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Tag Archive | "DNR"

DNR offers safety tips for National Safe Boating Week


With school almost over, the weather warming up and the upcoming Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, many will begin enjoying Michigan’s more than 11,000 inland lakes and over 36,000 miles of rivers and streams.

During National Safe Boating Week, May 18-24, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds boaters to keep in mind safety measures, such as wearing a life jacket.

National Safe Boating Week is May 18-24. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources works closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies to make sure people are safely enjoying the state’s waters. The DNR reminds boaters to keep these safety tips in mind before they float:

Wear a life jacket—accidents happen

In 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that drowning was the cause of death in 76 percent of all boating accident fatalities. Last July, when two people were stranded in Lake Huron after falling off their personal watercraft, their life jackets kept them afloat in the rough water until a conservation officer arrived to help. Take the time now to learn more about Michigan’s life jacket rules.

Boat sober

Alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

Stay alert

Be aware of objects and other people—including stationed anglers, swimmers, boaters, kayakers and paddleboarders—in the water. Keep your eyes open for debris, such as commercial fishing nets, which sometimes break free and float at the surface of the water.

Check your boat before you float

In October, a man was rescued from Lake Gogebic after the steering on his boat became inoperable. He was able to call for help and wore his life jacket until a conservation officer arrived. Make sure your boat is in good operating condition and equipped with the appropriate life jackets, fire extinguisher and first aid equipment before heading onto the water.

Take a cellphone in a waterproof case or a marine radio

In March, a capsized kayaker on Lake Erie was rescued because he was able to call for help.

Know how to escape a current

Being aware of the Great Lakes swim risk levels and the beach warning flag system can help swimmers avoid dangerous currents. Understanding how to flip, float and follow while swimming can help in case you get stuck in a strong current.

Learn more on the boating safety information webpage at Michigan.gov/Boating.

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Showcasing the DNR


A photography moment, outside the door, at the side of the road

By John Pepin, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

“Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing,” – Pete Seeger 

Rolling through the bucolic countryside on some forgotten copper-claim byway, I glanced over my shoulder as I crested a small hill.

A beautiful crocus garden, with a knobby rubber truck tire, underneath an apple tree, outside an abandoned home. Photo by John Pepin.

When I saw what I saw I pulled the car into the crunching gravel at the side of the road. I turned around and headed back, parking on the shoulder.

Just beyond a shallow ditch was a house set back off the road. There was an old, leafless apple tree to the side of the front yard. The gnarled, gray fingers and upturned arms of this old matriarch reached wide to protect a sublime treasure lying beneath.

Around the sides of a big, knobby tractor tire were dozens and dozens of blooming crocuses, white, purple and even a handful colored yellow, bright and bold like buttercups. I had never seen so many crocuses in one place – it was like a sea of purple and white, moving slowly with bursts of wind that blew across the brown grass of the yard.

I wanted to take some close-up photographs of this wonderful spray of heaven. I turned to approach the house to knock on the door to ask permission. When I did, I stood shocked to see that not only was no one at home, but the house was dark, broken and abandoned.

A couple of rows of crocuses ringed the outside of a knobby rubber tire in a beautiful garden found not far off the side of the road. Photo by John Pepin.

The house was a green, metal, put-together kind of structure with white pines standing tall in a row behind. An old car was left in the back. Some animal had chewed through the screens that covered the doors. The concrete foundation had big holes in it. The roofline was busted uneven, and the steps were gone from under a sliding glass door that sat about midway down the length of the house.

No sidewalk, pathway or trail through the grass was discernable.

All kinds of questions were swirling around in my head, basically amounting to, “What happened here?”

By the look of things, this house had once indeed been a home. There had been someone here to drive the old car, to likely walk out to the mailbox on a warm summer’s day and sit underneath the pines on a cool autumn evening.

And there was someone here who obviously admired the simple and profound magic produced by mixing sunlight, rich earth, a little bit of rain and a few flowering plants. I wondered whether this unknown gardener was here long enough to witness for themselves the exquisite crocus garden beneath the twisted branches of the apple tree.

