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DNR advises earlier caution against oak wilt disease


Avoid unnecessary tree pruning, cutting 

Due to the unseasonably warmer temperatures this spring, the window for the transmission of oak wilt from diseased to healthy red oak trees has already started, the Department of Natural Resources announced today.

According to Dr. Robert Heyd, Forest Pest Management program manager for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division, oak wilt is a serious disease of oak trees – mainly red oaks, including northern red oak, black oak and pin oak – in Michigan and seven other neighboring Midwestern states. Red oaks will die within a few weeks after becoming infected, though white oaks are more resistant and the disease progresses more slowly. This year the disease risk for trees is especially high and ahead of schedule.

“The normal time-tested advice is to prevent oak wilt by not pruning or otherwise ‘injuring’ oaks from April 15 to July 15,” said Dr. Heyd. He said the spread of oak wilt occurs during this time of year as beetles move spores from fungal fruiting structures on last year’s oak wilt-killed trees to wounds on healthy oaks. Because of the warmer weather, the beetles that move oak wilt – and the oak wilt inoculum – are present in many areas.

 “Anyone who has lost trees to oak wilt knows not to cut trees from mid-April to mid-June,” Dr. Heyd explained. “But, with the warmer weather and the higher risk, the time frame has moved up much earlier. Prevention efforts – not cutting and pruning – really need to start now.”

Dr. Heyd said although oak wilt hasn’t been detected in every Michigan county, the need for vigilance is present statewide. “With the transport of firewood and other tree-related activities, you have to assume the risk is present, whether you live in metro Detroit or Menominee.”

Oak wilt has already been detected in the following counties: Alcona, Allegan, Alpena, Antrim, Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Cheboygan, Clinton, Crawford, Dickinson, Genesee, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Iron, Kalamazoo, Kalkaska, Kent, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Manistee, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Monroe, Montcalm, Montmorency, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oakland, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Ottawa, Roscommon, Saginaw, Shiawassee, St. Joseph, Van Buren, Washtenaw, Wayne and Wexford.

Springtime is a popular time for people to move firewood to vacation properties and other locations. During this April-to-June period, Dr. Heyd said it’s vital not to move wood from oak wilt-killed trees. These trees are often cut into firewood and moved, sometimes many miles from their original locations. Any wounding of oaks in this new area can result in new oak wilt infections as beetles move spores from the diseased firewood to fresh wounds on otherwise healthy trees.

The DNR recommends that anyone who suspects they have oak wilt-tainted firewood should cover it with a plastic tarp all the way to the ground, leaving no openings. This keeps the beetles away and generates heat inside the tarp, helping to destroy the fungus. Once the bark loosens on the firewood, the disease can no longer be spread.

New oak wilt sites have been traced to spring and early summer wounding from tree-climbing spikes, rights-of-way pruning, nailing signs on trees, and accidental tree-barking. If an oak is wounded during this critical time, the DNR advises residents to cover the wound immediately with either a tree-wound paint or a latex paint to help keep the beetles away.

Once an oak is infected, the fungus moves to neighboring red oaks through root grafts. Oaks within approximately 100 feet of each other – depending on the size of the trees – have connected or grafted root systems. Left untreated, oak wilt will continue to move from tree to tree, progressively killing more red oak over an increasingly larger area. These untreated pockets also serve as a source of inoculum for the overland spread of the disease.

Get more information on the background, symptoms and prevention of oak wilt at  http://michigansaf.org/forestinfo/Health/E2764-OakWilt.pdf.

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DNR lowers state forest campground fees


Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes informed the Natural Resources Commission at its April meeting Thursday that the DNR was lowering many fees at state forest campgrounds to align them more closely with fees at state parks and recreation areas offering similar amenities.

Most state forest campgrounds will have a $13 per site, per night fee rate (a reduction of $2). Campgrounds identified as equestrian state forest campgrounds, those associated with ORV trails, and the semi-modern Houghton Lake state forest campground will charge a $17 per site, per night rate (a reduction of $3).

Rates for group camps—identified either as a canoe camp, trail camp, or group camp–will remain at a fee of $6 per person, per night, while cabins remain at the $65 per night fee.

Approximately 270 campsites at a variety of state forest campgrounds spread over 11 counties can be reserved through the state’s on-line reservation system. For more information, visit www.midnrreservations.com.

“The goal is to create a quality atmosphere for a rustic camping experience in state forest campgrounds at an appropriate fee,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation chief. “Also new this year will be the requirement to purchase a Recreation Passport to access all state forest campgrounds, in addition to Michigan state parks, recreation areas, and state-administered boating access fee sites.”

