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DNR sees increase in Master Anglers


Janet Huff, of Marcellus, Michigan, shows off the 31.25-inch channel catfish she caught in Devils Lake in July 2016.

Janet Huff, of Marcellus, Michigan, shows off the 31.25-inch channel catfish she caught in Devils Lake in July 2016.

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced the 2016 results from its Master Angler program. This program, in place since 1973, recognizes large fish caught by recreational anglers.

This past year, 1,807 anglers representing 24 states and the countries of Canada and Austria submitted catches that were recognized as Master Angler fish. That’s an increase from the 1,542 fish recognized in 2015 and nearly double the 987 fish recognized in 2014. Of the entries accepted, 1,078 were in the catch-and-keep category while 729 were in the catch-and-release category. A total of 241 anglers received certificates for fish placing in the top five for both categories.

Here is a breakdown of the most popular 2016 Master Angler entries by species:

  • 201 bluegill
  • 101 smallmouth bass
  • 93 crappie
  • 90 common carp
  • 89 pumpkinseed sunfish
  • 88 walleye
  • 87 freshwater drum
  • 75 channel catfish
  • 73 rock bass

Master Angler entries for 2016 included one state record: the 9.98-pound smallmouth bass caught on the Indian River by Robert Bruce Kraemer of Treasure Island, Florida.

Submissions already are being accepted for the 2017 Master Angler program, and will be until Jan. 10, 2018. To download an application, visit Michigan.gov/masterangler. Anglers are encouraged to submit their applications as they catch their fish and to not hold onto them until the end of the year.

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DNR to answer questions about CWD in Mecosta County 


 

Feb. 22 town hall meeting in Morley

The Michigan departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recently announced the finding of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a Mecosta County deer farm facility.

There are two upcoming opportunities for interested landowners, hunters and deer farmers to get the latest information and ask questions about this finding:

For deer farmers – Wednesday, Feb. 1
MDARD will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. at the Big Rapids Holiday Inn, 1005 Perry Ave., Big Rapids.

For hunters and area landowners – Wednesday, Feb. 22
The DNR will host a town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Morley Stanwood High School Cafetorium, 4700 Northland Drive, Morley.

At the Feb. 22 meeting, local DNR wildlife biologist Pete Kailing, DNR deer management specialist Chad Stewart and DNR wildlife veterinarian Kelly Straka will present information on CWD, its effects on deer and deer populations, and the DNR’s CWD response to date. Following presentations, the panel will welcome questions.

“I have been getting many calls from hunters from the area, who want to understand our next steps,” said Stewart. “We scheduled our meeting a few weeks out in order to be able to share the most complete information available. When battling a disease like CWD, it is critical that local hunters and landowners are on board to help with the fight. We are thankful for the great cooperation we have received so far.”

CWD affects members of the deer family, including elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals.

To date, there is no evidence the disease presents any risk to non-cervids including humans, either through contact with an infected animal or from handling venison. As a precaution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization recommend infected animals not be consumed as food by either humans or domestic animals.

To learn more about CWD, visit www.michigan.gov/cwd.

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State is home to thousands of miles of trails, great riding opportunities


A rider heads out on a trail, having just made a highway crossing. Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails to enjoy.

A rider heads out on a trail, having just made a highway crossing. Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails to enjoy.

Ask snowmobilers around the country about the best places to ride a sled, and the Great Lakes State is sure to come up in conversation.

Michigan is known by snowmobilers nationally for its unique combination of abundant and dependable snow, exciting terrain and an extensive network of nearly 6,500 miles of designated snowmobile trails.

American Snowmobiler magazine recently featured Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula on the top of its list of “25 Epic Snowmobiling Destinations.”

“The area’s location by Lake Superior guarantees plenty of lake-effect snow each winter. This natural phenomenon coupled with state-of-the-art grooming equipment makes the western U.P. a premier destination in the Midwest,” the magazine said. “As you travel over 2,000 miles of trails you can see Lake Superior ice caverns, scenic overlooks, frozen waterfalls and abandoned railroad beds that lead you over majestically high trestle bridges.”

Michigan’s snowmobile trails are among the finest anywhere.

Michigan’s snowmobile trails are among the finest anywhere.

Over the past several years, SnowGoer magazine has named the Upper Peninsula the best overall snowmobiling area, as well as the area with the most scenic snowmobiling and the best trail riding.

“If you close your eyes and imagine perfect riding, what do you see? Do you visualize trails weaving through the forest? Do you see hotels with more snowmobiles than cars in the parking lot?” said an excerpt from SnowGoer. “Well, welcome to the best all-around snowmobile spots in North America. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with an average snowfall of 60 to over 200 inches, offers plenty of snowmobiling amid spectacular natural beauty.”

As these national publications have recognized, Michigan’s draw for snowmobilers, besides the plentiful snow and vast trail network, is the unique opportunity for sightseeing along the way – and a great deal of those sights to see are located in Michigan’s state parks.

“A lot of snowmobilers visit places like the Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Indian Lake State Park and Tahquamenon Falls State Park,” said Ron Yesney, U.P. trails coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Bond Falls and Brockway Mountain are other popular sightseeing destinations as well.”

The U.P. has about 3,300 miles of state snowmobile trails, which connect communities, provide access to beautiful scenery and draw riders from near and far.