Did someone die, lose a job, divorce, go to jail or endure some other hardship? I saw no toys or swings or other signs of children around the place. I was reminded of something Bob Dylan wrote: “I see the screws breaking loose, I see the devil pounding on tin, I see a house in the country being torn apart from within.”

Did these people maybe just leave to be gone for good? Gone from the hardscrabble living a lot more than a few people find within these remnant locations – scatterings of bleak houses, situated between rusted railroad tracks, broken-down, left-behind schools, country stores and the cracked pavement off blacktopped county roads that inevitably lead to nowhere special?

There was no way to know, at least not from where I was standing.

John Fogerty wrote, “Looking out across this town, kinda makes me wonder how all the things that made us great got left so far behind. This used to be a peaceful place, decent folks, hard-working ways.”

That spring day, I was like most people, I suspect.

I was on my way to another thing, in another place, with my watch running slow amid the relentless crush of demands of this world, and its nagging “Where-are-you?” technology, tugging at the corner of my jacket.

It felt like someone had ahold of my arm, leading me away from this lonesome and quiet place where I could have sat all afternoon, just wondering.

Before I left, I did take several photos of the dazzling spring crocuses.

I wanted to bring with me a little bit of that garden out from under the shadows of that apple tree and whatever happened to those folks in the green-metal house.

I wanted to shine for these people a little bit of the light they’d left behind in their presumed misfortune – that magnificent blanket of flowers. And so, I share this story and photos to try to spread around the beauty left outside the door, at the side of the road.

Of course, I could have this whole thing wrong.

Maybe the people who once lived here found a big payday somehow—a la “Kinfolk said, ‘Jed, move away from there.’” I want to hope that’s what happened—“swimming pools, movie stars”—however unlikely.

At the very least, I hope they made out all right someplace else, in another state, country or atmosphere.

Maybe right now, there’s a lady on her knees in the green, spring grass, with a garden spade, digging a hole in the ground.

In the distance, there’s an old man approaching. He’s taking a good long time to get there because he’s trying to roll a big, knobby truck tire in a straight line. He’s going to roll that wheel until it falls over on its side next to the lady, under the shade of an aging apple tree.

In the skies above, swallows tip and turn, the breezes are warm and light.

Back up on their new porch, with the green-metal roof, the couple will later sit and sip something sweet while the sun falls behind the pines. Cool air descends, bringing down the purple night.

Those tough times they might have had trying to make a life living in the Michigan north woods exist now only in their dreams and memories, a long time gone. Maybe there’s a picture of their Michigan crocus garden hanging on their wall.

Meanwhile, that old house, with the torn screens and sagging frame, sits alongside the road with the howling elements of nature pounding a little harder on the roof and walls each year—sensing weakness in the structure, the inevitable decay and demise.

But under that tree remains, a delight for the eyes and the soul – a promise of renewal, regeneration and revival—he purple and white crocuses, with a few dashes of yellow sprinkled in.

No more than a few inches tall, they have the unlikely power to stop a passing car whirring along the roadside, to make a man get out with a camera to wonder and to think.


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Dozens of walleye confiscated after tip


From the Michigan DNR

Three walleye anglers fishing together last Thursday, April 18, on the Detroit River, face losing their fishing licenses after being caught with 80 walleye—65 over the river’s legal daily limit of five per person, per day.

Conservation Officer Jaime Salisbury is pictured with 80 walleye that were poached from the Detroit River Thursday, April 18. Photo courtesy of the MDNR.

An anonymous tip to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Report All Poaching Hotline Thursday afternoon said that three males were suspected of exceeding the walleye limit while fishing the Detroit River. The caller provided a description of the angler’s vehicle and said they were driving from Detroit toward Grand Rapids on I-96 west.

Conservation Officers Peter Purdy and Jaime Salisbury were on patrol in northern Livingston County when they received the notification from the RAP Hotline dispatcher.

After patrolling I-96 for about an hour, Purdy and Salisbury observed a vehicle matching the description provided by the caller. When the driver failed to use a turn signal while changing lanes, the officers stopped the vehicle along the freeway near Okemos Road in Ingham County.

“We asked the driver to be honest and tell us how many walleye the three men had in their possession,” said Salisbury. “The driver hung his head and stated, ‘too many.’”

