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Archive | Outdoors

Squirrel wins stare down with bald eagle

By Judy Reed

People across the world saw last week just how brave a little gray squirrel can be after a photographer in Maine caught on camera a tree top stare down between the squirrel and a bald eagle. 

Roger Stevens Jr. was on his way home from a fast food place in Lincoln, Maine, last week when he noticed the bald eagle atop tree behind the local Rite Aid store. He stopped to take some photos and realized it kept looking straight down at something. Then a gray squirrel popped into view. 

Stevens told the Bangor Daily News that the squirrel seemed more ornery than afraid, and over a 10-minute period it taunted the eagle, and stayed just outside of its reach. “That squirrel seemed to know just how close it could get to the eagle to really make him mad,” Stevens told the newspaper.

The scene played out like a game of whack-a-mole, with the squirrel popping in and out of a hole in the tree, or running up into the eagle’s face before retreating to the backside of the tree. The eagle finally decided the squirrel was too much trouble to catch and flew away in search of another meal. 

Stevens feels the squirrel may have been protecting a litter of young squirrels. 

He posted the photos he took to Facebook and they went viral in a matter of days, appearing online and in newscasts around the world. 

Stevens told the Post that he has written seven books about animals, and the eighth will be about eagles, with these photos included. You can find his books on Amazon, or contact him directly at mefocus@myfairpoint.net.

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Distance disappears

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche.  By Ranger Steve Mueller

John Muir wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

Picture by Jim Markham.

The Great Lake Restoration Fund is hitched to the border wall funding. The federal budget President Trump proposed plans to significantly cut environmental protection funding. Farmland protection is hitched to the border wall and protections are waived. Eagle protection is hitched to the border wall and waived. Many environmental protection laws Congress established from 1899 to present are being waived without due process. Eight billion dollars is proposed to continue funding the border wall by taking money largely from two areas of the Federal budget. Environmental Protection is one of the two.

The nature niche column focuses on environmental concerns having direct effect on our lives locally. PFAS’s are hitched to the border wall. Safe drinking water is hitched to the wall. The Kent ISD superintendent told me in 2005 that environmental education was no longer a priority in America when they closed the Howard Christensen Nature Center. He said that does not mean it is not important. It means it is no longer a priority. HCNC is now a 501.c3 primarily operated independently by volunteers. 

Hopefully you will voice to legislators your view regarding environmental protection funding priority. The Great Lakes Restoration fund is critical for our regional economy, health, and future. Perhaps people do not make the connection between eagle protections discussed in last week’s nature niche and our own health. The current issue of PFAS in drinking water should provide awareness to the importance of environmental monitoring and protection. Defunding the Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental programs to build a wall does not provide sound ecological or economic reasoning. 

$77 million dollars’ worth of cocaine was recently confiscated coming through a border check point. Authorities maintain that is how most drugs and undocumented immigrants access the United States. A border wall will direct money away from environmental health protection in our local community without effectively addressing the immigration and drug trafficking problem where it is most prevalent. Drug trafficking and illegal immigration are hitched to Great Lakes ecosystem health and sustainability making distance disappear.

Budgeting money for a fence will have minimal desired effect compared to enhancing security at entry check points as a priority. The shift in priority is waiving laws protecting communities throughout America. 

Laws Waived for The Border Wall (See photograph provided by Jim Markham):

The National Environmental Policy Act; The Endangered Species Act; The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act); The National Historic Preservation Act; The Migratory Bird Treaty Act; The Archeological Resources Protection Act; The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act; The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988; The Safe Drinking Water Act; The Noise Control Act; The Solid Waste Disposal Act; The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; The Archeological and Historic Preservation Act; The Historical Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act; The Farmland Protection Policy Act; The Coastal Zone Management Act; The Federal Land Policy and Management Act; The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act; National Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956; The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act; The Administrative Procedure Act; The River and Harbors Act of 1899; The Eagle Protection Act; The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act; and the American Religious Freedom Act.

It is a preferred joy to write about the beauty and nature niche intricacies found in yards, neighborhoods, and region. I am sure that is most pleasant to read. For beauty and niche intricacies to thrive, it is important to share your views regarding environmental protection and our natural heritage with Congressional Representatives and Senators. Distance disappears because you are hitched to everything in the universe. Keep healthy nature close whether near or far and your great grandchildren will thank you.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Eagle successes

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Immature Bald Eagle still with white on wings changing to white adult head and tail plumage. Photo by Marilyn Keigley.

