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Tag Archive | "Great Lakes"

Turning in tagged fish could net cash reward


Tag returns help biologists understand fish survival, age and movement

People who regularly fish Michigan waters likely are familiar with the state’s marked and tagged fish program. Through assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Great Lakes states, including Michigan, are mass marking popular gamefish (like steelhead, Chinook salmon, Atlantic salmon, brown trout and lake trout) before those fish are stocked.

As more anglers get out on the water this summer, the DNR reminds them that catching a trout or salmon with an adipose fin clip could be worth a $100 reward. The adipose fin is the small, fleshy lobe on the fish’s back, just forward of the tail fin.

Most trout and salmon with an adipose fin clip also have a coded-wire tag in the snout. Because the tags are small, like the tip of a lead pencil, they must be removed by lab technicians. If anglers catch and want to keep an adipose fin clipped fish, they are asked to turn the head in at one of the local drop-off stations. To find one in your county, go to Michigan.gov/TaggedFish, then scroll down and click on “coded wire tags” and then scroll down and click on “drop off locations.”

Randy Claramunt, the DNR’s Lake Huron Basin coordinator, said the department relies on the help of anglers to supplement the marked and tagged fish program.

“We have limited capacity to take that important data from sport-caught trout and salmon,” he said. “We have creel clerks at some ports, but there are several areas, including some river systems with unique fisheries, like Atlantic salmon or steelhead, where we don’t have staff. To get enough tag returns to learn about these species, we’re asking people to take a little extra time to turn in those heads.”

The Great Lakes Salmon Initiative recognized the need for citizen science in this effort and teamed up with Captain Chucks II in Ludington and Moonshine Lures to sponsor 33 rewards worth $100 each. Fish with tags submitted before Nov. 1, 2020, will be eligible for the rewards, which will be randomly selected.

Additional details about the reward program:

  • Each head with a tag that is turned in equals one drawing entry.
  • Eligible tagged fish include steelhead, brown trout, and Chinook or Atlantic salmon.
  • The drawing will occur around January 2021.
  • Contact information (name, address, phone number) must be provided with each head.
  • Catch data (date, location and body of water) must be included with each head.
  • The head must be left at a Michigan drop-off location.

According to Jay Wesley, Lake Michigan Basin coordinator, fish tag returns help biologists understand survival, age and movement of important sportfish.

“We are particularly interested in confirming how naturally reproducing Chinook salmon contribute to the fishery; the movement and wild contribution of steelhead in lakes and rivers; and survival and movement of Atlantic salmon,” Wesley said. “This reward program…will help incentivize anglers to become citizen scientists, and that ultimately helps us collect valuable data.”

For more information on how to recognize a tagged fish and how to fill out the proper information, visit Michigan.gov/TaggedFish.

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New interactive map highlights Great Lakes shipwrecks and their lore



A diver explores the wreck of the Cedarville. .
Credit: Jitka Hanakova

The cold, fresh waters of the Great Lakes are literally littered with shipwrecks—pieces of history capturing chapters of a time when transport by water was as important as transport by land.

Some, like the Syracuse, recall the Great Lakes’ sailing heyday, when goods and people routinely plied the lakes along well-used routes. The Syracuse, a two-masted schooner carrying a cargo of coal, sank in Lake Huron on Nov. 10, 1863.

Other shipwrecks speak to more recent times when steel behemoths like the 600-foot Cedarville, shepherding a cargo of limestone, collided with a Norwegian ship in the fog on May 7, 1967. Ten crew members died, and the ship, broken nearly in two, sank in more than a hundred feet of water.

Sonar imaging of the shipwreck Syracuse. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Syracuse and the Cedarville are among 1,500 shipwrecks submerged in Michigan waters, making up one-quarter of the estimated 6,000 wrecks found throughout the Great Lakes.

Now, thanks to the recently launched Michigan Shipwrecks StoryMap, it’s easy to learn about the mystery and tragedy surrounding these ships.

The Michigan Shipwrecks Public Web App goes even further, offering users a closer look at shipwrecks as well as the locations of lighthouses and boating access sites. Users can search for shipwrecks by name or location or customize and print their own PDF maps.

Shipwreck locations are clickable icons on the web map. When clicked, a pop-up box provides detailed information about the shipwreck.