“We really have an outstanding snowmobile system in the U.P., that’s very accessible and links you to snowmobile-friendly towns,” said Rob Katona, DNR central U.P. trail specialist.

The northern Lower Peninsula also is a popular snowmobiling destination.

The new, highly anticipated Snowmobile Trail No. 37 in Wexford and Manistee counties recently opened for the 2016-17 snowmobile season. The 16.5-mile trail, which runs from Yuma to Copemish, connects the trail systems near Cadillac to trails north in Benzie, Manistee and Leelanau counties.

“This new connector trail will greatly enhance snowmobiling opportunities in the northwest Lower Peninsula, as well as increase tourism in towns such as Mesick and Copemish,” said Todd Neiss, a DNR recreation specialist who works out of the Cadillac office.

Another northern Michigan snowmobiling hotspot is the Gaylord area, which,  according to American Snowmobiler, “offers great winter fun with rolling hills, thousands of acres of unspoiled forests and reliable snowfall.

“Sledders are welcomed by local businesses and you can ride your machine right up to your door and back out onto the trail. Plus there are many trail connectors for uninterrupted travel.”

The magazine calls the trail from Gaylord to Indian River “the crown jewel of snowmobile trails in northern Michigan. The trail runs along an abandoned railroad corridor, crosses the Sturgeon River and winds through some of the most spectacular scenery in northern Michigan.”

While the focus tends to be on the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula when it comes to snowmobiling, there are plenty of opportunities to ride in southwestern Michigan as well, with about 700 miles of sled trails.

“There are a lot of trails in southwest Michigan that are close to population centers that many folks don’t even think about. Many of these trails go through DNR lands, and can be very scenic,” Neiss said. “While snow conditions are much more temperamental in southwest Michigan than in the north, if you catch it right, there is no need to drive hundreds of miles to ride.”

There are snowmobiling trails on National Forest lands too, which riders often use along with state trail routes.

“There are 1,157 miles of designated snowmobile trails on National Forest system lands. The U.S. Forest Service and Michigan DNR work together with club sponsors to ensure these trails are maintained,” said Kristen Thrall, recreation and hydropower program manager and forest accessibility coordinator for the Huron-Manistee National Forests. “We have worked together since the 1970s to develop a high-quality long-distance system that connects communities to the great outdoors.”

According to a 2012 National Visitor Use Monitoring Study, 27 percent of people recreating in the national forests identify snowmobiling as their primary activity.

There is plenty of information available on the DNR website to help plan a snowmobiling adventure, including trail maps in a variety of formats and links to trail reports from organizations like the Michigan Snowmobile Association.

Snowmobilers need to purchase a snowmobile trail permit, which is required to operate snowmobiles in Michigan and is valid for one year, from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Riders also need to register their snowmobile, as a valid registration from the Secretary of State (or another state or province) is required to ride as well.

Those new to snowmobiling who would like to try out this fun winter experience should consider rental snowmobiles that are available.

This week (Jan. 21-29) is International Snowmobile Safety Week, a great time to brush up on how to stay safe while out on the trail.

“Safety is the most important aspect of this sport,” said Lt. Pete Wright, a DNR district law supervisor. “Safe snowmobiling means riding within your own capabilities, operating at safe and appropriate speeds for the terrain, and never drinking alcohol before or while driving. Always wear a helmet and adequate clothing, stay on the designated trails, and always snowmobile with another person, never alone.”

Other safety tips from the DNR include:

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Pick safe places to stop off the trail.
  • Be aware of changing trail conditions.
  • Use extra caution when riding on an unfamiliar trail.
  • Stay far enough behind other riders to avoid the snow kicked up by their machines. This flying snow may blind snowmobilers to hazards, including other riders.
  • Check the weather conditions before you depart.
  • When possible, avoid crossing frozen bodies of water. Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low-strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and tail lights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look both ways for traffic.
  • Steer clear of trail groomers if you can. Never follow a groomer, give groomers the right of way, and if you meet one head-on, give it room to maneuver.

Snowmobilers also should make sure they are familiar with all of the rules and regulations for snowmobiling in Michigan, as well as the universal snowmobile trail signage the DNR developed to help keep everyone safe on the trails.

Snowmobile safety education training and online safety courses are recommended for all snowmobile operators and are required for youth 12 to 16 years old.

In 2016, Michigan had more than 200,000 registered snowmobiles – only Minnesota and Wisconsin had more, according to a report from the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.

The same report indicates that, in the United States, snowmobiling has an economic impact of $26 billion annually and that the average rider spends $4,000 each year on snowmobile-related recreation.

It’s clear that snowmobiling contributes significantly to Michigan’s tourism industry and the state’s economy.

“I snowmobile quite a bit and meet all kinds of wonderful people out being safe on the trails, spending money, and enjoying the U.P.,” Yesney said.

Snowmobiling is a social sport, with clubs throughout the state. The Michigan Snowmobiling Association maintains a list of clubs at www.msasnow.org/snowmobile-clubs.

Learn more about snowmobiling in Michigan at michigan.gov/snowmobiling.

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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


out-shoe-years-hikes2-syhinfographic

Click to enlarge

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


out-hunting-economic-impact

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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