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DNR’s fire program celebrates 100 years


Historical photo depicts a pull-behind water unit connected to hand lines for fire suppression.



Historical photo depicts a pull-behind water unit connected to hand lines for fire suppression.

Historically, it’s the years with the large wildfires that garner the most public attention. For example, in 2012—the year of the Duck Lake fire—497 fires burned 23,814 acres.

In 2014, Michigan set a new record when it came to wildfires—a record low. This past fire season, 167 fires burned 550 acres across the state.
“The record low numbers for wildfires can be attributed to damp weather conditions,” said Paul Kollmeyer, who oversees the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ wildfire suppression and prevention efforts.
In addition to the wet weather conditions keeping fire numbers low, Kollmeyer said the DNR’s work to spread fire prevention messages has been key in helping to reduce the number of wildfires caused by people.

DNR fire tower near Arnold, Mich., circa 1965.

DNR fire tower near Arnold, Mich., circa 1965.

“Nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by people,” he said. “Our strategy has always been to get an educational prevention message out to folks of all ages. Through our efforts most people now take extra steps to be careful with fire. They also understand that they need to check if the DNR is issuing burn permits before they burn leaves and yard debris.”
Spreading the fire prevention message across the state requires a lot of boots on the ground at schools, parades, fairs and other events. The DNR has 68 fire officers deployed at 48 stations across the state who, in addition to suppressing wildfires on public and private land, join their friend Smokey Bear to remind folks to be careful with fire.
“Fire officers are required to have diverse job skills,” Kollmeyer said. “They might be interacting with elementary school kids one day and building a firebreak the next day. Their jobs require a lot of specialized training. It’s a job that has evolved a lot over the past 100 years.”

The historic low number of wildfires corresponds to another historic event in Michigan: 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of William J. Pearson being appointed as the state’s first full-time forest fire officer. Pearson developed the state’s fire control organization, starting with the aid of a few game, fish and forest wardens and some part-time assistance from a handful of temporary patrolmen, lookouts and fire wardens.
He also developed a system of lookout towers and telephone lines for spotting and reporting fires. These tools and techniques gradually evolved into the fire suppression organization the DNR has today.

Prior to 1914, forest fire suppression and prevention was handled by the timber industry, funded by a fee assessed on their ownership acreage paid to the Northern Forest Protective Association. By 1907, the Legislature authorized the employment of “not more than 10 district deputy game, fish and forestry wardens to employ firefighters, impress labor and enforce the fire laws.” But it was the appointment of Pearson in 1914 that really got the ball rolling. That year, there were 935 fires reported that burned 408,765 acres. The private fire associations began to fall by the wayside as the state stepped up fire prevention and suppression efforts. Tactics for fighting fires began to change at that time, too. When World War I began in 1914, horses were still being used to haul cannons and other heavy equipment; by the end of the war, tanks and other mechanized equipment had proved their value in navigating difficult terrain and began to be incorporated into firefighting tactics replacing horse drawn plows, axes and shovels. This was a turning point in the way Michigan battled wildfires back then and mechanized firefighting remains the most efficient means to combat wildfires today.

“The reason we don’t have million-acre fires anymore like we did in the 1800s is because we have mechanization and a road system to quickly respond with off-road firefighting equipment operated by skilled fire officers,” Kollmeyer said. But it didn’t happen overnight. In 1923, 1,336 fires burned 466,474 acres. Two years later, 3,887 fires consumed 733,750 acres. And in 1930, there were 4,690 fires reported, burning 290,300 acres. But gradually, both the number of fires and the destruction they wreaked were reduced.

A big change occurred in 1944, when Smokey Bear was adopted in a national campaign to engage the public in fire prevention.
“We still message with Smokey’s help, even after 70 years,” Kollmeyer said. “Our fire program is not just about fighting fires, it’s about preventing fires, too. People have changed and their mindset has changed.”
But the mission of fire officers hasn’t. “Fire officers were originally hired for prevention and coordination,” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”

Prescribed fire designed to enhance wildlife habitat or reduce hazardous and invasive vegetation has become a large portion of a fire officer’s duties in recent years.
“This year in Michigan, there were more acres of beneficial prescribed burn treatments than what we responded to for wildfires,” Kollmeyer said. “We conducted 105 burns for 10,488 acres to enhance wildlife habitat, improve forest regeneration, to control invasive plants and to reduce the risk of wildfires.”