My father-in-law and I were driving the countryside when we spotted a Bald Eagle eating a car killed deer. This is typical behavior for scavenger birds like Bald Eagles. Fish is a high dietary component. Golden Eagles regularly fed on Federally Endangered Utah Prairie Dogs killed on the highway near the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park. Eagles were hit and killed while eating prairie dogs. I stuffed two for the park service. Golden Eagles and Utah Prairie Dogs numbers declined dramatically for several reasons as did Bald Eagles. 

People realized Bald Eagles like many species comprising our natural heritage were declining. Dr. Wallace, ornithologist from Michigan State University, recognized a problem when American Robins returned in spring to die in large numbers on the MSU campus where DDT was used. The poison bio-accumulated to a lethal level in robins that ate worms and insects. Rachael Carson in her book Silent Spring enlightened the general public to the veil of doom affecting a broad spectrum of wildlife and human health. Her book included information about DDT presence in human breast milk and other health hazards directly affecting people. 

People and industry tried to discredit Carson with hopes that verified and supported science findings would be ignored. Activities to undermine scientific data continue as is currently prevalent by well-funded protagonists opposing climate change evidence. Successes that limited DDT use and other chlorinated hydrocarbons in our country helped eagles and other species increase populations and reduced human health hazards. 

Rather than directly die from metabolized derivatives of DDT, eggs shells thinned and broke under the weight of the parent. With few young to replace long-lived adults, eagles declined toward extinction. It was thought our great grandchildren would not see eagles. Peregrine Falcons also disappeared from most of their range.

The establishment of the Endangered Species Act created hope for declining wildlife and hopefully would help reduce harmful chemicals in our own diet. With the banning of DDT use in the US, conditions for eagles, falcons, other wildlife, and humans improved. 

This past week a friend and I took a Sunday afternoon drive toward Lake Michigan, along the coast and home. We observed twelve Bald Eagles with most being immatures. The young can be distinguished from mature adults because they lack a white head and tail. The long black wings have white bands extending from near the body to wing tips. Eagles seemed to enjoy playing in wind currents on the bright sunny afternoon shoreline. 

The pleasure of seeing young eagles that hatched from eggs with calcium rich shells brings joy beyond knowing the species is recovering from chemical abuses humans released into the environment. It offers comfort knowing our grandkids and future generations might experience healthier lives if we maintain a safe environment for all life. That is one of the fundamental purposes supporting the Endangered Species, Clean Water, and Clear Air Acts. I envision children in the outdoors watching eagles play in the wind. 

Experience elation when you see an eagle eating its fill on a road killed deer. Eagle numbers are increasing despite well-funded efforts to discredit scientifically supported evidence documenting hazards. DDT is still heavily used around the world instead of safer alternatives. People will continue substantive discussions about current issues like the importance for replacing fossil fuels with long term economically sound alternatives. The change to alternative energy can provide our kids and future generations with a healthy environment that serves food production, stable agriculture, and sustainable environmental conditions for people and wildlife.

Bald Eagles are now a common part of our neighborhood nature niche landscape because we recognized our activities impacted their survival and implemented laws to protect them and our health. Whether it is PFAS, climate change, recycling household waste, or the kind, quantity, and frequency of chemicals we use to treat our yards and gardens, it not only affects Bald Eagle survival, we can protect our family’s health and lives. 

Chemicals help us live well but careful selection with minimal application is essential. We challenge our health and wellbeing along with that of coming generations if we do not take responsibility for eagle survival. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Master Angler program’s popularity takes off in 2019

Michigan’s Master Angler program, which recognizes some of the biggest fish caught by recreational anglers, has grown in popularity in recent years. Here, Chad Kamm, of Metamora, shows off the rainbow trout he caught on the Manistee River in 2018 and submitted for Master Angler recognition. Learn more about the program at www.Michigan.gov/MasterAngler.

People love to fish Michigan waters. According to the state’s Master Angler program, they’ve been reeling in some real keepers the last few years. The program, managed by the DNR, enjoyed another successful year in 2018, accepting 2,698 fish.

