, MI, May 1, 2014 – There is one name associated with conservation efforts surrounding McCoy Creek, a coldwater tributary to the St. Joseph River. That name is Scott King.  King, a long-time resident of Buchanan, MI, was presented with the 2014 “Al Smith Watershed Stewardship Award” at the 7th Annual Watershed Council meeting hosted by the Friends of the St. Joe River (FotSJR).   This prestigious award honors volunteers and conservation professionals who work in all or part of the 15 counties in Indiana or Michigan that drain to the St. Joseph River.  The award, named in honor of FotSJR founder Al Smith, represents individuals that go above and beyond the call of duty in maintaining a healthy St. Joseph River Watershed.   The unique handmade award which is in the shape of the St. Joseph River Watershed will be on display after May 14 at the Buchanan Public Library, 128 E Front St, Buchanan, MI.

This year, the call for nominations for the award resulted in a surprise and an easy decision for the FotSJR Board of Directors.  All nominations received named Scott King for his tireless efforts to protect and improve McCoy Creek.

King, an avid fisherman, has been the principal and sometimes sole organizer of annual clean-up events for not only McCoy Creek, but also the St. Joseph River from the Niles dam to the Berrien Springs dam.  He has recruited Boy Scouts, fishermen, high school students and local residents to participate.   King explained, “"What we're trying to do is restore the stream so it's great for the trout and salmon to live and the ducks and the wildlife around it to not have to eat and survive in a lot of garbage."

King has recently gone beyond river clean-ups by leading the development of a collaborative, watershed approach to a problem in the City of Buchanan.  The problem began when the water supply to the historic Pears Mill in downtown Buchanan began to decrease to the point where it could no longer operate the waterwheel.  King worked with the City and the Historical Preservation Society to devise a solution that would not only supply water to the historic mill, but also protect the cold water of McCoy Creek.  His determination, positive attitude, ability to work with partners and his strong but non-confrontational manor led to substantial improvements to the creek.  Improvements included the removal of a small dam that blocked fish passage from the St. Joseph River, the removal of a shallow pond that threatened the coldwater status of the creek, the restoration of streambanks to improve habitat and water quality, and the addition of in-stream structure to improve fish habitat.  The creek is now more aesthetically pleasing, supporting fish and wildlife, while also providing a supply of water to operate the waterwheel of the 1857 Pears Mill in downtown Buchanan so it can once again grind corn for the benefit of the public, local history and student educational programs.

King’s continued dedication to the stewardship of McCoy Creek is admirable and his energy will not stop with the recent stream restoration.  King is already working with the City of Buchanan to add woody structure at the confluence of McCoy Creek and the St. Joseph River to provide habitat for fish and aquatic life, proving his efforts in conservation are never at rest.

For more information about the Friends of the St. Joe River, the Al Smith Watershed Stewardship Award and past award winners please visit


Partners Unite to Celebrate Wetlands

Local Businesses and Organizations Unveil Educational Signs for American Wetlands Month

VanBuren County, MI, May 14 , 2013 – The Van Buren Conservation District put the finishing touches on the Paw Paw and Black Rivers Wetland Project just in time to celebrate American Wetlands Month.  Five educational signs were recently installed throughout the Harbor Shores golf course and public trail system in Benton Harbor.  The signs were the result of a partnership between the Conservation District, Harbor Shores, Revolution Design and WYNN Waterjet & CNC Machining, all of which donated generous amounts of time and money to complete the project.

This May is the 23rd anniversary of American Wetlands Month, which provides an opportunity to celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to the Nation's health.  Wetlands occur where land and water meet.  They clean our water, prevent floods and provide wildlife habitat.  Acre for acre, wetlands offer more water quality benefits and produce more wildlife and plants than any other Michigan habitat type.

“Unfortunately, about 50% of the wetlands in southwest Michigan have been filled for development or drained for agriculture in the last 200 years.  We have been working with landowners, municipalities and other partners over the last 3 years to protect what is left and bring back some of what has been lost,” said Matt Meersman of the Van Buren Conservation District.  The wetland project has resulted in the permanent protection of over 400 acres of high priority wetland and the restoration of almost 70 acres of wetland.

The installation of the wetland signs is one of the most visible and long lasting of the many educational efforts that took place during the project.  Robert Piner created the sign panels, which are displayed on metal cattail sculptures designed by Jim Steinke and built by Dan Mitowski.  Each one presents a different message about wetlands and clean water that is connected to the landscape surrounding the sign.  According to Bob McFeeter of Harbor Shores, “the signs have an important message and their location offers the viewer an example of what the sign is about.”

The Van Buren Conservation District promotes the conservation of natural resources through partnerships by providing public education, demonstrations and technical assistance, while working together for future generations. For more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with one of the partners, please call Matt Meersman at (269) 657-4030 xt.115 or email Matt at or visit: