web analytics

Tag Archive | "Michigan Department of Natural Resources"

Michigan fire season builds during Wildfire Prevention Week


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is using Wildfire Prevention Week (April 16-22) to remind people to go to to check if burn permits are being issued in their area before burning any yard debris.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is using Wildfire Prevention Week (April 16-22) to remind people to go to to check if burn permits are being issued in their area before burning any yard debris.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its cooperators are observing Wildfire Prevention Week April 16-22. Most wildfires on Michigan’s 20 million acres of state and private forest land occur in April, May and June.

“Michigan typically experiences some of its higher fire conditions during the spring,” said Bryce Avery, DNR fire prevention specialist. “The dead grass and leaves from last year dry very quickly as days become longer, temperatures begin to rise, and humidity levels are often at their lowest points. Breezy conditions increase the danger, but even on calm days, one ember landing in some dead grass is enough to start a wildfire.”

Warm spring weather increases the amount of outdoor activities, like yard cleanup, campfires and fireworks. All of these activities require planning and caution before and after fires are lit.

“To dispose of yard waste, consider composting, but if you are planning on burning yard debris, your first step should be to check if the DNR is issuing burn permits in your area,” said Avery.

Burn permits are required prior to burning brush and debris in Michigan when the ground is not snow-covered. Residents in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula can obtain a free burn permit by visiting  www.michigan.gov/burnpermit or by calling 866-922-2876. Residents in southern Michigan should contact their local fire department or township office to see if burning is permitted in their area.

In addition to obtaining a burn permit, the DNR recommends people take the following steps to help prevent wildfires:

  • Pay attention to the fire danger in your area. Don’t burn debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush and other debris is the main cause of wildfires.
  • Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it won’t creep into dry vegetation.
  • Keep campfires small, and do not leave before they are fully extinguished.
  • Have a shovel and water available at all times when you are burning. Be sure to douse fires with plenty of water, stir and add more water until everything is wet.
  • Do not cover a campfire with soil; it may simply smolder before coming back to life.
  • Embers can re-ignite. Make sure they are out completely.
  • Consider composting or mulching yard debris rather than burning it.

Historically, debris burning has been the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Michigan.

For more tips in safeguarding your home and property from wildfire risk, please visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

Experience the excitement of spring birding 


scarlet tanagers are among the many bird species that can be found on Michigan’s birding trails

Scarlet tanagers are among the many bird species that can be found on Michigan’s birding trails

Common yellowthroats are among the many bird species that will be celebrated with birding events around the state this spring.

Common yellowthroats are among the many bird species that will be celebrated with birding events around the state this spring.

Events, trails around the state 

Michigan is home to a variety of important bird habitats and an exciting array of public birding events and birding trails. Now is the time to start making plans to get out and enjoy the spectacular diversity of birds in Michigan.

“Michigan has so many great opportunities for birders and wildlife watchers, with more events popping up all the time,” said Holly Vaughn, Department of Natural Resources wildlife communications coordinator. “There is no better place to begin birding than Michigan, and there are opportunities to observe birds anywhere you may be in the state.”

In addition to the many festivals listed below, Michigan is home to a growing number of birding trails, with six already existing and more planned. Michigan’s birding trails are open to the public and provide great opportunities for family recreation.

Spring birding events in Michigan include:

APRIL

  • Mackinaw Raptor Fest in Mackinaw City, April 7-9
  • Spring Fling at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Paradise, April 29-30
  • Thornapple Woodpecker Festival in Middleville, April 29
  • Brockway Mountain Hawk Watch in Copper Harbor, now through June 15

MAY

  • Keweenaw Migratory Bird Festival in Copper Harbor, May 20
  • Ziibiwing Annual Bird Celebration in Mt. Pleasant, May 13
  • Tawas Point Birding Festival in East Tawas, May 18-20
  • Warblers on the Water on Beaver Island, May 27-28
  • Kirtland’s Warbler Tours at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, May 14 through July 4

JUNE

  • Kirtland’s Warbler Festival in Roscommon, June 2-3
  • Cerulean Warbler Weekend in Hastings, June 10-11
  • Keweenaw Migratory Bird Festival in Copper Harbor, June 3, 10 and 11

“These birding events contribute significantly to the local economies, and attract attention to the value of local birds and habitats,” said Caleb Putnam, Michigan bird conservation coordinator for Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “As birders from across the country converge on Michigan’s diverse habitats, the energy continues to grow for conservation in Michigan.”

