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Trust Fund finances important projects, big and small


 

From land acquisitions to local outdoor recreation projects

Bond Falls in Ontonagon County is one site of a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund project to construct all access walkways and other features.

Bond Falls in Ontonagon County is one site of a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund project to construct all access walkways and other features.

As 2016 winds down, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources concludes its year-long celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Since its inception in 1976, the Trust Fund has bankrolled more than 2,000 projects, providing funding to local units of government and the DNR to purchase land and land rights or developing outdoor recreation projects. The fund is administered by the DNR.

The program was initially funded with state proceeds from royalties derived the sale of oil, gas and minerals and from leases. Today, recreation projects and land acquisitions are financed from investment income generated from the fund.

So far, more than $1 billion has been granted to local units of government and the DNR for land purchases or recreation projects—big and small—in all 83 Michigan counties.

DNR officials say they are just as proud of the numerous small and local grants they’ve awarded as the bigger, headline-generating, multi-million-dollar land acquisitions.

The DNR Pocket Park in Escanaba in Delta County was funded with Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars, providing outreach and education to the public.

The DNR Pocket Park in Escanaba in Delta County was funded with Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars, providing outreach and education to the public.

“All grant applications are scored on the same criteria,” said Steve DeBrabander, manager of the DNR’s grants management section. “The need for the project, the quality of the project, the recreational opportunity the project provides—there’s a long list of criteria and it doesn’t matter if it’s large or small.”

In fact, the Trust Fund Board several years ago created two initiatives—the small acquisition grant initiative and the small development grant initiative for small projects—$100,000 or less for acquisition and $50,000 or less for development.

“For several years in a row, the Trust Fund Board chose to fund all applications under those initiatives,” DeBrabander said.

Local projects make up a significant portion of Trust Fund grants annually.

DeBrabander said even a small project, like new restroom facilities in a local park, can make a big difference.

A 2014 grant to the city of Wakefield in Gogebic County, for work at Eddy Park on Sunday Lake, is a prime example. The grant funded rebuilding and remodeling the park restroom as well making the pier at the lake and the restrooms accessible to all.

“We’re very happy to have the improvements to the park,” said Wakefield city manager Richard Brackney. “It was necessary to do these things and it’s really made a difference. We have had a great increase in visitors into the park.”

In Republic in Marquette County, Republic Township supervisor John Ulrich said the money from the Trust Fund enabled the township to develop a new campground on land the township bought in 2004, but had been sitting vacant for a decade.

The township purchased pit toilets for the site, installed an RV dump station, and helped build the water system with its grant.

The township, which has been economically challenged since the Republic Mine closed in the 1990s, hopes the campground will help reinvigorate the community.

“I think it’s very important to the township and will over time be a driver for drawing people from M-95 into the park,” Ulrich said. “There’s a campground 20 miles south of us and one on Lake Michigamme, but those are the two closest modern campgrounds.”

Ulrich said the campground will attract vacationers and tourists; people who want to hike the Iron Ore Heritage Trail or view the old mining site as well as those who come to fish in the Michigamme River Basin or even visit the beach.

“It’s not quite complete yet,” Ulrich said. “We haven’t had any campers yet, but we do have some reservations for next year. We expect campers in May.”

Of course, not all local Trust Fund grants are small. Clark Lambros Park in Marquette – the dream of a late, successful businessman – would not have become a reality without the grant, said Michele Butler.

Butler, Lambros’ significant other, said he had a piece of land on Lake Superior valued at $1.1 million that he wanted to donate to the city for a park, but the city couldn’t afford to develop it.

So after Lambros died, Butler approached the Trust Fund with a proposal – to sell the land to the city for $812,000, which the Trust Fund provided, with the difference in the value to serve as the local match.

Butler then donated the proceeds from the sale for development of the park.

“Clark was an immigrant from Greece – he loved Marquette and wanted to give back to the community,” Butler said. “If we just donated the land without the Trust Fund money, the city wouldn’t have been able to get it done. The Trust Fund Board was so surprised that we were going to donate the funds back to build the park they wanted to hear it a couple of times.”

Butler, who is active in the Lambros family business – Vango’s Pizza and Lounge, the oldest restaurant in Marquette – said she’s delighted in how things turned out.

“The most rewarding part is the universal access,” she said. “It’s the only place around where people who have kids with wheelchairs can get to the beach. We feel like we did the right thing here.”