The three males—a 28-year-old from Byron Center, a 38-year-old from Allendale and a 30-year-old from Jenison—admitted to fishing the Detroit River earlier in the day and that they had all caught and kept too many fish.

“Conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “This gives them the ability to enforce all Michigan laws. In this case, Officers Purdy and Salisbury were able to initiate a traffic stop to seek information about this poaching tip. I want to thank the individual who informed the RAP Hotline about this poaching event; without their assistance, this case may not have been possible.”

The driver received a citation for failing to use a turn signal; all three men were issued tickets for possessing an over limit of walleye. An Ingham County judge will determine the reimbursement fee and whether the poachers should lose their fishing licenses.

Reimbursement is calculated by weighing each individual fish and then assessing at $10 per pound.

The legal walleye limit on the Detroit River is five 15-inch walleye per day. In addition to one day’s daily limit, a person may possess an additional two daily possession limits of fish taken during previous fishing days, provided that the additional limits of fish are processed (canned, cured by smoking or drying, or frozen).

If you witness or suspect a natural resource violation, call or text the Report All Poaching hotline, available 24/7, at 800-292-7800. Learn more about Michigan’s conservation officers at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.

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Canada lynx found in Detroit area returned safely to the wild


By the DNR and Judy Reed

With a casual glance or two back, a Canada lynx left its holding carrier in under a minute last Friday, April 12, and trotted off over the snow into a stand of pine trees in central Schoolcraft County, in the Upper Peninslula.

With a cautious glance, a female Canada lynx walks free from a wildlife carrier into a Schoolcraft County forest.

The lynx had been brought north to be released in a cooperative venture by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Detroit Zoological Society.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist John DePue measures the stride of a female Canada lynx released in Schoolcraft County.

“It went perfectly,” said John DePue, a DNR wildlife biologist who supervised the release of the cat. “She didn’t dart out of the carrier like some other animals would have, but that’s pretty typical lynx behavior.”

The lynx—an animal only rarely seen in Michigan—had been making headlines since it was discovered about a month earlier on a farm in Sanilac County, which is in southeast Michigan.

The DNR received a report on March 16 of a possible lynx preying on a farmer’s domestic geese. The lynx was described as easily approachable and wasn’t spooked by the farmer’s presence.

From photos provided, DNR staffers verified it was indeed a Canada lynx.

Because the animal had been behaving oddly, including being easily approachable, the DNR, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, worked with a local trapper to capture the lynx to evaluate its health. 

“Canada lynx are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act,” said Dan Kennedy, endangered species coordinator with the DNR. “The DNR has the authority to handle federally threatened species through an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

The lynx was held at the Howell Nature Center wildlife rehabilitation facility in Livingston County until she was able to be transferred to the Detroit Zoological Society for a health assessment.

The female cat, believed to be less than a year old, measured just over 4 feet long and weighed 18 pounds. She was treated for a foot wound, parasites and dehydration.

“The lynx was well-cared for while at our facility,” said Randi Meyerson, deputy chief life sciences officer at the Detroit Zoological Society. “We were happy to play a role in restoring her to good health so she could be returned to the wild.”

DNR wildlife biologist Cody Norton said the lynx gained more than a pound, eating rabbits and quail while under the care of Detroit Zoological Society staffers. The cat was transported north about 400 miles before a small group of DNR staffers released her into the wild.

“It’s been acting like a normal healthy cat,” Norton said.

A blood sample from the lynx had been submitted to the U.S. Forest Service’s National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation in Missoula, Montana for DNA analysis.

“The DNA of this lynx is consistent with DNA from lynx in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada,” said Kristy Pilgrim, laboratory supervisor at the center.

Canada lynx are found in boreal spruce-fir forests in the northern portions of North America, mainly in Canada and Alaska. “Lynx are more likely to be seen in the Upper Peninsula, with the most recent verified sighting on Sugar Island in 2010,” Kennedy said.

While lynx do not usually occur in Michigan, the occasional dispersing individual could move through the state.

DePue told the Post that he thinks that is what happened with this cat. He said the closest known population in the Great Lakes is in Minnesota. “We know that lynx move hundreds of miles,” he said. He noted that wildlife moving that far is not unheard of. “A mountain lion from the Dakotas ended up in Connecticut a few years ago,” he said. “Wildlife finds a way.”