Birding is a great way to enjoy the diversity of Michigan’s wildlife and their habitats and to build a true appreciation for the uniqueness of the state’s natural resources. Birding events and trails are made possible through the efforts of Audubon chapters, government agencies, land conservancies, private industries and many dedicated individuals working together to create opportunities for people to experience the outdoors and visit local communities.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

March maple syrup making is good family fun


 

Michigan DNR and DEQ partners make maple syrup

A “sugar stove” used by the LeSages to boil down maple sap.

A “sugar stove” used by the LeSages to boil down maple sap.

There’s an old saying that goes, “From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.” In this case, it was maple trees and the seed that was planted was that of inspiration.

Last March, Christian LeSage, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist, and his family went to Fenner Nature Center in Lansing for its annual Maple Syrup Festival.

That glimpse into how sap is turned into treats like syrup and maple cream sparked an interest in starting his own sugar bush at home in Holt, where LeSage has 1.5 acres and seven nice maple trees.

He bought a book about maple sugaring and $30 worth of gear from the local store that sells sugar-bush supplies, and his syrup-making endeavor was off the ground.

“Last year we tapped five trees and got 40 gallons of sap in one week, which boiled down to almost a gallon of syrup,” LeSage said.

LeSage has since learned that his trees are big enough to tap multiple times.

“I thought we could double production this year by placing two bags for sap collection on each tree,” he said.

In one week’s collection time, the seven trees he’s tapped yielded 85 gallons of sap.

Gather: Leona and Silas LeSage out on a maple sap gathering outing.

Gather: Leona and Silas LeSage out on a maple sap gathering outing.

The process of making maple syrup usually begins months before spiles (taps) are knocked into tree trunks in February or March. The first steps are to identify trees for tapping and collecting supplies.

Next comes the actual tree tapping, followed by boiling of the sap to kill bacteria and evaporate excess water, which turns the sap into syrup.

Last year, LeSage did some Internet research and figured out how to create a wood-powered outdoor “oven,” using cement blocks, to boil down the sap. This year, he made the stove 30 percent larger and is now running three steam trays, versus two last year, to aid in reducing the sap boiling time.

“We had to resort to using a turkey fryer for part of the boil-down this year, when the stove malfunctioned due to an electrical issue,” he said. “It’s not really a good idea to boil a lot of sap down in the house, as it will turn your house into a sauna.”

While he enjoys his family’s new hobby, LeSage admits that it can be labor-intensive.

Boiling maple sap nearing the finishing point.

Boiling maple sap nearing the finishing point.

“It takes about eight hours to boil down 40 gallons of sap,” he said. “We did 60 in one day earlier this year and that added several more hours. I ended up having to bring some lights outside after it got dark.”

It’s a process that requires constant sieving—so that the sap that burns when it bubbles up doesn’t end up giving the syrup a bad flavor—and stoking the stove with wood.

“My lower back was screaming at the end of that day,” LeSage said.

One tricky part about making syrup is determining at which point in the boiling process it is finished.

“My wife, Sarah, has that tough job. When do you have syrup? If you go too far, it crystalizes. Barometric pressure and elevation factor in too,” he said.

But LeSage’s nose helps tip him off when it’s close to syrup stage.

“It smells like cotton candy when it’s almost done,” he said.

Finding the right window of time for tapping trees can be complicated too.

“It’s a race against time,” LeSage said. “Since the temperature has to be above freezing for sap to flow but sap gets bitter when the trees start to bud.

“And once you tap trees, they’re good for only six to eight weeks before they seal up or start to develop bacteria, from what I read.”

The syrup-making hobby has become a special family affair, with Sarah, the kids and in-laws helping. Sarah works as the aquatic invasive species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

“It’s fun to get in touch with one of the first signs of spring that’s happening right outside our backdoor,” she said.

The LeSage kids get a kick out of being involved too.

Silas LeSage demonstrates one way to eat maple cream.

Silas LeSage demonstrates one way to eat maple cream.

“My son talked about it in his kindergarten class when they were learning about trees,” he said.

Besides syrup, the family has tried making maple cream, a thick confection also known as maple butter or maple spread.

“My kids each ate a jar of that in about two days,” LeSage said.

Sarah LeSage said her kids help empty the containers of sap, but by far their favorite part of the process is enjoying the “maple cream.”

“It’s a specialty product you won’t find in grocery stores and is delicious spread on just about anything,” she said.