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Are you encroaching on public land?


New DNR initiative aims to resolve encroachment cases 

The Department of Natural Resources announced the Encroachment Resolution Initiative (ERI), an effort geared at resolving the hundreds of cases of encroachment or trespass occurring on public land throughout Michigan.

Through this initiative, the DNR will work with property owners who are trespassing by having either a permanent structure or historical encroachment on public land. Property owners with known encroachments on public land will be notified by letter from the DNR that they are eligible to resolve their case without penalty through the ERI. Property owners adjacent to public land who are not sure whether they are encroaching can use tools on the DNR website (www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment) to determine if they are, in fact, trespassing on state-managed land.

“I asked our staff to come up with a creative, customer-focused way of resolving some of our most difficult encroachment situations,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes.

“The Encroachment Resolution Initiative reaches out to residents with a real, workable solution,” said Stokes. “It will help us appropriately document public land ownership and resolve those trespass cases that tie up substantial staff time and resources and make land-management issues more challenging for the state.”

Under the ERI, property owners who are encroaching on public land managed by the DNR can (starting May 1, 2012) apply to have their cases resolved. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 31, 2012. During this “amnesty” period, DNR staff will work with property owners to properly document ownership.

If a property owner can show that his or her encroachment was in place prior to March 1, 1973 (in keeping with a 1988 amendment of the Revised Judicature Act), the property will be transferred to the property owner after a new property survey is completed and new boundaries are established. Structural encroachments that have occurred after March 1, 1973 will be resolved through land sales. The DNR will streamline its land sale process for encroachment cases being resolved through the ERI.

Individuals with non-structural encroachments (such as fences, gardens, sheds or other non-permanent structures) occurring on public land after March 1, 1973, will need to remove the items.

By providing a streamlined and legal process to resolve their trespass without penalty, the Encroachment Resolution Initiative is intended as an incentive program for property owners encroaching on public land. Throughout the duration of the ERI, the DNR will not seek penalties or take escalated enforcement action for any encroachments that are resolved by Dec. 31, 2012.

After the application period closes on Dec. 31, 2012, any existing or new cases of encroachment that were not brought forward will be dealt with through DNR encroachment and enforcement procedures.

“We sincerely hope that anyone currently encroaching on public land will take advantage of this opportunity to resolve trespass situations,” said DNR Director Stokes. “Public land is intended to be just that—land available for the use and enjoyment of the public. Such encroachments reduce everyone’s ability to enjoy the state’s natural resources that should be freely accessible to residents and visitors alike.”

Individuals with questions about the ERI should contact Lori Burford, the DNR’s encroachment specialist, at 989-275-5151, ext. 2100 or via email at burfordl@michigan.gov.

For more information on the ERI, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr-encroachment.

 

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Smelt dipping is open statewide


With the warm spring weather, anglers should be aware that smelt dipping is open on all waters at this time and anglers can take 2 gallons daily. Smelt can be taken by hook/line, hand nets or dip nets.

“There is some confusion as there are two Fisheries Orders that appear to conflict with each other and this situation was just brought to our attention,” said Gary Whelan, regulatory affairs supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Division. “We will ensure that our orders are consistent for next year’s fishing and anglers should take advantage of our smelt fishing opportunities at this time.”

For more information on fishing and where the smelt are running in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Leave wildlife in the wild


From the DNR

 

Unseasonably warm weather may have Michigan’s black bears and recently born cubs out roaming earlier than usual. Great-horned owl chicks are already hatched and will be out of the nest before long. Spring is the season for wildlife to give birth. The Department of Natural Resources reminds Michigan residents to resist the instinct to try to help baby animals that may appear to be abandoned because in nearly every case a parent is nearby and the baby animal is not abandoned.

“The truth is, the animal doesn’t need help. For example, even if a fawn appears to be abandoned, its mother is almost always nearby,” said DNR wildlife ecologist Sherry MacKinnon. “We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild.”

MacKinnon said it’s not uncommon for does to leave their young unattended for up to eight hours at a time; an anti-predator strategy that minimizes scent left around the newborn animals. “The same holds true for rabbits, ground-dwelling birds and other wildlife,” she said. “Even avian parents will continue to care for hatchlings that have fallen from a nest.”

The DNR advises that:

*Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.

*Some “rescued” animals that do survive become habituated to people and are unable to revert back to life in the wild. It is illegal to possess a wild deer or any other wild animals in Michigan, and every day a deer spends with humans makes it that much less likely to be able to survive in the wild.

*Eventually, habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behaviors. Habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they mature, and raccoons are well-known for this, too.

“If you come across a deer or other animal that you are certain has been orphaned early in the year—for example, if a doe is dead nearby—please call your local DNR office. They can refer you to a licensed rehabilitator,” said MacKinnon. “Licensed rehabilitators are trained to handle wild animals and know how to release them so that they can survive in the wild.” Michigan licensed rehabilitators are also listed on the DNR website at http://www.michigandnr.com/dlr/.

 

 

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Free fishing weekend Feb. 18 and 19




The LOLA Ice Fishing Derby has been canceled this year due to warmer weather. According to organizer Pam Bradfield, they will are planning a spring event. Post photo by L. Allen.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds everyone the annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb. 19. On that weekend, everyone can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

Michigan has been celebrating Winter Free Fishing Weekend annually since 1994 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,000 miles of rivers and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a natural match.”Michigan offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world, including during the winter months,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Fishing is an inexpensive activity anyone can pursue, as an individual or as a family. We encourage you to get out this February and experience it for yourself, for free!”To encourage involvement in Free Fishing Weekends, organized activities are being scheduled in communities across the state. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations including: constituent groups, schools, local and state parks, businesses and others.

Find an event occurring in your community. Visit the newly revamped website www.michigan.gov/freefishing for all things related to this unique weekend; including where you can find help on event planning and promotion and where you can identify events in your area or register an official event. 


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DNR simplifies fish spearing regulations


New spear and bow-and-arrow angling regulations, announced by the Department of Natural Resources, will provide additional recreational opportunities starting in the 2012 fishing season.
The changes are a result of a multi-year review process begun by an internal DNR Fisheries Division workgroup designed to simplify spearing regulations. Changes in the regulations were made in concert with citizens on the Warmwater Resources Advisory Committee and signed in a fisheries order by DNR Director Rodney Stokes.
Beginning April 1, licensed anglers will be allowed to use spears and bows and arrows to take designated species of fish year-round, except on designated trout waters or as noted in the list of non-spearing waters. Gizzard shad, goldfish and grass carp have been added to the list of species.
The season for spearing northern pike and muskellunge through the ice will remain Dec. 1–March 15, but the number of waters prohibiting spearing for pike and muskellunge has been reduced from 40 to 30.
For additional information, please consult the 2012 Michigan Fishing Guide, which will be available on line at www.michigan.gov/fishingguide  or license dealers in late February.

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Spend ‘Shoe’ Year’s at state parks


The Department of Natural Resources is offering an alternative to the indoor party scene this New Year’s Eve. Swap those dancing shoes for a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and spend a GO-Get Outdoors “Shoe Year’s Eve” in one of Michigan’s state parks or recreation areas.
This year, gather up friends and family for a fun-filled New Year’s holiday in one of the state parks’ many winterized cabins, yurts or lodges. Don headlights and snowshoes for an evening adventure through the campground, and then enjoy a potluck in the cabin and ring in the New Year gathered around a blazing campfire.
According to DNR Recreation Programmer Maia Stephens, the idea isn’t new.
“People have been enjoying rustic New Year’s celebrations in our cabins and lodges for years,” Stephens said. “Just think—no crowds, no dangerous driving. It’s just a chance to relax, reflect and reconnect with the people who mean the most to you. And the Recreation Passport makes it both an unusual and affordable way to celebrate the season.”
Don’t let a lack of snow deter the vision of a simple, rustic holiday in the woods. Michigan has plenty of trails for hiking, biking or just wildlife viewing within its park system.
“Whether there’s snow for the holidays or not, the state parks offer plenty of opportunities for visitors to get out and enjoy the beauty of our parks this time of year,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “You can be part of a nationwide state park effort to start the New Year with a hike.”
If your New Year’s Eve plans already are set, plan on getting those New Year’s resolutions off to a good start by attending one of the DNR-sponsored “Shoe” Year’s Day events scheduled for Jan. 1 in many of Michigan’s state parks.  Park staff, as well as local health professionals, will be on hand to guide hikes, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing events for participants eager to start their exercise commitments off on the right foot.
For a listing of state parks offering alternative winter lodging over the holidays and throughout the winter, or to find a “Shoe” Year’s Day hike near you, visit www.michigan.gov/gogetoutdoors.
The Recreation Passport has replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boating access fee sites. This new way to fund Michigan’s outdoor recreation opportunities also helps to preserve state forest campgrounds, trails, and historic and cultural sites in state parks, and provides park development grants to local communities.
Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($10 for motor vehicles; $5 for motorcycles) by checking “YES” on their license plate renewal forms, or at any state park or recreation area. Nonresident motor vehicles must still display a valid nonresident Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) to enter a Michigan state park, recreation area or state-administered boating access fee site; these can be purchased at any state park or recreation area, or through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore. To learn more about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport or call 517-241-7275.