When not actively suppressing fires, fire officers spend a lot of time training—maintaining their skills as well as developing new ones. “We cooperatively train rural fire departments in wildfire fighting techniques, maintain equipment and assist with the development of new equipment,” explained Dana Pelton, a DNR forest fire officer supervisor in Gaylord. “Additionally, we write plans outlining parameters that will provide the desired results for upcoming prescribed burns.”
Fire officers will also assist with other forestry activities—marking timber for sale, treating diseases and removing hazardous trees (such as at Belle Isle in Detroit this year), she said. A background in forestry is helpful for fire officers, but it isn’t the only attribute the DNR looks for when recruiting. Ability to communicate with the public, make presentations and mechanical aptitude all come into play.

“It’s a multi-faceted job,” Pelton said. “There’s a lot more to it than just driving around a fire truck.”
And, of course, fire officers will continue to work on enlightening the public to the dangers of wildfires. “You never know about the fire you prevented, but that’s the way we like it,” Pelton said. “And for those that aren’t prevented—we’ll be ready.”

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Men face charges in duck poaching case


Two Kawkawlin, Michigan men have been ordered to pay $4,000 each in restitution payments to the Game and Fish Protection Fund and $625 each in fines and court costs, and were sentenced to five days in jail for being over the bag limit for redhead ducks, according to conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Travis Vennix, 22, and Timothy Diehl, 22, both of Kawkawlin, in Bay County, admitted to shooting 20 redhead ducks while hunting Oct. 13. The bag limit for redheads is two per hunter. In addition to their fines, restitution and jail time, both had their hunting privileges for the remainder of 2014 revoked, along with the next three calendar years. They were sentenced last week by Judge Allen Yenior of the 81st District Court in Arenac County.

Vennix and Diehl were waterfowl hunting Oct. 13 when they encountered DNR conservation officer Nick Atkin, who was checking waterfowl hunters, at the Pine River boating access site in Arenac County. Officer Atkin noted they were acting nervous when he spoke to them, but because of the darkness and fog he couldn’t see that the pair hid a stringer of 18 redhead ducks under the boat dock at the site. When Vennix and Diehl arrived on shore with their boat, Officer Atkin noted they had two redhead ducks in the boat with them.

On Oct. 14, the DNR received a Report All Poaching (RAP) Line complaint from a hunter who found a stringer of 18 redhead ducks shoved underneath the boat dock at the access site. Officer Atkin and conservation officer Phil Hudson tracked down the hunters Officer Atkin had encountered the previous night and obtained a confession from them that they shot 20 redhead ducks while hunting that day.

Any fish, game or natural resources violation can be anonymously reported to the DNR’s RAP Line at 800-292-7800. Information also can be given through an online reporting form on the DNR website. Information leading to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the Game and Fish Protection Fund.

For more information on conservation officers and the work they do, go to www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

 

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Waterford man charged with elk poaching 


 

A 51-year-old man from Waterford, Michigan, has confessed to killing an elk on the opening day of firearm deer season, according to Department of Natural Resources conservation officers who investigated the incident.

A deer hunter hunting in Montmorency County, north of Atlanta, on Nov. 15, contacted the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Line to report he had found a dead elk. Conservation officers from the DNR’s Gaylord Customer Service Center responded and located the 4×4 bull elk and determined it had been killed by a single gunshot.

After a lengthy investigation by the officers, a suspect was identified and a confession was obtained. Charges currently are under review by the Montmorency County Prosecutor.

“Good old-fashioned police work by our officers brought this case to a successful end,” Lt. Jim Gorno said. “We continue to encourage the public to be diligent in watching out for our natural resources. Without the hunter calling the RAP Line to report this case, it could have gone unsolved.”

Conservation officers continue to investigate a number of poaching-related incidents involving elk in northern Michigan. Anyone with information regarding any incidents is asked to call the DNR Law Division at the Gaylord Customer Service Center at 989-732-3541 or the 24-hour RAP Line at 800-292-7800.

Any fish, game or natural resources violation can be reported to the DNR’s RAP Line or with the online reporting form, available at the DNR website www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

Information leading to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the Game and Fish Protection Fund. Information also may be left anonymously.

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Bring deer by DNR deer check station


The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to stop by a DNR deer check station after their successful harvest, for DNR staff to collect important data from their deer and to receive their 2014 cooperator patch. Photo from DNR.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to stop by a DNR deer check station after their successful harvest, for DNR staff to collect important data from their deer and to receive their 2014 cooperator patch. Photo from DNR.