DePue also does not think it was an exotic pet. Based on his work with them in Maine and Colorado, it did not behave like a habituated animal. “They are not as skittish as a bobcat,” he explained. “During my work with them in Maine, they would let you pull over and take pictures of them. It’s not like you can just walk up and touch one, but they let you get closer than a lot of animals.”
The location where the lynx was released has good habitat and abundant food sources, such as snowshoe hare and beaver. This location is also remote and has large contiguous blocks of public lands and little human development. “We released it in the best habitat we could find in Michigan,” remarked DePue. 

He said they did not put a tracking collar on it. “We would have had to order a new satellite collar and it would’ve taken 6-8 weeks to get here. That would’ve been a long time to keep her in captivity. We did what was best for the animal,” he explained. 

DePue and Norton worked the mechanism on the carrier door to release the cat. The door swung open. The lynx stepped cautiously out of the carrier and looked behind at the two biologists before walking away in the opposite direction.

“A once-in-a-career opportunity in the state of Michigan just took place,” said DNR wildlife technician Don Brown, who helped bring the lynx north.

For more information on wildlife in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Wildlife.

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Snowmobiler drowns in Lincoln Lake



Joseph Brown died last Wednesday evening, February 13, when his snowmobile dropped into open water on Lincoln Lake. Photo from gofundme page.

An evening snowmobile ride on Lincoln Lake with a friend turned into tragedy when one of the riders drove into open water.

A 911 call came into Kent County Dispatch on February 13 at approximately 10:25 p.m. reporting a snowmobile accident on Lincoln Lake in Spencer Township. The caller reported he was on the lake on a snowmobile riding with another person who was on a separate snowmobile. The caller believed the other rider went into open water. 

Multiple fire departments along with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office responded to the area immediately. The caller was on unstable ice and was rescued by Cannon Fire Department’s hovercraft. The hovercraft was then used to search for the missing rider. The Sheriff’s Office also deployed a drone with a Forward Looking Infrared Camera to search the lake. They were not able to locate the missing rider or his snowmobile after several hours and finally called off the search. 

The search resumed at daylight on February 14. Joseph Brown, 29, of Spencer Township, was found near the bottom of the lake, not far from where his friend was rescued.

Sgt. Joel Roon said that the recovery was challenging because the water was dark, cold, and very deep—about 50-60 feet. It was near where Cedar Creek flows into Lincoln Lake. “There’s a lot of moving water under there and it’s a recipe for dangerous conditions,” he said.

Roon said it looked like Brown made an effort to get to the ice shelf because they found some of his clothing. “We believe he tried some things ice fishermen would do like shed his shoes and bulky clothing.” He noted that it looked like he made it 15-20 feet before going under. 

Roon said the snowmobile probably would not be recovered right away. He said the DNR would get involved because of the fluids in the sled, and currently it was too dangerous to try to remove it.

A gofundme account has been set up to assist with funeral expenses. Go to https://bit.ly/2GV1Qzg to donate.

A benefit is also being held this Saturday, February 23, at 3 p.m. at the Trufant hall. Dinner $5 a plate, 50/50 raffle tickets, and a live auction. Live band High Risk will be playing as well. 

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Love fishing?


Fish for free at state parks Feb. 16-17

The first of two annual Free Fishing Weekends will take place Feb. 16-17. Twice a year, residents and out-of-state visitors can enjoy two back-to-back days of free fishing fun throughout Michigan, no license needed (though all other fishing regulations apply).

From the start, state parks have been a big part of Michigan’s fishing tradition. Add a few state park stops to your itinerary while you are out enjoying some of the best world-class fishing available anywhere!

During #MiFreeFishingWeekend, the DNR also waives the regular Recreation Passport entry fee for vehicle access to state parks. Several parks will host free-fishing events perfect for the whole family.

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DNR reports weekend of deadly snowmobile crashes



A group of snowmobilers riding right in Gogebic County on a cold day during the winter of 2017-2018. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers continued their safety and enforcement patrols last weekend, a deadly weekend that claimed the lives of five snowmobilers in a single day.