The family makes the syrup mostly for their own consumption. As the weekday breakfast-maker, LeSage uses a lot of it on waffles and pancakes. What he doesn’t use, he gives away.

“It’s neat because you did it in your own backyard,” he said.

Interested in getting an up-close look at maple sugaring?

Check out Maple Syrup Day at Hartwick Pines Logging Museum in Grayling on Saturday, April 1—with tree-tapping demonstrations, information on how to start your own sugar bush and kids’ activities—or visit one of the other local maple syrup festivals around the state.

Find out more about making maple treats from maple trees at several online websites, including www.tapmytrees.com.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Living in bear country


OUT-Bear-Country

Remove bird feeders now to reduce conflicts with bears later

Longer daylight hours, warming temperatures and new green plants have wildlife moving and sightings increasing. Michigan’s black bear is a species that attracts a lot of attention when spotted. Michiganders love black bears—this  up-north icon decorates walls and coffee mugs, homes, restaurants and hotels. However, spring also brings increased phone calls to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from home and business owners who have issues with bears.

“Everyone has a different point when they are going to pick up the phone and call us,” said DNR wildlife communications coordinator Katie Keen. “The majority of calls we receive about bears involve a bird feeder that has been visited multiple times. Taking the feeder down before it’s found by a bear can eliminate future problems. A bear doesn’t forget a free meal.”

Keen said that the easiest thing people living in bear country can do to avoid problems is remove bird feeders during the spring and summer months. Black bears are found throughout more than half the state. With an estimated 2,000-plus adult bears in the northern Lower Peninsula and almost 10,000 in the Upper Peninsula, there are a lot of bears searching for food, even with plenty of natural food sources available.

Bears find bird seed and suet especially attractive because of their high fat content compared to other natural food sources, and these foods draw bears out of their natural habitat, where normally they would be eating roots of early spring plants and insect larvae.

Once a bird feeder is discovered, a bear will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeder has been removed.

“Bears that receive a food reward when around homes, yards and neighborhoods typically lose their natural fear of humans and can become a threat to humans and pets,” said Keen. “If a bear walks through your property and no food reward is given, the bear will move along on its own. Help your community and keep bears at a distance. Bears are smart, so be smarter, and remove your bird feeders so you don’t attract bears to your property.”

For your safety, never intentionally feed or try to tame bears—it is in your, and the bear’s, best interest.

Learn more about Michigan’s black bear and how to prevent potential bear problems by visiting http://tinyurl.com/michiganbears and watching “The Bear Essentials” video or visiting mi.gov/bear.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

Leave wildlife in the wild


 

Do not take baby animals from the wild this spring

A white-tailed deer fawn waits for its mother to return.

A white-tailed deer fawn waits for its mother to return.

Spring is here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside, enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young, to view animals from a distance so they are not disturbed.

It’s important to remember that many species of wildlife hide their young for safety and that these babies are not abandoned. They simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them.

“Please resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR. “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.”

Schauer added that some animals that have been picked up by people and do survive may become habituated and may be unable to revert back to life in the wild.

“Habituated animals pose additional problems as they mature and develop adult animal behavior,” Schauer said. “For example, habituated deer, especially bucks, can become aggressive as they get older and reach breeding age.”

White-tailed deer fawns are one of the animals most commonly picked up by well-intentioned citizens.

Schauer explained that it is not uncommon for deer to leave their fawns unattended for up to eight hours at a time. This behavior minimizes the scent of the mother left around the fawn and allows the fawn to go undetected by nearby predators. While fawns may seem abandoned, they rarely are. All wild white-tailed deer begin life this way. The best chance for their survival is to leave them in the wild. If you find a fawn alone, do not touch it, as this might leave your scent and could attract predators. Give it plenty of space and quickly leave the area. The mother deer will return for her fawns when she feels it is safe; she may not return if people or dogs are present.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless you are licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including deer, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Please remember, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the laws and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals. Licensed rehabilitators will work to return the animal to the wild where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting mi.gov/wildlife or by calling a local DNR office.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Leave wildlife in the wild

DNR seeks comment on inland trout management plan


The public is welcome to comment on the DNR’s draft Inland Trout Management Plan, designed to protect species like Michigan’s state fish, the brook trout.