Receive deer cooperator patch

 

The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to stop by a DNR deer check station after their successful harvest, for DNR staff to collect important data from their deer and to receive their 2014 cooperator patch. A deer head (antlers must still be attached on bucks) or entire carcass must be presented to receive a patch. Data the DNR collects at check stations contributes key information to aid in management decisions made throughout the state. As part of continued efforts to be mobile-friendly, the DNR now has made it easier to find locations to check deer. Smartphone users now can text “Deer Check” to 468311 and they will receive a text back with a link to the DNR’s interactive deer check station locator map. Hunters can utilize their smartphone’s GPS function to find the deer-check location closest to them and then get turn-by-turn directions to that location to have their deer checked. For questions on hunting and firearm rules and regulations, please contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

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Latest Asian carp eDNA sampling produces negative results


 

The Department of Natural Resources announced that the latest round of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling on the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County produced all negative results. Earlier this month, the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a single positive eDNA result for silver carp—a species of Asian carp—within the river, discovered during water sampling efforts conducted this summer.
Immediately after the DNR learned of the positive sample, the agency worked with USFWS to conduct this third eDNA surveillance effort. The two agencies collected 200 additional water samples on the lower Kalamazoo River Oct. 7 and 8. In addition to sampling, the DNR increased the presence of staff along the river to enlist anglers as part of surveillance efforts.
The previous positive result indicated the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds.
“We greatly appreciate the quick work by USFWS to collect and evaluate these latest samples,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “We are pleased these samples were negative, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to keep Asian carp out of Michigan’s waters are over.”

The DNR will continue to take action in response to the previous positive result. Those actions will include:
• Conducting additional sampling efforts in the spring with USFWS to continue monitoring the river.
• Enhancing DNR fishery survey efforts, including expanding our outreach to anglers.
• Continuing public education efforts about all aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp, to increase general understanding of this significant threat to Michigan’s waterways.
Anglers and boaters are a first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters.

Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear after each trip. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live wells and attach to boat trails, anchors and fishing gear.
For even more information on Asian carp, visit www.michigan.gov/asiancarp.

 

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Cedar Springs man among those honored by DNR


 

Pictured here are just four of the more than 40 hunting education instructors statewide honored for 40 years of volunteer service. Pictured (L to R) are DNR Director Keith Creagh; instructor James Johnson, Houghton Lake; instructor John Seelman, North Muskegon; instructor David Hansen, Cedar Springs; instructor Joseph Primozich, Pentwater; and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

Pictured here are just four of the more than 40 hunting education instructors statewide honored for 40 years of volunteer service. Pictured (L to R) are DNR Director Keith Creagh; instructor James Johnson, Houghton Lake; instructor John Seelman, North Muskegon; instructor David Hansen, Cedar Springs; instructor Joseph Primozich, Pentwater; and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

DNR honors longtime hunter education instructors for volunteer service

For nearly 70 years, Michigan has conducted hunter education classes, teaching new hunters firearms safety and the regulations behind having a safe and successful hunt. This year, the Department of Natural Resources has honored those longtime instructors who have been with the program more than 40 years with special recognition, including one from Cedar Springs. They have been honored at a series of Natural Resources Commission meetings.

“Our hunter education program has trained over 1 million hunters since its start in 1946 and currently trains about 20,000 students a year,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “We could not do this without the help of our hunter education instructors who volunteer because of their love of the outdoors and their deep interest in passing that interest along to the next generation of conservation leaders.”

There are at least 40 active hunter education instructors who have more than 40 years of service to the program, including Charles Duncan, of Bay City, who is the longest-serving instructor, having volunteered now for 49 years. Instructors honored at the Oct. 9 NRC meeting in Cadillac for their service include:

James A. Johnson, Houghton Lake (46 years).

John M. Seelman, North Muskegon (44 years).

David E. Hansen, Cedar Springs (44 years).

Joseph W. Primozich, Pentwater (43 years).

While having a crop of seasoned, veteran instructors is an advantage for Michigan’s hunter education program, there also is a need to recruit new instructors for the program in all regions of the state, said Lt. Andrew Turner, who manages the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division’s recreational safety program. “We greatly appreciate our veteran instructors who have been with the program for more than 40 years. If you have an interest in passing along your interest in hunting to new hunters, we need you in our program,” Turner said. “This is a great way to ensure that the sport you enjoy today is enjoyed by future generations of hunters.”

For more information on Michigan’s hunter education program, visit www.michigan.gov/huntereducation.