The program has been in place since 1973 and recognizes large fish caught by recreational anglers. There were 522 more fish submitted in 2018 than in 2017, with anglers representing 28 states and Canada being recognized. The program has more than tripled in the last four years.

Of the entries accepted, 1,564 were in the catch-and-keep category, while 1,134 were in the catch-and-release category. Just over 500 anglers received certificates for fish that placed in the top five spots for both categories.

The most popular 2018 Master Angler entries by species included:

*251 bluegill.

*238 Chinook salmon.

*144 walleye.

*140 rainbow trout.

*137 smallmouth bass.

Master Angler entries for 2018 included two new state records, a 1.80-pound hybrid sunfish caught in Lake Anne in Grand Mere State Park (Berrien County) by Joel Heeringa of St. Joseph, and a 46.54-pound black buffalo caught on the Grand River (Ottawa County) by Brandonn Kramer of Muskegon.

The Master Angler program runs on the calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31). Submissions already are being accepted for 2019 and will be until Jan. 10, 2020. Because program requirements may change year to year, be sure to carefully read the application before submitting it. A downloadable application and more program details are available at Michigan.gov/MasterAngler.

Questions? Contact Lynne Thoma, 517-284-5838 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

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Coyote sightings and tips to prevent conflicts

A coyote resting on the winter landscape. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This time of year, it’s not uncommon to hear about an uptick in coyote sightings around the state. That’s because coyotes are more visible during their breeding season (January to March), as well as in the spring and summer months when they’re caring for pups.

Coyotes are extremely adaptable and can be found just about everywhere: in forests, fields, farmlands, backyards, neighborhoods and cities. They’ve learned to survive in urban landscapes throughout Michigan. When food sources are available—things like trash bins, bird feeders and pet food—coyotes may become more comfortable around people.

To minimize potential conflicts and protect your small pets, DNR furbearer specialist Adam Bump has a few suggestions.

“The first thing to remember is never to intentionally feed or try to tame a coyote; leave wildlife in the wild,” Bump said. “Remove those appealing food sources, fence off your gardens and fruit trees, clear out wood and brush piles, and accompany your pets outdoors rather than letting them roam free.”

Additionally, there are some hunting and removal options:

Coyote hunting is open year-round. Michigan residents need a valid base license to hunt them. See the current-year Fur Harvester Digest for coyote hunting and trapping regulations.

On private property where coyotes are doing or about to do damage, a property owner or designee can take coyotes year-round; a license or written permit is not needed.

A permitted nuisance control business can assist in the safe removal of problem animals in urban or residential areas.

Get more tips on understanding this species in the Coexisting with Urban Coyotes video or on the DNR’s coyotes webpage. Questions? Contact Hannah Schauer, 517-388-9678.

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High schoolers: Explore outdoors in Career Pathways Program

Students ready for an intensive, inspiring four days immersed in natural resources learning are encouraged to submit their applications for this year’s Career Pathways Program, June 23-27 at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center on beautiful Higgins Lake in Roscommon County. Program highlights include hands-on field experiences with wildlife and fish biologists, foresters, park rangers and conservation officers.

High school students are invited to apply (by March 15) for the 2019 Career Pathways Program, offered for the second year by the Michigan DNR. Participants spend five days and four night (June 23-27) immersed in natural resources, learning about unique career opportunities from the people who currently work as biologists, foresters, park rangers and conservation officers and in other important roles.  www.Michigan.gov/DNREducation

DNR education manager Kevin Frailey oversees the program, now in its second year. “Over the course of a year, our department gets hundreds of inquiries from parents and students about natural resources careers,” he said. “We wanted to create a sampler of many of our key positions and let students learn about these unique career paths from the professionals themselves.”

Research shows the value of the “resident experience” in terms of learning and retention, so Career Pathways participants spend their five days and four nights at the northern Michigan conference center. Aside from fieldwork with DNR professionals, students also get the opportunity to meet representatives from Michigan colleges and get tips on resume-building and interviewing for jobs.

Applications are due March 15 and selections will be made by May 1. More information and a downloadable application are available at the Career Pathways webpage https://bit.ly/2VDRsjv.