Police agencies in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula investigated the deaths Friday of two snowmobilers in Gogebic County and one each in Luce, Alger, and Kalkaska counties.

This winter, six snowmobilers have died in the U.P. and three in Lower Michigan. The statewide snowmobile fatality total for the entire winter of 2017-2018 was 15, with 10 of those fatalities occurring north of the Mackinac Bridge.

“This recent rash of deadly crashes illustrates the critical importance of snowmobile safety,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, a DNR district law supervisor in Marquette. “Many fatalities occur because of drinking and driving, high speed or carelessness, all of which are preventable actions.”

The DNR is partnering with the Michigan Snowmobile Association and others on a “Ride Right” safety campaign this winter.

In contacts with officers, public service announcements and press materials, riders are being reminded to ride on the right side of the trail, at a safe speed and sober. Snowmobilers are also being asked to anticipate, and yield to, trail groomers.

The thrust of the campaign urges riders to ride right so they can make it home safely to their families.

“There are a lot of factors that could play into the high number of fatal snowmobile crashes we’ve had during this early part of the winter,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “But whether it’s because of good snow concentrating riders in certain parts of the state, unfamiliarity with local trails or speed, recklessness or alcohol, all of these things underscore the importance of riding safely and riding right.”

DNR conservation officers were on patrol on both ends of the U.P., writing tickets and providing safety tips to riders. They had conducted similar patrols the weekend prior in Ontonagon and Houghton counties, which resulted in numerous tickets being issued and three riders jailed for driving under the influence of alcohol.

On Friday, five officers conducted a group patrol in South Range in Houghton County.

“Conservation officers talked with snowmobilers, checked registrations and trail permits, looked for equipment violations and tested snowmobiles for noise level emissions,” Aho said.

From about 100 contacts, officers issued 20 warnings to riders for improper trail permit and registration display. Eight tickets were issued, half of which were for registration violations, with the remainder for noise emissions exceeding the 88-decibel limit. One officer assisted a rider whose snowmobile caught fire a few miles north of the group patrol.

The following evening, five conservation officers patrolled as a group in Keweenaw County, on Gratiot Lake Road Trail No. 3.

In this effort, about 250 contacts were made, with 30 warnings and three tickets issued for improper trail permit or registration display. A total of 15 tickets were written, including eight for noise emission violations, two for careless operation of a snowmobile and one each for driving with a suspended license and no sled registration.

On Sunday, the patrol in the western U.P. continued in Ontonagon County, including along Lake Gogebic where two riders died Friday in a head-on crash near Lake Gogebic State Park.

Conservation officers contacted three separate groups of snowmobilers who had been ice fishing coming off Lake Gogebic. All the groups’ members had legal possession limits.

In all, officers made about 100 contacts in the patrolling effort, resulting in 10 warnings for fail to display/attach trail permits or improper registration display. Five tickets were written for registration violations, another five for failure to display or attach trail permits, two for noise violations and one for careless operation.

“Over the course of the weekend, we had 450 contacts with riders,”Aho said. “We issued 60 warnings and wrote three dozen tickets.”

On the eastern end of the U.P., cold weather and lake effect snow had limited visibility for snowmobilers, including conservation officers. Group patrols continued, though cold weather shortened some of the riding time for officers.

“Snow dust from sleds coming and going, along with blowing snow, diminished visibility on a very busy weekend for snowmobiles,” said Lt. Skip Hagy, a DNR district law supervisor in Newberry. “People drive way too fast for conditions. It showed in the personal injury and fatal accidents we had this past weekend.”

A sound meter patrol was conducted Saturday in Grand Marais in Alger County. However, no sound violation tickets were issued. Conservation officers had contact with 578 riders, with 41 verbal warnings issued, along with 16 tickets for registration and trail permit violations.

Conservation officers assisted with the fatality Friday in Luce County where a 71-year-old rider struck a tree. Two officers patrolling in the eastern U.P. Thursday had 55 contacts with riders. They issued four warnings and two tickets.

DNR safety and enforcement patrols will continue throughout the winter.

To find out more about snowmobiling in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling.

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DNR welcomes new director


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments for several state agencies, including Daniel Eichinger, who joins the DNR as the department’s new director.