“This new tool gives divers, kayakers, snorkelers and armchair explorers a chance to learn more about these underwater archaeological sites and the circumstances that led to the shipwrecks,” said Sandra Clark, director of the Michigan History Center. “It’s a wonderfully interactive way to help people connect with this part of Michigan’s maritime history.”

The app map offers information about each ship, including:

The difficulty level of diving to the wreck.

Whether the wreck is accessible by kayak or canoe.

The circumstances of the sinking.

A description of the ship, with photos and drawings (if available).

The map also highlights Michigan’s underwater preserves and water trails.

Some wrecks, such as the wooden bulk freighter Daisy Day, lie in as little as 10 feet of water and are suitable for beginning divers and visible to paddlers and snorkelers.

Others, such as the Indiana, a propeller vessel that went down in Lake Superior in 1858, are in more than 100 feet of water and require advanced diving skills.

The map will be updated as more ships are discovered and more information becomes available.

Users may notice that some high-profile wrecks, such as the Carl D Bradley, which sank in Lake Michigan in November 1958, are not listed. Because crew members went down with these ships, they are considered underwater burial sites.

Clark reminds the public that Michigan law prohibits removal of any artifacts from shipwrecks.

“The wrecks on the Great Lakes bottomlands belong to the people of Michigan,” she said. “If everyone follows the rule of ‘take only pictures and leave only bubbles,’ we can ensure that these underwater time capsules will be available for future generations to explore, research and enjoy.”

Visit and explore both the storymap and public web app at Michigan.gov/ExploreShipwrecks.

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Wetlands a vital resource for Michigan’s wildlife, environment, citizenry


More than 50 percent of Michigan’s wetlands, like this one in Marquette County—now recognized for their importance to wildlife, people, the environment and the economy—have been lost over the last two centuries.

By Casey Warner, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan regularly ranks in the top three states for Canada goose harvest and hunters in the nation. The sport, and other outdoor recreation pursuits, requires healthy wetland habitat.

When thinking about Michigan’s important, valuable landscapes, many of us first think of the Great Lakes, northern forests and sandy beaches. Wetlands might not immediately come to mind.

They certainly didn’t for early Michigan settlers, who were less than impressed with the state’s abundance of swamps and marshes – more than 10 million acres of wetlands before European settlement.

“The banks of the Detroit River are handsome, but nine-tenths of the land in the Territory is unfit for cultivation,” said General Duncan McArthur, stationed at Fort Detroit, in 1814.

The 1816 Tiffin Report by Edward Tiffin, surveyor general of the United States, had equally disparaging things to say about Michigan’s land and agricultural potential, including: “Michigan apparently consisted of swamps, lakes, and poor, sandy soil not worth the cost of surveying. Not more than one acre in a hundred, or perhaps a thousand, could be cultivated.”

In the two centuries that followed, about half of Michigan’s original wetlands have been drained and filled.

Every amphibian in Michigan—including the state’s largest frog, the bullfrog—uses wetlands.

“Michigan was once considered a mosquito-infested, godforsaken swamp, and wetlands were drained to establish roads and agriculture and build communities,” said Steve Shine, who coordinates wetland mitigation banking – the process of establishing new wetland areas before development or other projects impact existing wetland areas—for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “This historic conversion of wetlands has made Michigan what it is today, but now we’re focused on restoring wetlands to replace those impacted by agriculture, public works projects and development that are also important to the state.”

Today, we recognize the value of wetlands; even celebrate them with observances like American Wetlands Month in May, and the need to conserve them.

“Michigan residents, whether they know it or not, have a strong connection to our state’s wetlands and the waterfowl that rely on them,” said Barb Avers, DNR waterfowl and wetland specialist. “Some go duck hunting every year, while others sit on their back porches and watch the annual fall waterfowl migrations. And many citizens get clear drinking water from groundwater purified by Michigan’s wetlands.”

In 1979, the Michigan legislature passed the state’s wetlands protection statute, which recognizes the benefits and important functions and values provided by wetlands. Administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan’s wetlands protection statute requires permits for construction activities in wetlands.

Home to a wide variety of birds, including the secretive sora, Michigan’s wetlands make great wildlife viewing destinations.

What exactly is a wetland?

Michigan law defines a wetland as “land characterized by the presence of water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances does support, wetland vegetation or aquatic life, and is commonly referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh.”

More simply put, wetlands are areas where land and water meet.