Gov. Rick Snyder visited the park this past summer and commemorated the Trust Fund 40th anniversary there, touring the site with Butler and members of her family.

Mindy Milos-Dale, director of the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Department in Oakland County, said much of the 15-park system, begun in the 1970s, is “funded in good part with Trust Fund money.”

“Many of those acres are the result of Trust Fund grants and some of the development was funded by the Trust Fund,” she said. “We’ve had four acquisition grants and three development grants.

“We’re big, big fans of the Trust Fund. It’s just the most wonderful thing to see them putting up the money to preserve these lands. I’m just so proud to be a resident of Michigan.”

Local projects can have an impact on people statewide.

Josh Zuiderveen, who was a consultant for Algoma Township, just north of Grand Rapids, said the West Michigan Archery Center, an archery education and practice facility, is bringing in visitors from all over the state.

The center, which is a Junior Olympics development facility, attracts “a lot of out-of-town visitors to our tournaments and coach certification classes,” Zuiderveen said. “And with a national tournament now on the schedule of events, it’ll bring people in from out-of-state as well.”

Zuiderveen said the project was a collaborative effort on the part of “a bunch of people.”

“It was the better part of a million dollars and the Trust Fund did most of the heavy lifting,” he said.

Although some local projects spur economic growth, many simply improve the local quality of life.

Ralph Reznick, the village president at Dimondale in Eaton County, said a Trust Fund grant turned a vacant piece of land on the Grand River where folks walked their dogs into Danford Island Park, which is a center of activity.

The village used grant money to build a bridge to the island across the river, create better access to the area, and install a universally accessible canoe/kayak ramp.

“The use that area is getting just jumped exponentially,” Reznick said. “Dog walking has increased so much that we’re trying to develop a dog park. People from the state office building go there to eat their lunch. It’s not uncommon to see people taking graduation pictures there, wedding pictures there – it is getting tremendous use.

“Now it’s a destination on the Grand River for kayakers and canoers, where people are putting in and taking out.”

Reznick said the community had been trying to raise money to develop the park, but, because of the Trust Fund, all they needed to raise was the 25-percent match.

“This thing,” Reznick concluded, “is huge.”

Get more information on the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, including project and acquisition lists, upcoming deadlines and more at www.michigan.gov/mnrtf.

 

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State parks help kick off 2017 resolutions with Shoe Year’s Day hikes


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Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to kick their New Year’s resolutions into high gear at a number of “Shoe Year’s Day” hikes taking place in Michigan state parks and recreation areas Dec. 31-Jan. 8.

Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to kick their New Year’s resolutions into high gear at a number of “Shoe Year’s Day” hikes taking place in Michigan state parks and recreation areas Dec. 31-Jan. 8.

For many people, a new year is the time for making resolutions. Frequently, those resolutions involve making a pledge to become healthier. With that sentiment in mind, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages residents to kick off 2017 by bringing Michigan’s great outdoors into the mix.

The DNR, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Recreation and Park Association are joining together to encourage residents to shift their New Year’s resolutions into high gear at “Shoe Year’s Day” hikes taking place Dec. 31-Jan. 8 at several Michigan state parks and recreation areas.

“There are countless benefits to using Michigan’s great outdoors as your gym,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. “People tend to work out longer, enjoy their workout more, and burn more calories by exercising outside, while enjoying the beauty of our state.”

All “Shoe Year’s Day” hikes are free; however, a Recreation Passport is required for any vehicle entering a Michigan state park or recreation areas. Snowshoes will be available to rent at most locations.

According to Olson, the Recreation Passport is a great value and may be the most affordable gym membership available. The annual pass costs residents $11 for vehicle access to 103 state parks and 138 state forest campgrounds, as well as parking for hundreds of trails and staffed boat launches.

The following Shoe Year’s guided hikes are scheduled:

Maybury State Park (Wayne County) Dec. 31 at 10 a.m.

Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County) Jan. 1 at 1 p.m.

Waterloo Recreation Area (Jackson County) Jan. 1 at 11 a.m.

Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County) Jan. 1 at 1 p.m.

Ludington State Park (Mason County) Jan. 7 at 6 p.m.

Rockport Recreation Area (Alpena County) Jan. 7 at noon

Sleeper State Park (Huron County) Jan. 7 at 6 p.m.

Straits State Park (Cheboygan County) Jan. 7  at 5 p.m.

Mitchell State Park (Wexford County) Jan. 8 at 1 p.m.