Daniel Eichinger, 
new DNR director

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments for several state agencies, including Daniel Eichinger, who joins the DNR as the department’s new director.

Eichinger most recently served as executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the nation’s most effective state-based conservation organization. In that role, he led MUCC’s return as a driving force for conservation and our outdoor heritage. Under his leadership, MUCC revamped its organizational structure, grew membership and launched new programs to connect people with nature.

From 2007 to 2012, he worked in various capacities with the Department of Natural Resources, first as legislative liaison, where he was heavily involved in passing the innovative Recreation Passport to fund state parks. Later, he helped establish the first Policy and Regulations Unit for the agency’s Wildlife Division.

Gov. Whitmer called Eichinger “a trusted leader in the conservation of Michigan’s abundant natural resources and outdoor heritage” and someone who “has the broad experience needed to bring innovative ideas and also successful implementation of conservation efforts and recreation opportunities here in the state.”

Eichinger, who holds bachelors and masters degrees in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University, as well as a masters of public administration, is eager to get started in this new role.

“Conservation is a team sport,” he said. “I look forward to working with our partners to continue the thoughtful stewardship of the extraordinary natural and cultural resources that so deeply define us as Michiganders.”

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Youth small game hunt in Belding Jan. 19


Looking to get your young hunter out this winter? Join us for a youth small game hunt Jan. 19 at the Flat River State Game Area in Belding.

Photo courtesy of the DNR.

This free event will be held at the Belding Sportsman’s Club, located at 10651 Youngman Road. Breakfast will start at 7:30 a.m., and lunch will also be provided. Raffle prizes will be available for youth hunters.

All parties must have at least one hunter under the age of 17. Preregistration is required before Jan. 15. Please call 616-794-2658 to save a spot.

This event wouldn’t be possible without the great partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Mid-Michigan United Sportsmen’s Alliance, Belding Sportsman’s Club, Michigan Squirrel Dog Association and QDMA of Montcalm County.

We hope to see you there!

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Showcasing the DNR: Reflections on 2018


For the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2018 has been busy. The DNR, with the help of many partners, has made great strides in its ongoing efforts to take care of the state’s natural and cultural resources and provide outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Here are a few highlights of how the DNR spent 2018.

Brandonn Kramer poses with his state record black buffalo, taken while bowfishing on the Grand River in Ottawa County this past May. Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations. Photo by the Michigan DNR.

Providing quality outdoor recreation opportunities

The DNR continued its work to ensure excellent opportunities for hunting and fishing, both of which contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. 

Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations. 

The DNR stocks more than 25 million fish each year, in more than 1,000 locations across both peninsulas. Forty percent of all recreational fishing in Michigan depends on stocked fish.

In 2018, the DNR expanded the recently created Fishing Tournament Information System – a statewide, online registration and reporting tool that makes it easier for tournament managers to meet the requirement of having all bass fishing tournaments registered – to include all bass and walleye tournaments. To date, the system has received more than 2,000 bass tournament registrations and results reports.

The DNR is continually improving habitat on the 4.5 million acres of public hunting land it manages. Hunters can explore seven managed waterfowl areas, 19 grouse enhanced management sites (known as GEMS) that allow walk-in hunting, and more than 180 state game and wildlife areas. These locations also offer abundant wildlife watching opportunities.

So far this year, hunters have contributed almost $200,000 to wildlife management by purchasing Pure Michigan Hunt applications that give them a shot at a prize package valued at over $4,000, as well as licenses for elk, bear, spring and fall turkey and antlerless deer, and first pick at a managed waterfowl area. The application period ends at midnight Dec. 31. 

 In 2018, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. Photo by the Michigan DNR.

Michigan’s 103 state parks continue to provide the scenic spaces, natural resources and access to outdoor recreation opportunities that attract tens of millions of people every year. 

With 12,500-plus miles of state-designated trails and pathways – one of the largest, interconnected trail systems in the country – Michigan is known as The Trails State. This trails system offers plenty of social, economic and health benefits, catering to a variety of users, including bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, paddlers and others. 

The system also includes the Iron Belle Trail, Michigan’s signature hiking and biking trail extending more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

There was renewed interest sparked in 2018 in the Iron Belle Trail Fund Campaign, marked by an event in Ann Arbor where more than $10.5 million in private donations was announced. 