They are characterized by the presence of water that saturates the soil or covers the land for some or all of the year, which leads to the development of plant and animal communities adapted to these conditions.

The three major types of wetlands are marshes, which have standing water from less than an inch to several feet deep and might be called flooded grasslands; swamps, dominated by woody plants and best described as flooded woodlands or shrublands; and bogs, which occur where accumulations of decaying vegetation form mats that eventually cover and then fill in old ponds or lakes.

Wetlands play a critical role in managing Michigan’s water-based resources, providing flood storage, groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat, pollution treatment, erosion control and nutrient uptake.

Wetlands are a significant factor in the health and existence of Michigan’s other natural resources, such as inland lakes, groundwater, fisheries, wildlife and the Great Lakes.

Wetlands are “like nature’s kidneys,” Avers said, in that they filter pollutants from surface runoff, trapping fertilizers, pesticides, sediments and other contaminants, helping to break some of them down into less harmful substances, improving water clarity and quality.

They also replenish surface and underground drinking water sources.

“Wetland soils help to filter pollutants and excess nutrients out of the water to create a cleaner water supply for all of us,” said Holly Vaughn, DNR wildlife communications coordinator. “They also provide important flood control, acting like sponges to soak up extra rain and storm water.”

Wetlands are vital to Michigan’s wildlife as well. Acre for acre, they produce more wildlife and plants than any other Michigan habitat type.

“About 25 percent of mammals, 50 percent of birds, nearly all reptiles, and every amphibian in Michigan use wetlands,” said Avers.

Avers added that, although wetlands make up only 5 percent of the area of the contiguous U.S., more than a third of threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands.

“Wetlands provide excellent benefits to wildlife, including important migratory stopover habitat for waterfowl and migratory songbirds too,” Vaughn said.

While many wildlife species find homes in Michigan’s wetlands, many people find recreation destinations there.

This includes waterfowl hunting—Michigan  regularly ranks in the top three states for Canada goose harvest and hunters in the nation, and in the top 10 for average annual sales of federal duck stamps—and a variety of other outdoor pursuits.

“Michigan has exceptional wetland recreation opportunities,” Vaughn said. “Among the best of them, our Wetland Wonders (the DNR’s managed waterfowl areas) offer great waterfowl hunting, wildlife viewing, trapping, hiking, fishing and boating.”

Those recreation opportunities lead to significant economic impact.

“Wetlands are important for the state’s economy,” said Avers. “Waterfowl hunting trips, which take place largely in wetland areas, generate $22 million each year in Michigan. Fish, wildlife and recreational activities related to Michigan’s coastal wetlands generate $52 million annually.”

Avers added that renowned waterfowl and coastal wetland areas like Saginaw Bay, St. Clair Flats and the Detroit River have built and supported local economies and communities with industries such as duck decoys, boats and hunting clubs.

“Great Lakes coastal wetlands are highly productive and rare ecosystems, and are widely recognized as vital to the overall Great Lakes ecosystem, providing habitat for migratory waterfowl, wading birds, sport and forage fish, amphibians and reptiles, and many other native wildlife,” said Anne Garwood, DEQ Great Lakes coastal wetland ecologist. “In some parts of the state, where up to 90 percent of Michigan’s coastal wetlands have been lost, the protection and restoration of coastal wetlands is especially critical.”

Although now recognized for their importance to wildlife, people, the environment and the economy – and with laws in place that have helped slow their loss – wetlands still face threats.

These threats include invasive species, climate change and declining Great Lakes water levels, and demand for development on existing wetlands.

“More than 50 percent of Michigan’s historic wetland base has been lost, and the rate of wetland loss in key waterfowl landscapes exceeds 90 percent,” said Avers. “We need to do more to conserve Michigan’s wetlands and our great waterfowl heritage.”

The DNR, along with many other organizations, has undertaken efforts to conserve and restore wetlands in Michigan.

Take, for example, Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas in the state, scattered across the southern Lower Peninsula.

The DNR created these areas in the 1960s to generate exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities and still manages them today to provide habitat for waterfowl and other species of wetlands wildlife.

But Michigan’s wetlands successes don’t end there.

“We’ve been very successful across Michigan in protecting and restoring wetland habitat, primarily driven by partnerships with other organizations,” said Avers. “Our best success story is the collection of North American Wetland Conservation Act grants that we’ve received.”