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DNR releases 2014 deer season forecast 


OUT-deer-season-forecastThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that its annual deer season forecast (2014 Deer Hunting Prospects) is now available online. DNR deer program biologists predict that hunters this season will see similar success rates as in 2013. The forecast is designed to give hunters a better idea of what to expect in the woods this season and includes:

Regional information breakdowns for the Upper Peninsula, the northern Lower Peninsula and the southern Lower Peninsula.

An overview of important changes for this license year, including information on multiple-year deer regulations, the new hunting and fishing license options, deer management unit boundaries for southern Michigan, and more.

Updates on wildlife health and diseases.

To acces the forecast, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr then click on hunting & trapping, then click on big game. Scroll down the page to the white-tailed deer section and click on 2014 deer season forecast.

For more tips and information on having a safe, successful deer season (including location of deer-check stations, antler point restriction FAQs and hunting digests), visit the DNR website www.michigan.gov/deer.

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Fuelwood permits still available from the DNR  


 

 

With winter quickly approaching, the Department of Natural Resources reminds residents that fuelwood permits are available for the 2014 season, which runs through Dec. 31.
“Days are getting shorter and as much as we don’t want to think about it, it’s time to start preparing for winter,” said Bill O’Neill, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “Burning wood is an economical way for folks to heat their homes, cabins and hunting camps if they’re willing to put in some work collecting firewood.”

Mail-in order forms are available online at the DNR’s website, www.michigan.gov/fuelwood.
Permits cost $20 and are for use on designated state forest land in the northern two-thirds of the state and allow for collection of up to five standard cords of wood per household. Fuelwood collected with a permit can be used for personal use only and cannot be resold or traded. The permits are good for 90 days, but all permits will expire Dec. 31, 2014.

In response to residents’ heating energy needs this past winter, the DNR conducted early permit sales—more than a month before the traditional starting date of April 1. Because of the unique winter, the DNR is allowing those who purchased an emergency permit to purchase another regular permit in the same calendar year.
Through the successful program, which has been in effect for decades, between 2,500 and 3,500 permits are issued each year. For further information on how and where to purchase a personal-use fuelwood permit, contact your local DNR office or visit www.michigan.gov/fuelwood.

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Muskellunge harvest tag issue


The Department of Natural Resources has found a key error on this year’s muskellunge harvest tag.

The tag is legally required for anglers to be in possession of a muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) harvested in Michigan waters. The months of April, May and June were omitted from the tags. Anglers are requested to write the date of harvest and harvest location on the line provided on the tag, if they harvest a muskellunge during this time frame. Anglers who harvest muskellunge after June can use the tag as indicated.
The muskellunge harvest tag is free (except for those under 17 years of age and nonresident anglers, who would need to purchase a DNR Sportcard to obtain the tag) and available at all license agents. Those fishing on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters using a Wisconsin fishing license are also required to use the tag if they harvest a muskellunge in Michigan waters.

All muskellunge shall be immediately released unless the fish is to be tagged for harvest. If harvested, it should be tagged with a valid muskellunge harvest tag. The possession limit for muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) is one per angler per fishing season (April 1 through March 31). While registration of muskellunge harvest is not required, registering all harvested fish greatly assists the DNR with management of this important species and is encouraged. For more information or to register a fish, visit www.michigan.gov/muskie.

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Help protect habitat at state parks


Volunteers needed to remove garlic mustard

 

Residents are invited to enjoy spring weather, flower blooms and the outdoors at Michigan state parks, and do some good at the same time.

The Department of Natural Resources recently announced the schedule of May volunteer steward activities at state parks in southwest Michigan. Volunteers are needed to help remove garlic mustard, an invasive, non-native plant that grows in the forest understory. This invasive weed crowds out native wildflower populations, like trillium and bloodroot, and can spread rapidly if not kept under control. Removal is similar to weeding a garden and it’s an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors.

Dates, times and locations (counties) of group workdays are:

Saturday, May 3; P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon), noon to 2 p.m.

Sunday, May 4;  Holland State Park (Ottawa County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 10; Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, May 17; Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, May 18; Ludington State Park (Mason County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 31; Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County),10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work (including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes) and are asked to bring gloves and drinking water.

Volunteers are also able to work on an individual basis pulling, mapping and locating garlic mustard populations. Large groups are asked to register using the forms available on the DNR website. Please contact Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov for registration or questions about the volunteer steward workdays.

 

 

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