Questions? Contact Kevin Frailey at fraileyk@michigan.gov or Bruce Ross at brucej.ross@yahoo.com.

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Dead fish may show up as ice begins to thaw

Winter conditions—very cold temperatures and heavy snow over ice, for example—can kill fish and other aquatic creatures like turtles, frogs, toads and crayfish. When ice and snow start to melt in the spring, it’s likely that people will begin to discover those deaths.

Fish kills, like the one pictured here, could become more apparent as the winter weather shifts to spring. Anyone coming across such an observation (especially groupings of 25 fish or more) is asked to report it to the DNR for investigation. www.Michigan.gov/FishHealth

“Winterkill is the most common type of fish kill,” said Gary Whelan, the DNR Fisheries Division’s research manager. “As the season changes, it can be common in shallow lakes, ponds, streams and canals. These kills are localized and typically don’t affect the overall health of fish populations or fishing quality.”

Shallow lakes with excess vegetation and soft bottoms are prone to winterkill. When aquatic vegetation under ice and snow dies from lack of sunlight, it uses up dissolved oxygen as it decays, and that creates fish kill conditions. Canals in urban areas also are susceptible due to run-off and pollution from roads and lawns and septic systems, again using up dissolved oxygen through the decay of vegetation and organic materials in sediments.

“Fish and other aquatic life typically die in late winter but may not be noticed until a month after the ice melts, because the dead fish are temporarily preserved on the lake bottom by the cold water. Once the water warms up, bacterial activity results in the dead fish coming to the surface,” Whelan said. “Fish also are affected by rapid water temperature changes due to unseasonably warm weather, leading to stress and sometimes mortality.”

Fish can get easily stressed as they often have low energy reserves in late winter and food is scarce. That equals less adaptability to low oxygen and temperature swings.

Anyone spotting a fish kill in larger quantities—25 fish or more—should report it using the Sick or Dead Aquatic Species form available under the fish icon at Michigan.gov/EyesInTheField. People also can contact local DNR offices. It’s important to report observations as soon as possible, allowing fisheries staff to collect the best-quality fish for analysis.

For more information, visit Michigan.gov/FishHealth or contact Gary Whelan, 517-284-5840 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

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Cross-Country Skiing

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche | By Ranger Steve Mueller

The end of winter fun on cross-country skis comes with mixed feelings and experiences. Skiing on fresh cold snow is a joy but breaking trail is hard work. Cold weather makes for best snow gliding but challenges our extremities if not well dressed. Warmer temperatures might be more comfortable but snow tends to cake on skis. I prefer temperatures between 0ºF and 15ºF. Next is -15ºF to 0ºF.  Above 15ºF is too warm for both skies and me. Below -15ºF is too cold.

We used to live in northern Minnesota where snow seemed to stay fresh and pure most of the winter. From Christmas to mid-February the temperature remained near zero or below for six weeks. When -15ºF the snow is good for gliding on ski tracks but hypothermia potential rises. On one outing a member of our group began experiencing hypothermia when we were still a half hour from a warming house at Itasca State Park. 

When body temperature drops, thinking becomes clouded. Protecting body parts from frost nip is important. Muscle coordination begins to fail. Dave was experiencing confusion and some loss of muscle coordination. It was -30ºF. We escorted him with encouragement and other than being too cold he suffered no body damage. 

It is wonderful to have groomed ski trails. In popular areas, a grooming machine provides the tracks to provide good gliding without the need to almost use skies like snowshoes. Kick and glide is the ideal. It can become habit to walk with skies instead of gliding. When one pushes against the ground (kick), the ski should grip to power the skier forward. When the slide momentum begins to slow another kick maintains momentum.

My wood skis require wax. A variety of waxes are produced for various temperature conditions and they work better than the newer fish-scale skis in my opinion. The fish-scale tread is designed to work in all conditions but that is like assuming car tire treads will work equally well in all conditions. 

My skis will ice up and snow will begin to stick but in my pocket I have different grades of wax. I scrape the ice and apply a fresh wax or sometimes a different wax for changing conditions. Friends on no-wax skies cannot refresh their skis and snow globs continue to cake, making it harder for an ideal glide.