The North American Wetland Conservation Act program, which began in 1989, supports on-the-ground wetland conservation efforts by providing matching grants for projects in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In Michigan, the 50 NAWCA projects either completed or under way have conserved a total of 56,762 acres of wildlife habitat. The program’s funding of more than $18 million has stimulated partner contributions of more than $62 million for Michigan wetlands conservation.

Recently the DNR has partnered with the Michigan Municipal Wetland Alliance on a new wetland mitigation banking program that will preserve and restore wetland habitat on public lands to offset unavoidable impacts to existing wetlands. Look for a future “Showcasing the DNR” story about this effort.

While there is still much work to do on the wetlands conservation front, Michigan has come a long way from the days of treating these vital assets as godforsaken swamps.

To learn more about Michigan wetlands, visit michigan.gov/wetlands

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Knee deep death trap


Rough waves on Lake Michigan. Photo from Wunderground.com by unobtrusive troll10.

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Enjoying the big waves has always been fun but poses life threatening challenges for many species. If you happen to be a duck you are probably safe. Big waves were rolling on shore at Traverse City State Park shortly after mallard ducklings hatched from eggs. The hen led fledglings to water. People concerned for the safety of the little ones approached and caused the mother to move away from young and shore.

She disappeared among the tall waves with most of the ducklings but a couple lost sight of her and became separated. The people that frightened the mother picked up two ducklings and brought them to me at the ranger station. They should have left them to the mother’s care. At the beach, we could not locate the mother or her other young.

One-fourth of a mile away, a stream entered Grant Traverse Bay and provided an inlet where water was calm. We took the two ducklings there and found several adult ducks with young. We released the ducklings with hope the mother was present in the protective cove. If not, the young should be safe and might join another family.

The big waves did not pose a death threat to them but people causing the mother to move away from young did.

When I was a “young duckling” so to speak, I had my own death threat among big waves. Our family was at a beach on a giant wave day. It was exciting and fun in the waves. I waded into the water and stood in knee deep water between waves. When a wave arrived, the water was over my head. I rode up on the wave and came back down when it passed to stand on the bottom again.

All was going well until one time when I rode high on the wave and came back down, the undertow of water returning along the bottom knocked my feet from under me. I thought no big deal and stood up. It happened that I stood up in middle of a tall wave. Almost immediately the undertow knocked my feet from under me again. Quickly I stood and found myself in the middle of another wave. This repeated.

By now I was out of air, frightened, and desperate to inhale.  A breath would flood my lungs with water and begin the drowning process. My folks had no idea I was in danger in knee high water. They hadn’t even noticed I had disappeared. I was only underwater a short time.

It seemed impossible to stand up between waves and I could not get my head into the air. Finally, I managed to get my head out of water but was knocked down by the undertow. A push off the bottom allowed me to ride up and down on a big wave. I discovered the danger of knee deep water between large waves and survived. Many people do not and several times each year, families lose a member to the power of water.

It is not just people whose lives get threatened by water. Fall bird migration season has arrived. Massive avian numbers from songbirds to hawks encounter the Great Lakes migration water barrier. They pile up on the north end of the lakes on their southbound journey and move along the shoreline searching for safe crossing sites. I’ve watched hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks move west along northern Lake Michigan to go around the lake. Others moved east towards Mackinaw Bridge where crossing the straits is shorter. Once there, they wait for proper weather and wind conditions to venture safely over water.

Migration over water is one of many life-threatening challenges for species in nature niches. Not all survive. I have found small birds washed dead to shore after being knocked into the water by storms or winds. People and wildlife lives depend on respect for the power of water. Have fun in turbulent water but remain safety conscious.

Consider a trip to Whitefish Point Bird Observatory north of Paradise on Lake Superior to witness bird migration from Canada to the US this fall. Michigan Audubon staff can assist with species identification.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Lakes appreciation month: enjoy and protect Michigan’s lakes


Michigan is blessed with all types of waterbodies, including scenic locations without much civilization in site, like this view of Tahquamenon Natural Area between Newberry and Paradise in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

Michigan offers unique combination of four Great Lakes and 11,000 inland lakes

With Gov. Rick Snyder’s proclamation of July as Lakes Appreciation Month in Michigan, it›s the perfect time to encourage residents to enjoy and protect the state’s lakes.