The public is welcome to comment on the DNR’s draft Inland Trout Management Plan, designed to protect species like Michigan’s state fish, the brook trout.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has released its draft inland trout management plan and is seeking public comment on it. The plan, available online at michigan.gov/fishing under Angler Alerts, focuses on the ecology and management of populations of inland trout in rivers and inland lakes of Michigan.

The intent of the inland trout management plan is to provide an overview of inland trout habitats in Michigan, the biology and ecology of inland trout populations, and management activities directed toward inland trout and their habitats. This information provides a basis for understanding the role of inland trout in current and future management of fisheries in Michigan’s inland lakes and streams.

This report does not cover species such as Chinook or coho salmon and migratory rainbow trout (steelhead), which reside in the Great Lakes and migrate inland on a seasonal basis. It does cover inland trout that primarily reside in streams and inland lakes throughout their lives.

Sections of the report focus on distribution of trout waters in the state, origin of inland trout fisheries, biology of inland trout in streams and lakes, fishing regulations, status of fisheries and other topics.

Public comments may be submitted via email to DNR-FISH-ManagementPlans@michigan.gov by Friday, April 14. Written public comments also will be accepted at Marquette Fisheries Research Station, attention Troy Zorn, 484 Cherry Creek Road, Marquette, MI 49855.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on DNR seeks comment on inland trout management plan

Volunteers needed for frog and toad survey


Fowler’s toad is one of the species in decline in Michigan.

Fowler’s toad is one of the species in decline in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking volunteers throughout the state to assist with its annual frog and toad survey.
Declining populations of frogs, toads and other amphibians have been documented worldwide since the 1980s. Studies suggest amphibians are disappearing due to habitat loss, pollution, disease and collection.

Michigan’s annual survey efforts help biologists monitor frog and toad abundance and distribution in the state.

“Fowler’s toads and mink frogs have a limited range in Michigan, unlike most other species that occur statewide,” said Lori Sargent, the DNR’s frog and toad survey coordinator. “Over the past 20 years, through analyzing the survey data collected, we’ve noticed a decline in these two species in Michigan.”

The surveys are conducted by volunteer observers along a statewide system of permanent survey routes, each consisting of 10 wetland sites. These sites are visited three times during spring, when frogs and toads are actively breeding. Observers listen for calling frogs and toads at each site, identify the species present, and make an estimate of abundance.

Sargent said new volunteers are needed in all parts of the state, and the continued success of the survey is dependent on strong volunteer support. Those interested in volunteering should contact Lori Sargent at 517-284-6216 or SargentL@michigan.gov.

Michigan has the second-longest-running such survey in the country, after Wisconsin.

More information on the frog and toad survey and other projects supported by the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund is available at mi.gov/wildlife

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on Volunteers needed for frog and toad survey

Conservation officer rescues man overcome with carbon monoxide


Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink, who is originally from Grand Rapids, and now serving in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink, who is originally from Grand Rapids, and now serving in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo from Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Mike Evink rescued a man earlier this month who was overcome with carbon monoxide while trying to save a homeowner.

The incident occurred at 3:43 p.m. Wednesday, January 11, when Evink was dispatched to a home along Hutt Lake Drive in Schoolcraft County, which is in the mid-eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. A deliveryman for Suburban Propane had gone to fill a propane tank at the home of 59-year-old Ronald Haug. Arriving at the house in Inwood Township, the driver noticed Haug on the floor of his garage.

The 55-year-old deliveryman went into the garage and tried to revive Haug with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He also called emergency operators at Central Dispatch.

“He told the dispatcher he was getting dizzy and couldn’t do CPR any longer,” Evink said. “Dispatchers then lost contact with him.”

Evink, who had been at Indian Lake State Park, roughly 15 miles away, went to the home, driving his four-wheel-drive patrol vehicle through 5 or 6 miles of unplowed roadway to reach the house.

Once there, he saw footprints leading into the garage.

“I opened the service door to the garage and saw two individuals on the ground,” Evink said.

Evink said the deliveryman had a pulse and was breathing, but was unresponsive. Mr. Haug had no pulse and also did not respond. The men had been overcome by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless toxic gas. Mr. Haug did not survive.

“The delivery man was barely alive,” said Lt. Eugene “Skip” Hagy, a DNR district law supervisor out of the Newberry office. “Mike opened the big garage door and worked to get the victim fresh air and kept trying to get him conscious.”

An ambulance with advanced life support paramedics from Manistique Public Safety got to the house at 4:24 p.m., about 15 minutes after Evink had arrived.

“Had Mike not arrived when he did, there would have likely been two fatalities,” Hagy said.