When I first began cross-country skiing, my friend Molly taught me skills and etiquette. First was kick and glide. A significant number of people do not take advantage of the glide and create more work for themselves. When necessary to stop, good etiquette is to step out of the ski track to keep the trail in good condition. 

Occasionally, I fall for one reason or another. It is mostly on a twisting downhill stretch. Usually the fall landing is beside the trail. When I get up, I make an effort to rise next to the trail and step back onto the track. More challenging can be an about face turn to head in the opposite direction. I am able to lift my long right ski and rotate it 180º and set it facing in the opposite direction in the ski track. Then I swing the left ski around and set it outside the track next my other ski. Once turned around, I move my right ski into the other track and my left ski into the remaining track. Now I am ready to proceed in the opposite direction. 

Groomed trails are frequently one-way trails to keep skiing safer. On trails that I create at Ody Brook or in wilderness areas where other skiers will not be encountered, reversing direction is acceptable. 

Uphill skiing can become impossible to kick and slide. One does not want to end up skiing backwards down a hill. Herring-boning becomes necessary. The rear end of skies are kept close together and tips spread widely to allow walking up the hill. This obliterates the track but is necessary. Some remove skies and walk uphill. Molly taught skiing skills but I had different teaching responsibilities. She wanted to learn winter trees and shrubs. While enjoying winter on skis in the black and white beauty accented under a clear blue sky, we stopped to examine nature niche intricacies of the woody plant buds, leaf scars, lenticels, and other stem characters. 

Enjoy the exquisite beauty around you when skiing but do not miss the trees for the forest. Take time to examine trees, shrubs, animal tracks and occasional bird activity along the trail. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Morning’s first arrivals

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche By Ranger Steve Mueller

Does the early bird get the worm? I recorded the order bird species arrived at feeders or flew through the sanctuary one morning between 7 a.m. and 8:30. I expected arrival to begin shortly after 7 a.m. in mid-February. Table 1 shows the first arrival time for each species on three dates. 

After observing one morning, I thought it necessary to get additional data because one day’s observation might be quite different from other days. It would be good to gather arrival times and the order species arrived for many days to determine if there is a pattern. I would like to have gathered data for 20 or 30 days so it would be more statistically reliable. 

Each succeeding midwinter day, the sun rises a little earlier so it is expected to change bird wake up and activity times. 

With previous casual observation, I noticed Northern Cardinals are among the first arrivals at daylight and last to depart at dusk. The number of birds at the feeders are most abundant midday. Squirrels impact bird use. It seems like birds and squirrels take turns but I do not think it is by choice. There are 18 squirrels that visit and when they are present, birds tend to stay away. As soon as squirrels leave birds come to feed. 

A factor that affects bird activity is foot-candles of light. That is the amount the light produced by a candle at a distance of one foot. More candles produce more light at one foot. As daylight breaks, the area lightens with increased foot-candles of light. Various species become active at different light levels. Some are late sleepers until it is brighter. 

If the sky is clear there will be more light to produce a higher foot-candle luminance. It is obvious that on cloudy days there are fewer foot-candles of light. I did not measure foot-candles of light to compare with bird arrival times. That would be interesting to see how light levels affected early morning bird activity times. 

Another factor that makes a difference for bird arrival is their location in the time zone. Birds living at the same latitude but at the eastern edge of the time zone experience sunrise an hour early than birds living at the western edge. For convenience, time zones are set for a middle longitude and the time is accepted as the same for the whole zone. Birds do not use our clocks. They use foot-candles of light in the area where they live.

It gets light almost an hour earlier on the east coast of North America than it does at the Lake Michigan shoreline. Birds living on the east coast become active earlier in the day. North-south latitudes affect daylight hours. We are familiar with the land of the midnight sun in the Arctic Circle summer and 24 hours of darkness in winter. Here summer daylight is about 16 hours and winter light about 8 hours. Near equator light and dark remains close to 12 hours all year. 

Table 1 shows first arrival time for each species. The arrival sequence is numbered. It was not the same. If I gathered data for many days, it would provide a more reliable record for determining if species have a consistent sequence for arrival.