Recreation on Michigan’s lakes—boating, fishing, birding, swimming and more on the water—leads to jobs throughout the state in support of a $7 billion recreational fishery, a $4 billion boating industry, and a major part of the state’s $38 billion tourism revenue.

Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes and four Great Lakes provide a combination of water resources and recreational opportunities not available anywhere else. In his proclamation, Gov. Snyder recognized “the need to protect these resources for future generations,” stating that “lakes and shorelines are critical resources to Michigan’s environment and quality of life, providing sources of drinking water, irrigation, energy, commerce, recreation, scenic beauty, and habitat for fish and wildlife.”

“It’s important for everyone who uses and values Michigan’s lakes to do their part to protect them,” said Joe Nohner, inland lakes analyst for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Our inland lakes face threats from declining water quality, invasive species, changing climate and unnatural shorelines that lack vegetation or woody habitat. There are simple steps each of us can take to protect the lakes we love.”

Fishing and boating go hand in hand as staple activities on many of Michigan›s lakes, making huge contributions to the state’s economy.

Here are just a few ways to show appreciation for these valuable natural resources:

Be a lake volunteer. Volunteer opportunities are available with programs across Michigan. Clean Boats, Clean Waters (http://micbcw.org/) is recruiting “volunteer heroes” to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by showing boaters how to inspect their boats, trailers and gear. Michigan’s Clean Water Corps supports volunteers engaged in water-quality monitoring through its Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program. Adopt-a-Beach volunteers remove litter from shorelines around the Great Lakes.

Protect your shore. Lakefront property owners can learn more from the Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership about maintaining natural shorelines to improve fish and wildlife habitat and keep the water clean. Learn how to be recognized through the Michigan Shoreland Stewards program. http://www.mishorelandstewards.org/.

Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Lakes Appreciation Month and Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week were kicked off by the 4th annual AIS Landing Blitz with outreach events at more than 60 boat launches, to raise awareness and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species through recreational boating and related activities. When it’s time to head home from the lake, take steps to ensure aquatic invasive species don’t come with you:

  • Remove weeds, mud and debris from boats and gear, and drain live wells and bilges before leaving the landing.
  • Give boats and equipment at least five days to dry thoroughly before heading to a different body of water.
  • If that’s not possible, clean boats, water receptacles and gear with hot water or a diluted bleach solution before the next trip.

In short, remember to clean, drain and dry boats, trailers and gear after a day on the water. Concerned about aquatic invasive species? Consider inviting the free Mobile Boat Wash to a boat launch near you. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/invasives/Boat_wash_flyer_2017_554286_7.pdf or check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MobileBoatWash/.

Take a friend or a young person fishing. Fishing Michigan’s lakes provides an opportunity to spend quality time with someone, reunite a friend with a favorite hobby, or introduce someone to a new pastime. Whether it’s taking the boat to that favorite fishing hole or casting from a pier or quiet dock, fishing is a unique way to connect with the water.

Spend a day at the beach. A picnic or a day of swimming is a great way to get the kids outdoors in the summer. A sunset stroll along the shoreline can be a relaxing end to a perfect day. Looking for a place to take your four-legged best friend? According to bringfido.com, there are 27 dog-friendly beaches across Michigan.

Float your boat. If that boat is still covered and sitting on the trailer, or the kayaks haven’t yet left the garage, it’s time to hit the water. Take a cruise or paddle around the shoreline of your favorite lake to admire the waterfowl and flowering plants, or visit a new lake – with more than 1,300 public boating access sites around the state to choose from, it’s easy to plan a water-bound adventure.

The Lakes Appreciation Month proclamation was supported by the Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership, an organization that promotes collaboration to advance stewardship of Michigan’s inland lakes.

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Dangerous currents, waves and water safety week 


 

Important to be prepared in natural waters

On average, more than ten people die each year because of dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. While residents are encouraged to visit and enjoy Michigan beaches, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging everyone to learn about safe swimming and the signs of dangerous currents.

Dangerous currents develop when winds blow toward the shore, and waves are moderate to high (3 feet or higher). The Great Lakes produce structural currents, rip currents, outlet currents, longshore currents, and channel currents—all of which can cause serious danger to swimmers.

The eastern shore of Lake Michigan has the most current-related incidents of all the Great Lakes, and out of the 514 current-related incidents (rescues and drownings) that occurred on the Great Lakes from 2002-2016, more than 71 percent were on Lake Michigan.