If you can’t make it to one of the fun events going on across the state, you can still take advantage of Michigan’s parks, trails and waterways on your own time by visiting a Michigan state park or recreation area, the Iron Belle Trail or the more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails.

Michigan is part of the nationwide First Day Hikes program coordinated by the National Association of State Park Directors. They were inspired by the First Day Hikes that originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. Last year, more than 55,000 people participated on guided hikes that covered over 133,000 miles on 1,100 hikes across the country.

Visit www.michigan.gov/shoeyearhikes to view the calendar of events.

Share your resolution on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by using #MiShoeYear.

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Duck poachers sentenced in Ottawa County


Nearly 60 mallards and wood ducks were shot illegally Oct. 9 in Ottawa County. Four men from that area were sentenced in the case last week. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Nearly 60 mallards and wood ducks were shot illegally Oct. 9 in Ottawa County. Four men from that area were sentenced in the case last week. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Four Ottawa County men ticketed recently for poaching nearly 60 wild ducks from a private agricultural pond near the Grand River watershed were sentenced last week in district court.

Tyler John Meerman, 24, of Conklin, Colson Thomas Modderman, 22, of Wyoming, Justin Allen Beckman, 20, of Coopersville, and Michael Duane Sorenson III, 20, of Marne pleaded guilty Tuesday, December 13, and were sentenced the same day in Ottawa County District Court.

The convictions resulted from an October 9 incident, near a popular waterfowl hunting area in Chester Township, which is situated in the northern part of the county. A total of 58 ducks were killed.

“These four individuals used over 200 pounds of corn to illegally entice these ducks in for the kill,” said DNR conservation officer Dave Rodgers. “The men were not using decoys or duck calls and therefore were not hunting, but rather, they were poaching.”

The use of bait for duck hunting is not allowed. The ducks poached included 35 wood ducks and 23 mallards, including 13 mallard hens.

Of the six ducks allowed in a daily bag limit, hunters can shoot four mallards, only two of which may be hens. Only three wood ducks may be harvested per hunter.

The four men were each ordered to pay $5,000 reimbursement, plus a $10 judgment fee. This total of $20,040 will go into the State of Michigan’s Fish and Game Fund, which is used to support healthy populations of fish and game through various activities, ranging from fish stocking to improving wildlife habitat.

In addition, the men were each ordered to pay $880 in fines and costs to the court. They were sentenced to serve 18-month probation terms, in lieu of 90 days in jail. If the men violate any condition of their probation, they will serve jail time at the discretion of the judge.

The convicted poachers have lost their hunting privileges for the rest of this year and the next 3 years. The firearms they used in the incident were condemned by the court and will go to state auction this spring, with proceeds going to the Fish and Game Fund.

“The citizens of Michigan play a vital role in protecting Michigan’s natural resources,” said Lt. Gerald Thayer, DNR District 7 law enforcement supervisor. “We very much appreciate the call that came in on October 9 to report these poachers.”

Operators of the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) line received the call at 7:38 a.m. that day, reporting an immense amount of shooting during the opening of the South Zone waterfowl hunting season.

Minutes later Rodgers and conservation officer Chris Simpson responded, headed for Chester Township. Rodgers said he found the four men on private property along an agricultural pond. He saw them shooting at crippled ducks on the water and gathering them.

One of the men left the area, but was located by Simpson during a traffic stop. Officers said he had a loaded firearm in the vehicle.

The ducks confiscated will be used at the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s Waterfowl Training School for training new officers on duck identification and necropsy studies.

Any ducks not used for this purpose will be donated to the Braveheart Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Twin lakes to help feed injured birds of prey, including bald eagles.

The DNR’s toll-free Report All Poaching (RAP) line number is 800-292-7800. Tips may be left anonymously.

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Forest Legacy Program looks to the future


About 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River, a cold-water trout stream, flow through the Pilgrim River Forest property. A conservation easement is in the process of being acquired here. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

About 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River, a cold-water trout stream, flow through the Pilgrim River Forest property. A conservation easement is in the process of being acquired here. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

We all want to leave some sort of lasting legacy—some kind of mark on the world—something that’s there for the next generation to take, use and carry on with.

That idea lies at the core of the Forest Legacy Program, which ensures that private forest land remains forested and open to the public forever.

Under the program, private forest landholders can transfer ownership or development rights through conservation easements to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to protect healthy forests.

Doing this leaves a rich legacy of working forest managed sustainably, wildlife habitat protected, landowners still able to harvest timber, and the public permitted to access the land for recreation into perpetuity.

