The jack pine forest of northern Michigan is a fire-dependent ecological community and the summer home of the endangered Kirtland’s warbler. In the late 1970s, state and federal management agencies began using prescribed fire to maintain the ecological integrity of the forest, but when a prescribed fire got out of control in the early 1980s, destroying homes and taking human life, fierce opposition arose in local communities to forest management, especially large clearcuts, and Kirtland's warbler restoration.
Within this highly volatile crucible of public sentiment, DJ Case worked with state and federal natural resources agencies, the Kirtland's Recovery Team, local citizen groups and business interests to find common ground and mutually beneficial solutions. With personal interviews and small group meetings as a foundation, DJ Case collaboratively developed a comprehensive information and education plan to help the agencies understand and respond to public opposition to management efforts. We subsequently helped partners implement the plan by conceiving and developing the Jack Pine Wildlife Viewing Tour--a self-guided auto tour designed, in part, to reposition the warbler and associated habitat management as assets instead of liabilities.
After decades of communication and collaboration--and a healthy dose of habitat management--project partners celebrated with conservationists across North America as the Kirtland's warbler was officially removed from the federal Endangered Species List on October 8, 2019.
“The effort to recover the Kirtland's warbler is a shining example of what it takes to save imperiled species,” said Margaret Everson, Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Truly dedicated partners have worked together for decades to recover this songbird. I thank them for their efforts and applaud this historic conservation success.”
An excerpt from the book, The Kirtland’s Warbler: The Story of a Bird’s Fight Against Extinction And the People Who Saved It by William Rapai
“[DJ] Case issued a series of recommendations that were all rooted in one goal: help Michigan area residents see the value of living so close to the Kirtland’s warbler
Adopting Case’s recommendations meant a significant change in culture for the Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Team and its member agencies because it was no longer just about the bird. Team members developed new communications that de-emphasized the Kirtland’s warbler and put the focus on the importance of the jack pine habitat.”
Available from University of Michigan Press
Rivals Bury Hatchet
"It's enough to make a spotted owl green with envy. The timber industry, environmentalists and government regulators are working together to try to save an endangered bird called the Kirtland's warbler."
- The Orlando (Florida) Sentinel
Town's Efforts to Save Bird Lauded
"You don't see this type of partnership for a lot of endangered species,” said Gary Boushelle, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Region II biologist. “It's a very unique bird and it's a very unique partnership between all of these people.”
- South Bend Tribune