“Quality outdoor recreation resources and opportunities mean a lot to the people who use and value them, and to the communities they serve,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said. “The Iron Belle Trail offers so many beautiful places where people make memories, improve their health, and recharge their energy. The state and our many partners are on an ambitious timeline to get the remainder of these connected miles in place.”

To date, the DNR and partners have built and engineered more than 100 miles of new trail to complete completed the Iron Belle Trail’s 1,422 miles of existing hiking and biking trails, with just over 600 remaining to be connected. 

In October 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced a $100 million investment of parks and trails in Southeast Michigan, including segments of the Iron Belle Trail. 

With the creation of a new State Water Trails program, the DNR announced this month that eight waterways, totaling 540-plus miles flowing through more than a dozen counties, have been selected as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan. 

DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson said that water trails are an increasing trend in Michigan and nationally, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow.

Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.

“These state-designated water trails will encourage close-to-home outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles while boosting local economies, giving even more reason to call Michigan The Trails State,” said Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator.

The DNR’s staffed shooting ranges, located in southern Michigan state parks and game areas, made improvements to accommodate a growing number of shooting sports enthusiasts. Updates this year included expanding parking, adding new handgun shooting stations and installing a well to provide potable water, with construction of new accessible parking and walkways planned at three ranges in 2019.

Looking to get outdoors in 2019? Check out michigan.gov/dnrcalendar.

Taking care of Michigan’s woods, waters and wildlife

The “Good Neighbor Authority” allows state natural resource agencies to assist the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management on timber and watershed restoration projects across the country.In 2018, the DNR increased its Good Neighbor Authority efforts from the previous year, preparing 2,400 acres for timber sale and producing 38,500 cords of wood from the four national forests in Michigan – the Huron and Manistee national forests in the Lower Peninsula and the Ottawa and Hiawatha in the Upper Peninsula.

This state/federal partnership will grow to more than 7,500 acres in 2019.

In 2018, oversight of the state’s Registered Forester program transferred to the DNR from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The move was part of a restructuring process for this voluntary program that encourages higher standards for Michigan’s foresters.

Changes to the program include an up-to-date online database and a new complaint review process.

“The new program is the ideal source for landowners to find highly qualified foresters to help them manage their forest land,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. 

Nearly two-thirds of Michigan’s 20 million acres of forest are privately owned; the state manages an estimated 4 million acres of public forest. 

The DNR also manages 360,000 acres of state game areas. At game areas throughout Michigan, DNR staffers have been harvesting timber to create early successional forest habitat.

The selective cutting of mature pine and aspen stands encourages the growth of young forests, which provide vital habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, deer, elk and golden-winged warblers.

“This important work may look destructive while in progress, but the result is outstanding habitat for many game and non-game wildlife species,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason.  

Late in 2018, in partnership with Pheasants Forever and the Hal and Jean Glassen Foundation, the DNR launched its new Adopt-A-Game-Area program, which encourages individuals and organizations to sponsor grassland habitat projects on state-managed lands they use and value. 

“Grasslands give important benefits to both wildlife and people. In addition to providing habitat and food resources for many wildlife species, grasslands also improve water and air quality,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist. 

Stewart said grassland pollinators, like bees and monarch butterflies, help to generate crops that keep the country fed. Throughout Michigan, many grasslands are being converted to agriculture and development. Grasslands now are one of the rarest habitat types in the world.

Expanded support of this program, through sponsorships, will provide valuable nesting, brood-rearing, foraging and winter habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, rabbits, songbirds and pollinators.

This year, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. This fatal disease has been found in free-ranging deer in Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm counties. 

Following public engagement meetings and surveys, hunting regulations were changed for the 2018 deer hunting seasons to address concerns of CWD. The DNR also provided additional staffed deer check locations as well as drop boxes for hunters to submit their harvested deer for testing. More than 30,000 deer were checked and tested this year. 

The coming year will see continued efforts to maintain the health of Michigan’s deer herd. For the latest information and updates on chronic wasting disease, visit michigan.gov/cwd.