Hovels Main Block walking path fall: Walking paths through the forests of the Pilgrim River property will allow for abundant opportunities for public recreation. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Hovels Main Block walking path fall: Walking paths through the forests of the Pilgrim River property will allow for abundant opportunities for public recreation. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

As part of the 1990 federal Farm Bill, the U.S. Forest Service was authorized to begin the Forest Legacy Program to help private forest landowners across the country develop and maintain sustainable forests.

As a result, Michiganders and visitors to the Great Lakes State today have access to more than 150,000 acres of unique, well-managed, private forest lands.

Kerry Wieber, forest land administrator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division, has managed the Forest Legacy Program in Michigan since 2006.

Wieber says it is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to protect some of our most environmentally important forests and ensure that they are managed sustainably,” she said. “It allows private forest landowners to manage their forests for timber and also ensure public access.”

The program provides federal funding to state agencies on a three-to-one matching basis.

States may request funding for up to three projects annually, totaling $10 million, but no more than $7 million for any one project.

Competition for the program’s grants is nationwide, so projects from Michigan are vying for funding with other states and U.S. properties.

“There’s no guarantee that any state will receive funding if projects from other states are deemed more worthy,” Wieber said.

A number of Michigan projects have been awarded Forest Legacy grant funding, and Michigan has used conservation easements and land acquisitions to protect unique forests.

An aerial view of the Elk Forest at Black River project shows Walled Lake and a smaller pond located on the forested property. An application for grant funding was submitted in November for this project. The land is currently in private ownership. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

An aerial view of the Elk Forest at Black River project shows Walled Lake and a smaller pond located on the forested property. An application for grant funding was submitted in November for this project. The land is currently in private ownership. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan has protected over 150,000 acres of forest lands through conservation easements and has acquired 4,170 acres that were added to the existing state forest system.

One example is the Gitcha-ninj Nebish (aka Thumb Lake) Forest, located just east of Boyne Falls in Charlevoix County.

Here, the DNR partnered with the Little Traverse Conservancy to seek funding for a conservation easement on 750 acres on the west side of Thumb Lake, which is owned by a church camp.

Ty Ratliff, director of donor relations with Little Traverse Conservancy, said his crew helped write the grant application and took on getting the land appraised as well as working with the landowner to make sure the process was understood.

“It’s a very complex and difficult process to go through,” Ratliff said. “This is a large working forest, already in the commercial forest program, 95 percent wooded, including nearly a mile of lake shoreline – so we protected this forest, as well as the shoreline.”

Gitcha-ninj Nebish is the Ottawa word for “Big Finger Water,” and considering the cultural and environmental importance of the area, the conservation easement was a “win-win,” Ratliff said.

“The landowner didn’t want to sell it,” he said. “They still own it and maintain control, they still get to timber it, and the conservancy got to see it protected. It allows for public access, so you and I and our grandkids are allowed to go on it to hunt and hike and it’s protected for perpetuity.”

The 750-acre site is adjacent to state-managed lands on three sides and the shoreline of Thumb Lake making up the fourth.

“In this case, the landowner sold the development rights below the appraised value, so the landowner essentially donated the match,” Ratliff said. “Once people understand what a working forest is – from a land perspective and a wildlife perspective, and how important it is to the local economy – this program is compelling. This is what Michigan is about: woods and water and recreation.”

Crisp Point, located in the northeastern part of the Upper Peninsula, is an example of where the DNR acquired land as part of the Forest Legacy Program.

Here, the DNR acquired 3,810 acres in Luce and Chippewa counties, including an inland lake and more than 2.5 miles of Lake Superior shoreline.

The grant provided nearly $6 million, 75 percent of the purchase price. A private individual donated the remaining 25 percent.

“It’s a highly visible site because the Crisp Point Lighthouse, which is county-owned, is adjacent to the property and draws a lot of visitors,” Wieber said, “So it draws a lot of visitors to the state land. It’s open to any use any other state forest land is open to. There’s snowmobile trails and numerous two-tracks used by ORVs.”

The way the program works is the DNR requests project nominations from the public, which are usually submitted by landowners or conservancies.

The Forest Legacy Subcommittee of the Michigan Forest Stewardship Advisory Committee reviews the nominations and makes a recommendation to the committee, which decides which projects to seek funding for and the amount requested.

Following state forester approval, proposals are submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. Grant applications are reviewed by a national panel, where they are prioritized and included in the president’s budget.

