Department of Natural Resources
In 1979, the Michigan legislature passed the state’s wetlands protection statute, which recognizes the benefits and important functions and values provided by wetlands. 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, including invasive species, climate change and declining Great Lakes water levels, and demand for development on existing wetlands.
Each year, women from across the Upper Great Lakes region and elsewhere gather at the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Marquette County for a summer weekend BOW program in June and a winter program in February. Volunteer instructors offer classes on a range of activities such as shooting firearms, fishing, cross-country skiing, paddle boarding, winter camping, kayaking and archery.
This holiday season, tens of thousands of Americans will fan out across the country with one goal in mind: finding and counting as many species of birds they can find. These observations will add to a large dataset going back 117 years to Dec. 25, 1900, when the Christmas Bird Count, known then as the Christmas Bird Census, was first established. The Christmas count remains one of the most important citizen science datasets today, helping scientists understand population declines and range shifts in North American birds.
The December ruffed grouse season, Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, offers an entirely different hunting experience for deer hunters who just can’t stay still, are always second-guessing the blind they chose or just want to get a few more miles out of their base license. The late grouse season offers deer hunters a great opportunity to extend their time in the field, take on a new outdoor challenge and add another variety of game meat to their table fare.
After more than a century, it’s staggering to consider the rich copper mining history of the Mohawk and Wolverine mines, and the tremendous wealth, commerce and industry derived that provided jobs and a livelihood for miners and their families. It’s also hard to grasp that the stamp sands piled on the beach and into the lake all those years ago have caused such serious problems today, threatening vital fish populations, recreational opportunity and the economic fortunes of many.
There are some pastimes that folks age out of. When was the last time you saw someone much past grammar school shooting marbles or playing jacks? And there are other pastimes that are lifelong activities, like deer hunting.
Hunting and fishing have always played major roles in Michigan's heritage. But one natural resources-based recreation coterie, which garners very little attention, is quick to point out that its members’ pastime is at least equally as important – if not more so – as anyone else’s in Michigan history: trappers.
Volunteer instructors are the backbone of Michigan's hunter safety program, with about 3,000 volunteers teaching approximately 20,000 students each year.
Michigan is home to one of the nation’s oldest private-public partnership programs, offering financial incentives to private landowners who allow public access to their properties for hunting. The DNR's Hunting Access Program has developed over the past 40 years, initially in the southern part of the state, recently expanding northward.
Michigan is home to quality horseback-riding opportunities in many regions of the state, and autumn is an excellent time to get out and enjoy them. The state boasts more than a thousand miles of state-designated trails open to equestrian riders and 20-plus equestrian-friendly campgrounds located in many Michigan state parks and on state forestland.
The Mi-HUNT tool is great for many types of outdoor recreation. With just a couple clicks of a computer mouse, the interactive map application maintained by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources makes a great deal of valuable information, including topographic maps and aerial photographs, available for hunters, anglers, trail-users and others.
Michigan is home to a wide variety of spectacular habitat types. Among these, perhaps one of the most important categories is upland habitat, which offers countless recreation opportunities for the fall leaf peeper, mushroom hunter, birdwatcher, hiker, hunter, beachgoer, camper and others.
To get eggs from salmon and steelhead for fish stocking, the DNR first needs to capture the fish. This is done by use of one of the most important parts of the DNR’s fish-stocking system: weirs.
Sharp-tailed grouse are prairie birds, inhabiting grasslands and the neighboring brush, found only in the Upper Peninsula – and mostly on the east end. While only a relative handful of sportsmen hunt them, they offer a unique upland opportunity to Michigan bird hunters.
As one of the most wooded states in the country, with more than half of its 36 million acres of land forested, Michigan offers plenty of opportunity to see trees put on their fall color show. DNR staffers at state parks have a variety of good suggestions for places visitors in search of eye-catching autumn scenery might want to check out – by car, foot, kayak, horse or off-road vehicle, as well as by chairlift.
For many people, the opportunity to see a Michigan black bear in the wild is an amazing experience. Everyone who lives and enjoys the outdoors in bear country shares the responsibility of not doing things that will intentionally or unintentionally attract bears and create the potential for bear problems. The best way to avoid issues with black bears is to never feed them.
