Habitat & Conservation  |  07/14/2023

Native Meadows


Ford planting grassland habitat on factory campuses in Michigan

A pair of Ford production facilities in southeast Michigan are turning undeveloped portions of their campuses into grassland habitat. 

The native meadows project is centered around the Milan and Brownstown Ford plants, both located just south of the Detroit metro. Facilities and environmental manager Arther LaChapelle first envisioned the projects as a way to get more out of unused space at each location, and he said the grassland habitat hits on multiple key metrics for Ford. 

“The business case here was planting native habitat on this acreage will allow us to stop mowing so much ground,” he said. “But it’s also a priority for us to lower our footprint and do as much as we can to sequester carbon, and this project has tremendous benefits in that regard. So it was not a hard sell.” 

The project began over three years ago when Rick McGrath, a former plant manager at Brownstown and an avid upland hunter, mentioned Pheasants Forever to LaChapelle. He looked into the organization and eventually came to work alongside Michigan state coordinator Ben Beaman to put his plan into action. 

Initial plantings occurred at both sites this June. Between the two locations LaChapelle and his team will eventually plant over 60 acres of habitat, with a mixture of grassland and pollinator cover.

“What we’re planting is a little bit different at each site,” Beaman said. “Milan has a section of heavy wildflower cover, ten acres of tall grass prairie, as well as some switchgrass. Brownstown lies along a heavy-traffic commuter road, so we’re putting a very diverse seed mix in there.” 

A third section of habitat is in the works at the River Raisin Ford warehouse in Monroe County further to the south, though that portion of the project is still in the planning phase. 

“The site sits on a capped landfill, so there are some considerations to think about before we move forward. But, with some hard work between us, Pheasants Forever and the state of Michigan, we’re confident we can work something out,” LaChapelle said. “We are really excited about the possibilities at the Monroe site, since it’s adjacent to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.” 

LaChapelle also said these projects could act as a precursor to additional habitat work at Ford facilities not only in Michigan, but across the country. 

“This started as a small idea and went all the way up to the top of the company,” he said. “This could certainly be a pilot program with the possibility of expanding in the future.”