“No project is a slam-dunk,” Wieber said. “With these nationwide proposals, you’re competing with between 70 and 80 projects per year. The typical funding line for the last few years has been in the $50 million to $60 million range – so depending on the amount requested for each project, it funds 15 to 20 projects. It’s a highly competitive program.”

Deb Huff, executive director of the Michigan Forest Association, sits on the Forest Legacy Subcommittee. The association is a nonprofit organization of about 500 members, which represents private forest owners.

Huff said it’s really important that private landowners have the opportunity to choose to participate in this program.
“There are a lot of variations on how this could be handled,” Huff said. “I think Legacy is critical to conserving those areas that are most unique and at the same time in danger of being lost. Most people who love forests are supportive of this program.”

Wieber said Michigan’s Forest Legacy Program currently has funding for the acquisition of a conservation easement on about 1,200 acres in Houghton County on the Pilgrim River, just south of Houghton, and has submitted a grant request for an additional acquisition—Elk Forest at Black River. It’s currently privately owned, is directly adjacent to the Pigeon River Country State Forest, and includes a mile of river frontage.

If it’s funded, it will be the eighth Forest Legacy Program project in Michigan.

For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/privateforestland. Applications for the Forest Legacy Program are typically solicited in March and submitted by a June deadline.

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The Canada goose


Giant Canada geese were once thought to be extinct, but today are very plentiful around Michigan.

Giant Canada geese were once thought to be extinct, but today are very plentiful around Michigan.

Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial featured bird

Perhaps one of the most recognizable birds in Michigan is the large, regal-looking Canada goose. Once a rare sight in Michigan, Canada geese are now very plentiful in the state.

With black heads, beaks and necks, grey-brown bodies and a white chin strap, these birds can weigh between 5 and 14 pounds. The female Canada goose is slightly smaller than the male and weighs as much as 12 pounds.

The subspecies of goose that is most plentiful in Michigan is the giant Canada Goose or Branta canadensis maxima. Other subspecies of Canada goose pass through the state during spring and fall migration, but the giant subspecies is the only one that breeds in Michigan.

Geese are herbivores and prefer grass shoots, aquatic vegetation, seed heads and various grains. They will also feed in shallow water by tipping up and reaching into the water for aquatic roots and tubers.

Canada geese usually nest in March and April. The female lays three to eight eggs and incubates them for 25-28 days. Downy goslings can walk and follow their parents shortly after hatching. The youngsters grow quickly and acquire their adult plumage at about four months of age. The young birds stay with the adults for almost a year after hatching.

Adult Canada geese have very few predators, though raccoons, skunks, fox and crows sometimes prey on their eggs.

Because Canada geese are so plentiful, many would never suspect that the giant Canada goose subspecies was believed to be extinct in the 1950s. This subspecies was nearly extinct due to the effects of unregulated overhunting and wetland habitat loss.

By 1920, however, waterfowl enthusiasts had located a small population of giant Canada geese in Rochester, Minnesota. The Michigan Department of Conservation—now the Department of Natural Resources—raised geese at the Mason State Game Farm. Between 1928 and 1964, the DNR released 2,500 geese on 30 sites. That resulted in 14 breeding areas by 1969, with an estimated population of 9,400 birds.

In recent years, the giant Canada goose has experienced population explosions in areas throughout North America. This trend is due in part to the success of wildlife management programs and the adaptability of these magnificent birds.

In Michigan, the number of giant Canada geese counted each spring numbers over 300,000 today. They nest in every Michigan county but are most common (78 percent of population) in the southern third of the state.

In general, geese have benefited from the way humans have altered the landscape. Canada geese are attracted to areas that provide food, water and protection. Urban areas with lakes and ponds offer all the resources that geese need to survive. During the summer months, Canada geese can be a problem for some property owners.

Goose hunting in Michigan helps to keep goose populations in check. Michigan regularly ranks in the top three states in the nation for Canada goose hunters and harvest. The plentiful geese provide excellent opportunities for goose hunters.

Many of Michigan’s Canada geese migrate south in the winter in large V-shaped flocks. In the southern third of the state, some Canada geese remain all winter, feeding on waste grain in agricultural fields and aquatic vegetation on open waterways.

The Canada goose is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The year 2016 marks the centennial of the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds (also called the Migratory Bird Treaty), signed on Aug. 16, 1916. Three other treaties were signed shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. The Migratory Bird Treaty, the three other treaties signed later, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act form the cornerstones of efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders.