Outlier data needs to be ignored. It is possible that an individual for a species could arrive unusually early or late for an abnormal reason. Having many days’ data would allow us to see the abnormal and ignore it. Other outlier data I needed to ignore was first arrivals recorded much later in the day. I did not watch the feeder continuously after 8:30 a.m. Arrival times recorded for bird species later in the day most likely was not a first arrival. They might have come a few minutes after I stopped watching at 8:30. Times later in the day are outlier data that cannot be included when determining nature niche activity.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Michigan’s early state parks development

By Casey Warner, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A horse-drawn carriage is shown on Mackinac Island in 1887. (Courtesy Archives of Michigan)

Michigan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Department of Natural Resources-managed state parks system this year.

The celebration is centered around the formation of the Michigan State Park Commission by the state Legislature on May 12, 1919. The commission was given responsibility for overseeing, acquiring and maintaining public lands and establishing Michigan’s state parks system.

However, 25 years before legislation established the state park commission, the federal government gifted the Mackinac Island property it owned to the state in 1895. The island was designated as Michigan’s first state park under the Mackinac State Park Commission.

The Arch Rock at Mackinac Island is shown being visited by a group of sightseers circa 1890. (Mackinac State Historic Parks photo)

“In 1907, the community of Mackinaw City donated to the state a village park, the site of Fort Michilimackinac,” said Steve Brisson, deputy director of the Mackinac State Park Commission. “Two years later, it was declared Michilimackinac State Park, and placed under the Mackinac Island State Park Commission’s care.”

Mackinac Island State Park and Michilimackinac State Park are both official state parks, per their authorizing legislation, but they remain separate from the park system managed by the DNR.

Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island—historically a gathering place for Native people and then French fur traders and missionaries and later the home of soldiers stationed at Fort Mackinac—had become a popular tourist destination by the late 19th century.

“By the time of the Civil War, lake boats were bringing visitors to Mackinac to enjoy the ‘healthy air’ or explore the island’s natural wonders,” David A. Armour, who served as deputy director of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission for many years, wrote in his book 100 Years at Mackinac: 1895-1995.

Armour continues: “Such was the growing reputation of Mackinac Island that Thomas W. Ferry, a Mackinac boy who had grown up to become a U.S. Senator, spearheaded a move to have Congress designate the government land on Mackinac Island as a national park. He succeeded, and in 1875, three years after Yellowstone had become the United States’ first national park, Mackinac became the second. Set aside ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,’ the 911 acres outside the 104-acre military reservation were to be maintained by the soldiers who garrisoned Fort Mackinac.”

Almost 20 years later, the U.S. Army decided to close Fort Mackinac. At the time, the National Park Service didn’t exist, and all national parks were under the umbrella of the War Department.

“While Mackinac was a beautiful and pleasant post enjoyed by the soldiers stationed there, it had no remaining military importance, and its troops were needed in Sault Ste. Marie to guard the canal there,” Armour wrote. “Without the troops, who would care for the national park?”

In February 1895, Senator James McMillian—urged on by a group of Mackinac citizens who wanted the island’s government lands kept in public ownership rather than sold—introduced an appropriation bill amendment that would turn the military reservation and the buildings and lands of the national park over to the state of Michigan for use as a state park.

“Congress passed the bill on March 2, with the added stipulation that the land would revert to the United States if it ever ceased to be used for park purposes,” Armour wrote. “Michigan had no state park system, but the state Legislature acted quickly, and by joint resolution on May 31, 1895, created the Mackinac Island State Park Commission to manage Michigan’s first state park.”

The lands of the military reservation, Fort Mackinac and the national park were formally transferred to the state Sept. 16, 1895.

“The state had acquired a treasure,” Armour wrote.

Today, Mackinac Island State Park includes the 14 original buildings of Fort Mackinac, which were built by the British military starting in 1780, as well as several other historic structures and about 1,800 acres of land.

More than 80 percent of Mackinac Island is state park property, managed by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.

To learn more about Mackinac Island State Park, visit MackinacParks.com.

Next week: Interlochen State Park.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of Showcasing the DNR stories to mark the centennial creation of the Michigan State Park Commission, which was established by the state Legislature on May 12, 1919, paving the way for our state parks system managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The DNR is celebrating this milestone throughout the year with special events, podcasts, historical stories, videos, geocaching and more. Find more details at Michigan.gov/StateParks100.

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