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Michigan welcomes home firefighters


Michigan DNR staff and equipment return from 22 weeks in Texas

After spending 22 weeks in Texas, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is happy to welcome home state firefighters that have been diligently working to stem the wildfires that have burned throughout Texas.
Under an interagency agreement that all 50 states participate in, the Michigan DNR sent four tractors/plows and eight staff to Texas in mid-June.  Staff rotated through every two to three weeks, with over 40 DNR staffers having spent time in Texas.  The last of the crews and equipment returned home on Nov. 18.
“Fighting wildfires is dangerous, which is why we are happy to report that all of the Michigan DNR staff returned unharmed,” says Scott Heather, section manager for the Resource Protection & Cooperative Programs of the Michigan DNR.  “Additionally, the State of Texas will reimburse the department for all of the costs associated with having the staff and equipment down there for 22 weeks.”
Firefighters from 43 states fought more than 29,000 blazes across almost 4 million acres of land since wildfire season began on Nov. 15, 2010.  Michigan firefighters battled two of the largest fires – the Bastrop County Complex and the 101 Ranch, saving many homes.
“The unprecedented wildfires in Texas this year were just another example of why these types of interagency agreements are so important,” says Heather.  “Due to the favorable weather in Michigan this summer and fall, the threat of wildfires was low, allowing us to lend our services and equipment to Texas for an extended period of time.”
This was the longest period of time that Michigan has lent staff and equipment to another state for the purpose of fighting fires.  Michigan has a long history of providing equipment and staff to other states and has also benefited greatly from the interagency agreement.  Most recently in 2007 during the Sleeper Lake fires in Luce County, over 230 firefighters from around the Midwest battled the 18,500-acre fire.

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DNR confirms cougar in Houghton and Keweenaw counties


The Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed the presence of a radio-collared cougar just north of the city of Hancock in northern Houghton County. The animal was captured on a trail camera on Nov. 13, walking directly in front of the camera, with the noticeable presence of a radio collar.
DNR Wildlife Division staff visited the property on Nov. 17 where the trail camera is mounted and verified the location of the camera. Property owner Jesse Chynoweth submitted the pictures to the DNR for confirmation.
“This is the third time this animal has been captured on trail cameras in the Upper Peninsula,” said Adam Bump, a wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Cougar Team. “The Wisconsin DNR earlier verified two trail camera pictures of this cat as it passed through Wisconsin on its way to the UP.”
The Department has also verified a set of tracks from a cougar in southern Keweenaw County on Nov. 20. The cougar passed about 30 feet from a deer hunter who later returned to the area with a friend to snap pictures of the cougar’s tracks. The animal is almost certainly the same, radio-collared cougar that was photographed about 15 miles south near Hancock a week earlier.
The DNR is still in the process of tracking down where the cougar is from and has been checking frequencies from collars of cats from South Dakota, Utah and Montana. Only western states currently have cougars collared for research projects, so the animal likely traveled a great distance to reach the Upper Peninsula.
The Department will inform the public if more details are discovered about this cougar.
Cougars, also known as mountain lions, were once found throughout North America, including Michigan. Habitat loss and heavy persecution led to cougars being eliminated from Michigan in the early 1900s. The last known wild cougar taken in Michigan was killed near Newberry in 1906. Although sightings have increased and are regularly reported in the Upper Peninsula, verification is often difficult. Cougar tracks and a cougar photo from in the eastern Upper Peninsula were verified in 2009. Additionally, the DNR was able to verify several sets of cougar tracks in Marquette and Delta counties in 2008. The radio collared cougar has been photographed in Houghton and Ontonagon counties in 2011.
Established cougar populations are found as close to Michigan as North and South Dakota, and transient cougars dispersing from these areas have been known to travel hundreds of miles in search of new territory. Characteristic evidence of cougars include tracks, which are about three inches long by three and a half inches wide and typically show no claw marks, or suspicious kill sites, such as deer carcasses that are largely intact and have been buried with sticks and debris.
Reports of cougar tracks and other evidence should be made to a local DNR office or by calling the department’s 24-hour Report All Poaching line at 800-292-7800.
Cougars are classified as an endangered species in Michigan. It is unlawful to kill, harass or otherwise harm a cougar except in the immediate defense of human life. For more information about the recent cougar tracks and photo, call your local DNR office to report it or report it on our website. To learn more about cougars and how to identify their tracks, go www.michigan.gov/cougars.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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