The 2016 Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial celebration has included monthly featured bird stories to our DNR Wildlife Viewing email subscribers, celebration events including a weekend of bird-based programming at state parks and visitor centers in June of 2016, and an education program for schools and conservation groups, and more.

To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100.  To sign up for DNR Wildlife Viewing emails, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on the red envelope.

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Hunting continues to drive economic impact in Michigan


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LANSING, Mich. – Hunting remains a vibrant annual tradition in Michigan, with generations across the state and beyond preparing for Opening Day on Tuesday, November 15. Along with that rich heritage comes a significant impact on Michigan’s economy.

This year, more than 525,000 hunters are expected to participate in the annual firearms season for deer, which accounts for the largest economic impact of hunting in the state. The DNR estimates more than 90 percent of Michigan hunters will pursue deer this year, with hunters spending an average of 7 days afield during the firearm season. In Michigan, 60 percent of hunters hunt only deer making the upcoming firearm season especially critical for the economy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates hunting in Michigan generates more than $2.3 billion in economic impact in the state, including expenses related to food and lodging and $1.3 billion spent on equipment.

“Hunting provides the perfect opportunity to get out and experience Michigan’s vast natural resources while contributing to the tremendous quality of life found here in our state,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Steve Arwood. “We know hunting drives travel to Michigan as well as within the state, and that travel in turn generates economic impact for communities and businesses across Michigan.”

In addition to the overall economic impact of hunting provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2015 leisure travel spending on hunting reached an estimated $123.8 million, up from $85 million in 2014, according to data from D.K. Shifflet. Hunting and fishing leisure travel spending came in at a combined $340 million in 2015.

“Deer hunting is one of Michigan’s most important outdoors traditions,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh. “We encourage hunters across the state to enjoy some treasured time with family and friends, support local economies and have a safe and fun time in the woods.”

A marketing partnership between Pure Michigan and the DNR is running a hunting-specific campaign to highlight the experience of the hunt in Michigan. The largely digital campaign has been running since August and has targeted younger sportsmen and sportswomen in addition to individuals whose interests, such as fishing and camping, may intersect with hunting. The goal of the campaign is to drive license sales and also continue to grow the number of hunters in the state. The campaign includes partnerships with Michigan Out of Doors, Outdoor Sportsman Group and OutdoorHub.com as well as a paid social media campaign.

In addition to in-state hunters, the campaign reaches hunters in neighboring states including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. In 2015, more than 75 percent of the page views on the Pure Michigan landing page on OutdoorHub.com came from outside the state of Michigan, up from 62 percent in 2014. This landing page, with original content and videos as well as key information on hunting and fishing in Michigan, continues to be a central component of Pure Michigan’s hunting and fishing marketing efforts.

“Hunting, as well as fishing, are prime examples of activities that people are passionate about and travel to take part in,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the MEDC. “Our campaign reminds people about the thrill of the hunt found in our state, and is reaching a younger audience to ensure these traditions continue for years to come.”

Michigan continues to be one of the top states in the nation for paid-hunting license holders and last year, there were 63,900 new customers for all hunting licenses combined. Both hunter satisfaction and hunter success rates increased from 2014 to 2015, according to the DNR.

Pure Michigan is a brand representing business, talent and tourism initiatives across Michigan. These efforts are driven by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which serves as the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business growth, jobs and opportunity with a focus on helping grow Michigan’s economy.

For more on the MEDC and its initiatives, visit michiganbusiness.org. For Michigan travel news, updates and information, visit michigan.org.

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DNR urges caution with fire as hunters head to the woods


 

With warm weather, remember to check for burn permits before burning yard debris

With dry conditions expected throughout much of the state this week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is urging hunters, and folks out cleaning up their yards, to keep fire safety in mind.

“There is a chance for rain tonight, but overall it’s very dry throughout much of the state,” said Jim Fisher, DNR state fire supervisor. “The DNR is reminding everyone enjoying their time in the woods, or those at home cleaning their yards, to be careful with campfires and debris burning this next week. If you do decide burn yard debris, remember to check the burn permit website or call the DNR’s toll-free number to check if burn permits are being issued in your area.”

The DNR encourages residents with Internet access to visit www.michigan.gov/burnpermit to get their burn permits online. Residents can use the interactive map to find the burn conditions in their area. If a “yes” is shown in the “burning permits issued” column, burning is allowed for that day. There is no need to print anything; this serves as a burn permit.