The deliveryman was in stable condition when he was rushed to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Manistique. Officers interviewed him Thursday night. He was being treated and monitored.

The source of the carbon monoxide is still being investigated.

“The efforts of CO Evink demonstrate the types of lifesaving incidents our officers can be called to respond to at any given moment,” said Lt. Pete Wright, acting Captain for the DNR Region 1 Law Enforcement Division. “He is a great example of the capable type of person we train our officers to be.”

Four days earlier, in a search and rescue incident, Evink was involved in aiding two stranded snowmobilers in Alger County who say he and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer David Tembreull saved their lives.

David Vorhes, 64, of Trenary and Mike Lasley, 56, of West Bloomfield were riding east of Munising in a backcountry area in Burt Township.

“We were stranded out south of the Kingston Plains when we placed a 911 call to (the) Alger County Sheriff around 6 p.m.,” Vorhes said in a message commending the efforts of the two officers.

Vorhes said the two riders were broke down and lost, off trail in 4-5 feet of snow, along the Clyde Lake Road, north of Trail 88 and 43, south of the Adams Truck Trail.

“It was blowing and cold that night,” Evink said.

One of the snowmobilers had just crossed a lake and buried his sled in snow coming off the ice. The second rider went to get help and his machine broke down.

“The engine seized,” Evink said.

Arriving in the area deputies had picked up from cellphone signals, Evink and Tembreull began following snowmobile tracks into the woods and, eventually, footprints.

“Somehow they were able to find us showing exceptional recovery skills, noticing our footprints in a gully then following them until they came upon us,” Vorhes said.

Evink said the officers found the two riders in a makeshift shelter they had fashioned under a pine tree.

“We had no illumination, light or any sort of emergency preparedness kit—a cardinal sin when venturing out in any conditions into the remote Upper Peninsula,” Vorhes said.

The officers activated their patrol lights to let the snowmobilers know they were police approaching.

“They saw our lights and started walking toward us,” Evink said.

After freeing the snowmobile that had been stuck in the snow, the officers and the snowmobilers rode about a half mile to the place where the second sled was broken down.

Determining the engine would not start, they unhooked a belt so the track of the sled would freely spin and the machine could then be towed to a place where it could be retrieved the following day.

Vorhes said this added about two hours to the rescue effort.

“Put simply, Dave and Mike were going to make sure that not only were we returned safety, but our equipment was also returned safety,” Vorhes said. “With weather conditions of zero degrees, without wind chill, winds gusting between 25-30 mph and snowing heavily, creating a very low visibility, they were not fazed or detoured by these conditions.

“Once they located us they kept our spirits high and kept saying that they were having a blast, ‘This is what we live for,’” Vorhes said. “Dave and Mike are heroes. They saved our lives that night.”

Evink said the two snowmobilers were cold, but coherent. The riders began to warm up as they helped in the work to get the sleds out of the woods.

“If they had been stuck out there all night they would have been in pretty bad shape,” Evink said. “Their extremities were pretty cold.”

The men were found about 2.5 miles from Alger County H-58 and only two-tenths of a mile from the Adams Trail.

“With the way the winds and the snow was blowing that night, they would have had no idea they were that close to the road,” Evink said.

The riders were taken back to a staging area where they were met by an Alger County Sheriff’s deputy who returned them to Munising where they spent the night with a relative.

“With Shared areas of responsibility, and with an emphasis on inter-agency cooperation, the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and conservation officers oftentimes work together in cooperation to achieve our various management goals,” said Tembreull, who is from L’Anse and has worked with the Forest Service for the past decade.

On the night of the search and rescue, Tembreull and Evink were conducting a joint patrol looking for registrations and safety violations.

“I believe it is important to maintain and foster a strong interagency relationship and assist each other in the best way possible to benefit the public and natural resources,” Tembreull said.

After working for a year as a law enforcement officer with the city of Cadillac, Evink was hired as a conservation officer with the DNR in 2010. A native of Grand Rapids, Evink was assigned to Schoolcraft County and he has been on patrol there since.

“These two incidents are examples of the important role Michigan conservation officers play in lifesaving and search and rescue operations throughout the state,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “Conservation officers are well-trained and routinely respond to a wide range of situations where people find themselves in need of assistance.”

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

Posted in NewsComments Off on Conservation officer rescues man overcome with carbon monoxide

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.

 

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Trust Fund finances important projects, big and small

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