In addition to supporting entrepreneurship, the Edward Lowe Foundation has a mission of environmental stewardship, reflecting Ed Lowe’s great love and respect for the land.
Big Rock Valley (BRV), the foundation’s headquarters, draws its name from the large number of boulders left by receding Ice Age glaciers. The property began with a 160-acre parcel that Ed Lowe purchased in 1964, and today BRV comprises 2,600 acres of woodland, farmland, wetland and prairie.
Because of its different landscapes and ecosystems, BRV has a wide variety of flora and fauna. Indeed, species inventories show that BRV is home to more than 700 plant varieties, 100 bird species and 30 varieties of amphibians and reptiles. “Nurturing these diverse native populations is one of our main priorities — with particular attention given to threatened and endangered species,” says Mike McCuistion, the foundation’s vice president of physical resources.
BRV has about 750 acres of woodlands, comprised of maple, beech, oak, hickory and black cherry and other varieties of northern mixed hardwoods. Although the woodlands are primarily managed for diversity and sustainability, about 100 acres are dedicated to old-growth woodlands.
Prairies were once widespread in southern Michigan until the 1800s when European settlers converted this ecosystem to agricultural land. Experimental patches of prairie grasses were started at BRV in 1994, and today the foundation has about 200 acres of prairie land, with about 100 different species of grasses and flowering plants.
BRV features about 550 acres of wetlands, which includes a 10-acre lake, ponds, streams, calcareous fens and a lakeside fen, and marshes. The area’s many natural springs provide abundant water flow to these wetland areas, ensuring an influx of fresh nutrients and a healthy ecosystem.
Maintaining BRV’s biodiversity calls for a number of habitat enhancement initiatives, including prescribed burns, which prevent savanna, prairies and even wetlands from reverting back to mixed-hardwood woodlands, which is the climax ecosystem in southwest Michigan.
BRV is home to many species that are listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern. Among these are:
Eastern box turtle
Showy lady slipper orchid
Eastern massasauga rattlesnake
Black rat snake
Cut-leaved water parsnip