For those who prefer to get their burn permits by phone, the DNR’s toll-free burn permit number is 866-922-2876.

Dry conditions paired with increased outdoor activity had DNR firefighters, along with local fire departments, responding to 12 fires on 60 acres across the state last week. Firefighters’ actions saved seven structures, and only one outbuilding was lost.

Three of the fires were caused by campfires and four were started by people burning yard debris.

Fisher said these recent fires served as a reminder to be safe if camping while hunting.

“Keep an eye on your fire and extinguish it so it’s out cold before you leave it,” he said. “A good rule of thumb for anyone burning outdoors is to always have water and tools available when burning.”

For more information about wildfire prevention, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires. To check if burn permits are being issued in your area, go to www.michigan.gov/burnpermit.

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DNR sees success in fall walleye stocking


A healthy fall walleye fingerling, reared in DNR ponds near Belmont in Kent County, is ready to be released into Crystal Lake in Montcalm County. Photo courtesty Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A healthy fall walleye fingerling, reared in DNR ponds near Belmont in Kent County, is ready to be released into Crystal Lake in Montcalm County. Photo courtesty Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Fall is harvest time in Michigan, and while most may be thinking of picking apples or plucking pumpkins, Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries crews are thinking about walleye.

Specifically, they’re collecting the last of the walleye fingerlings that are raised in rearing ponds for stocking and getting the fish to where they want them to be.

For the most part, walleye are reared for a short period of time in ponds and stocked as spring fingerlings—most at less than 2 inches in length—in high densities. But fisheries biologists know that fall fingerlings can be stocked at much lower densities and produce better results than spring fingerlings.

Volunteer members of the West Michigan Walleye Club lift a fyke net (a bag net for catching fish) of fingerlings out of a DNR walleye pond near Belmont in Kent County. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

Volunteer members of the West Michigan Walleye Club lift a fyke net (a bag net for catching fish) of fingerlings out of a DNR walleye pond near Belmont in Kent County. Photo courtesy Michigan DNR.

Recently, DNR technician supervisor Ed Pearce brought his crew (technicians Mike Wilson and Matt Smith) to the state’s walleye ponds near Belmont in Kent County to get the walleye out of the ponds and into a couple of southern Michigan lakes.

A dozen or so members of the West Michigan Walleye Club, who spent the summer babysitting the ponds, assisted the crew in the operation.

“We have found that if we put in fall fingerlings, their survival is very, very good,” said Jay Wesley, the DNR’s Lake Michigan Basin coordinator. “It’s really the key to stocking walleye in southern Michigan. We’ve done it with fry, but it’s really hit or miss.”

Although walleye are much in demand—anglers love them—most southern Michigan waters are not ideal for the fish, which prefer cooler water than most southern Michigan lakes maintain in the summer.

In addition, most lakes have established fish populations that predate heavily upon the tiny walleye. By stocking fall fingerlings, fisheries managers not only enjoy better fish survival but are also more likely to establish fishable walleye populations.

“If we can get a cool-water hatchery facility, our capacity to raise more fall fingerlings would increase,” Wesley said. “Right now, we’re kind of doing it experimentally, pond by pond, but we need a coordinated effort at one hatchery to really get it going.”

At some ponds, crews leave a percentage of the fish there after spring harvest to grow into fall fingerlings. At Belmont this year, production was so poor that fisheries managers decided to leave them all in the pond to grow until fall.

The operation at Belmont consists of three ponds—a fill pond, fed by a natural creek; the walleye pond; and a minnow pond, which is stocked early in the season with fathead minnows that will reproduce and provide forage for the walleye pond.

Members of the club tended the ponds all spring and summer. In spring, they fertilize the ponds to produce the plankton the fry need to survive.

“For six weeks, we put 500 to 600 pounds of fertilizer—a mixture of alfalfa and soy meal—into the ponds to provide the nutrients for the plankton,” said Al Davis, club director. “We started with 100 pounds of minnows in the minnow pond, and we produced more than 400 pounds of minnows this year—and we’ve still got minnows in there.

“We had more than 90 man-hours in just feeding fish and transferring the minnows from the minnow pond to the walleye pond.”

Fall harvest involves lowering the water level to congregate the fish more closely, then installing trap nets to collect them. It takes two days of water-lowering and net-setting to get the bulk of the fish.

Next, the remaining water is drained into what the guys call a “wolf trap”—a concrete and screen box below the pond’s discharge tube—where the remaining fish are entrapped and netted out.