The DNR also keeps a close eye on the health of Michigan’s fish, working continuously with Michigan State University’s Aquatic Animal Health Lab to be at forefront of disease identification, but also regularly analyzing groups of wild fish to test for diseases and performing fish health inspections at state hatcheries and on hatchery-reared fish.

In 2018, the DNR’s Office of the Great Lakes completed restoration of historical environmental impacts on the Menominee River, started the Saginaw Bay Fish Reef restoration project and made strides in implementing goals established in the Michigan Water Strategy.

The OGL staff also worked in communities to protect coastal resources, helped establish an alliance of Great Lakes island communities and facilitated the development of shared harbor visions in waterfront communities. 

As it has each year since its introduction in 2014, the Invasive Species Grant Program – implemented by the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources – provided roughly $3.6 million in 2018 for projects designed to prevent, detect, eradicate and control invasive pests on the land and in the water.

Because of this grant program, more than 285,000 acres of land and water have been surveyed for invasive species; more than 18,000 acres have been treated for invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants; and millions of people have been reached with educational information about invasive species.

“It’s clear that Michigan’s Invasive Species Grant Program is accomplishing many of the goals set for the program at the very start,” said Creagh. “The fight to stop, contain and eradicate invasive species from Michigan’s woods and water is critical to the long-term protection of these valuable natural resources, and this grant program is helping in that fight.”

Protecting the state’s natural resources and citizens

Located in every county of the state, Michigan conservation officers are first responders who provide lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. They are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by enforcing Michigan’s laws and regulations.

“A conservation officer has chosen to not only protect our people and local communities as first responders – they have devoted their career to being front-line defenders of our natural resources,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

As community first responders, several conservation officers were involved in lifesaving actions during 2018, including saving a woman from drowning, rescuing people involved in snowmobile and kayak accidents and those stranded in Lake Huron and on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Superior. As a result, eight conservation officers received the Michigan DNR Lifesaving Award.

The DNR Conservation Officer Academy graduated 24 new conservation officers in 2018. The new officers were selected from nearly 500 applicants to be a part of Recruit School No. 9 – the DNR’s 23-week training academy based in Lansing.

“Our division selects the most highly qualified candidates to receive additional training that no other law enforcement agency in the state offers,” Hagler said. “Our officers are molded into quality people who are embedded within the communities they serve.”

As Michigan’s oldest statewide law enforcement agency, the DNR Law Enforcement Division continues to expand its abilities to protect our natural resources. The 252 officers budgeted for the 2019 fiscal year is an all-time high.

Connecting people with the outdoors

Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, over 1,000 educators have received the DNR’s free wildlife curricula for their classrooms, information that helps give students an understanding of Michigan’s wildlife and their habitats. Kindergarten through high school educators can get these resources for use in the second half of the school year. Featured species include waterfowl, black bears and elk. 

The DNR recently – after two years of mapping and reviewing the condition of the state forest roads it maintains across both peninsulas – completed an initial inventory used to create interactive maps showing where ORV use is allowed on these roads. The maps will be available online at michigan.gov/forestroads and updated each spring. 

Look for an early 2019 “Showcasing the DNR” story detailing the efforts to map state forest roads, a resource to help people get out and enjoy Michigan’s public forests.

The DNR’s work in providing GIS products and services gained national recognition at the annual Esri User Conference, when the department earned a Special Achievement in GIS Award for its innovative application of mapping, data analytics and thought leadership.

“Within the past 20 years, the DNR has implemented an enterprise GIS system to support the growing needs and challenges of caring for Michigan’s natural resources and connecting the public to those resources,” said Dave Forstat, DNR GIS manager and chief data steward.

“As web GIS has become more prevalent, we’ve leveraged the benefits of increased communication and data accuracy to provide customers with the best possible data on trails, water, minerals, trees, wildlife, fish and other areas.”

This includes online tools – like the Open Data Portal, interactive maps, story maps and customized apps – aimed at connecting outdoor enthusiasts and natural resources professionals with the information they need.

This is just a brief glimpse of a year in the life of the DNR. More information about the department’s broad range of work to ensure healthy natural resources and outdoor recreation is available on the DNR website, redesigned in 2018 to make it easier to use, at michigan.gov/dnr.

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