The good news for beachgoers is that currents and high wave activity can be forecasted, and with the right information, you can help have a safe and enjoyable time in natural waters.

MDHHS encourages all residents to remember the following before planning a trip to the beach:

  • Everyone is encouraged to learn to swim and how to be safe in and around the water.
  • Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents (water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore).
  • It is never safe to swim near a structure such as a pier or break wall.
  • Never go swimming alone, and designate someone to watch people who are in the water.
  • Follow beach hazard statements and avoid the water when conditions are not safe for swimming.

While it is important to avoid currents altogether, it is equally important to know how to survive one.

If you find yourself in a rip current, flip on your back, float to conserve energy, and follow the safest path out of the water – which could be along the line of the current until it is less strong, or along the shoreline.

To learn more about drowning risks in natural water settings, visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowningrisks/ or the national weather service site at http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/ for information about rip currents.

To check Great Lakes beach hazards, visit http://www.weather.gov/greatlakes/beachhazards

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Michigan Boating Week 


 

June 10-16 highlights the freshwater state

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources invites residents and visitors to celebrate the state’s unparalleled boating opportunities and one of the best freshwater destinations in the world during Michigan Boating Week June 10-16.

“Water is one of Michigan’s greatest natural resources,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “This weeklong campaign encourages residents and visitors to celebrate Michigan’s vast freshwater resources and get out and explore all of the on-the-water opportunities the Great Lakes State affords. Michigan is truly a boater’s paradise.”

Michigan is home to an estimated 4 million boating enthusiasts and approximately 1 million registered boats and 300,000 nonregistered canoes and kayaks. In addition, recreational boating has an annual $7.4 billion impact and the boating industry provides nearly 59,000 jobs across the state.

“Michigan Boating Week is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of the boating industry to our state’s economy as well as its importance to the quality of life,” said Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Michigan’s access to freshwater resources helps build lakeside communities and boating-related industries such as tourism, commercial fishing and boat manufacturing and sales.”

The weeklong celebration also includes a handful of events taking place in harbors across the state and live radio broadcasts that will feature DNR staff and other industry professionals.

Since residents and visitors are never more than 6 miles from a body of water or 85 miles from a Great Lake, there are plenty of reasons to take pride in Michigan’s vast freshwater resources. The following freshwater facts help define why Michigan is the Great Lakes State:

  • 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.
  • 11,000-plus inland lakes.
  • 36,350 miles of rivers and streams.
  • 1,300 boat launches and 82 public harbors administered by state, county and local units of government.
  • More lighthouses than any other state.
  • Access to 154 species of fish.

A portion of revenue collected from Michigan’s gas tax and watercraft registrations helps fund state facilities, including 19 harbors and approximately 1,000 boating access sites. Another portion of that revenue funds grants to local units of government that oversee 63 harbors and roughly 200 boating access sites. These resources help fund waterways projects and the ongoing maintenance at public recreational boating facilities, benefiting local and regional economies and contributing to statewide tourism.

Visit www.michigan.gov/boating to learn more about Michigan boating, Michigan Boating Week, water safety and much more. In addition, the Michigan Harbors Guide is available for download and is designed to offer essential boating information and a list of locations and amenities offered at state harbors.

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Michigan Boating


OUT-Boating-lake-michigan-10

Five Great Lakes, Five Great Boating Tips

From the Michigan DNR

Boaters are smart, creative and resourceful. That’s why we want to hear tips from Michigan boaters.

This month, we’re starting with five “musts” as you get ready for the season. Our featured boater is a 46-year sailing veteran from the home port of Sanilac. Glen Stephens has sailed inland lakes, the Great Lakes, Tampa Bay and the Virgin Islands. Here is his list of “musts” before you set sail:

  • Insurance! The costs of recovery are FAR greater than any seasonal insurance premium.
  • Become a better boater with a Coast Guard Auxiliary course at http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/.
  • Have a ship-to-shore radio on board all the time. Cell phone reception can be spotty on the Great Lakes.
  • Double-check the venting of your fuels to be sure they are clean and positioned properly.
  • Sailors should have bolt cutters on hand in case you ever need to cut away your rig. (Let’s hope not!)

Next, we are seeking your list of five great boating destinations in Michigan. Share your list via email at turekm@michigan.gov and you could be our featured boater!

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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.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on State is home to thousands of miles of trails, great riding opportunities

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.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Forest Legacy Program looks to the future

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