“We’ll get 90 percent of the fish out with the nets, then we’ll seine the wolf trap,” Pearce said. “We’ll get all of those fish.”

Pond production is highly variable, depending largely on environmental factors over which no one has control. The poor production this spring led to a bonanza of fall fingerlings.

“It has been a good year this year,” Davis said, as he handled nets at the recent fingerling harvest. “In 2010, we had a bunch of fish, but a flood came through and blew the dike. The fish all wound up in the Grand River.

“But since 2009, this pond has produced more than 800,000 walleye fry.”

Raising fingerlings is costly and time-consuming. The club chipped in to help defray the cost of fertilizer and provided the bulk of the labor.

Pearce, who praised the club effusively, said the program would be nearly impossible without the club’s assistance.

“These fall fingerlings are worth their weight in gold,” Pearce said. “We use them in lakes that are full of bluegills; bluegills are good predators, so we put them in at a size that they’re not going to get eaten up.”

Fall fingerlings tend to measure 5 to 7 inches. It’ll take about two years for them to recruit into the fishery, when they become legal targets at 15 inches.

Schoolchildren from two nearby schools also attended the first day of the fall fingerling harvest.

For his part, Pearce said the fall fingerling harvest is one of his favorite tasks as a fisheries worker.

“This is enjoyable,” Pearce said. “You’re doing your job, and you’re educating kids, too. These are the days we look forward to.”

Get more information on DNR fish stocking at michigan.gov/fishing.

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DNR seeks bear den locations in northern Lower Peninsula


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While out in the field, hunters and trappers could come upon a denned black bear. The Department of Natural Resources is looking for locations of denned bears in the northern Lower Peninsula, in order to fit them with a radio collar for an ongoing bear management program.

“Information gathered from bears assists in managing the black bear population,” said Mark Boersen, wildlife biologist at the DNR Roscommon Customer Service Center. “Currently, we have four female bears being monitored from both air and ground using radio tracking equipment.”

After locating a denned bear, DNR biologists will determine if the animal is a good candidate for a radio collar. Bears that are selected will be sedated by a wildlife biologist and fitted with a collar and ear tags. A small non-functional tooth will be collected to determine the bear’s age and to provide a DNA sample. Upon completion of the short procedure, biologists will carefully return the bear to its den, where it will sleep through the remainder of the winter months.

Those who encounter bear dens are asked to record the location, with a GPS unit if possible, and contact Mark Boersen at (989) 275-5151 or boersenm@michigan.gov with specific location information. It is illegal to disturb a bear den or to disturb, harm, or molest a bear in its den.

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Be an ethical hunter: buy a license before you go 


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And don’t loan kill tags

Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urge deer hunters to engage in an ethical hunt: Buy a license before going out and don’t loan kill tags.

Every deer hunting season, DNR conservation officers encounter individuals engaged in unethical hunting practices. These officers tackle many cases of individuals buying hunting licenses after harvesting deer or loaning kill tags to friends or relatives.

“Each year, we see cases of individuals waiting to buy licenses until after they have shot a deer,” said Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “We remind all hunters that you must buy your license before you go out to hunt and have it in your possession when afield. Buying a license is not only the ethical and responsible thing to do; it is the law. Harvesting a deer without a license is poaching.”

Deer poaching in Michigan carries a restitution payment of $1,000 per deer, a $200 to $1,000 fine and jail time up to 90 days. In addition, a violator’s hunting privileges are suspended for three years. Under the new law that took effect in 2014, antlered deer are assessed an additional $1,000 in restitution plus the standard $1,000 for illegally killing any deer. In addition, deer with eight points but not more than 10 are $500 a point, while deer with 11 points or more are assessed a penalty of $750 per point.

Additional years of hunting privileges will be revoked for violators. This includes an additional two years of revoked hunting privileges for the first offense and an additional seven years for a second or subsequent offences. Michigan also participates in the Wildlife Violator Compact, which includes hunting revocation in participating states.

Another unethical practice encountered frequently each hunting season in Michigan is the loaning of kill tags to an unlicensed individual who has harvested a deer.

“Loaning kill tags is among the top violations we see while on patrol, and is often done for friends or relatives who are from out of state to avoid paying the nonresident license fee,” said Molnar. “Kill tags must be validated and attached immediately to your harvested deer and visible for inspection. It is unlawful to loan out or borrow kill tags.”

For more information on deer hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/deer.

To report a natural resource violation, please call the Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/rap.

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