Green-and-gold signs, known as Michigan Historical Markers, dot buildings and landscapes, sharing snippets of Michigan’s rich history. Just about anyone who’s traveled the state’s byways and highways over the last 50-plus years likely has encountered a marker or two, and for good reason – Michigan’s historical marker program is among the nation’s oldest.
What location is to real estate, partnerships, cooperation and volunteerism are to development and maintenance of Michigan’s nearly 13,000 miles of designated trails. These three vital factors were all involved in a recent trail development triumph celebrated in the Upper Peninsula — completion of the roughly 25-mile Hermansville to Escanaba multi-use trail. This latest trail development success is only one project among many taking place in the Upper Peninsula, and elsewhere in Michigan.
Each year, thousands of monarchs congregate at Delta County's Peninsula Point as they wait to begin their migration south to Mexico. While the chance to catch the majestic sight of multitudes of monarchs boosts tourism by drawing flocks of visitors to the area, the site is even more important for its contribution to monarch butterfly research and conservation.
The thousands of rivers, lakes and streams in Michigan are beautiful, special places, not only to a wide range of people, including anglers, boaters and campers, but numerous plant and animal species. Those areas between the water and the uplands are called riparian areas or riparian zones.
Numerous Michigan state parks will host "Meteors & S'mores," Perseid meteor shower viewing parties, on Aug. 11-12. And if you’re looking for a place to explore the night sky on your own, many state parks make great stargazing locations.
Michigan has become an important laboratory for the study and preservation of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous viper that inhabits the state.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources fire officials said some important distinctions played a role in the very different behaviors and outcomes of two fires burning in a jack pine barren — years apart, but geographically close to each other — in Marquette County.
The DNR has been monitoring sturgeon populations on the St. Clair River for the last 25 years with a technique that is as old as fishing itself. DNR crews use set lines that are anchored to the bottom of the river channel and sport numerous hooks to catch and tag the mysterious prehistoric fish.
After more than two decades of study and testing white-tailed deer for bovine tuberculosis, Michigan has become world-renowned for its research and expertise on managing this serious contagious disease. Over this time, DNR wildlife managers have learned a great deal, including that continued assistance from hunters and others remains vitally necessary to make significant gains in battling bovine tuberculosis into the future.
The Michigan History Center in Lansing, a division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, preserves and displays the state's military flags, allowing Michigan residents to connect visually with the past, adding depth and color to their appreciation of wars that gripped our nation and greatly changed Michigan and the country.
Savannas provide valuable habitat for many wildlife species such as Karner blue butterflies, eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, upland sandpipers, prairie voles, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and fox squirrels.
The Governor's Decision Room at the Michigan History Center in Lansing Michigan History Center describes is a multiday, solution-based learning experience that allows students to collaborate as they determine the best course of action for the governor during actual historical events. Currently, the program is devoted to understanding the social, political and cultural climates surrounding the 1967 civil unrest in Detroit.
Volunteer stewardship workdays are in full swing at state parks and recreation areas throughout southern lower Michigan. In 20 locations, from Belle Isle to the dunes of Lake Michigan, people from all walks of life are rolling up their sleeves, putting on their gloves and going to work to protect high-quality natural areas from the threat of invasive species.
In most areas of the state, you’re not too far away from opportunities to discover more about the outdoors with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ nature and outdoor education programs.
The Saturday before Memorial Day is especially significant to two groups of bass anglers – those who fish tournaments and those who like to eat bass. That’s because anglers can now fish for both species of bass – largemouth and smallmouth — year-round in Michigan, as long as they release them immediately, until the “possession season” arrives later this summer.
Perhaps one of the most underrated habitat types in our great nation is the grassland. Grasslands are so much more than empty fields – they provide great benefits to wildlife and to people as well.
May is National Bike Month, a great time to discover both the benefits of bicycling – among them, improving your physical and mental health, cutting down on pollution, saving money on gas and getting outdoors – and the many beautiful places you can explore in Michigan on a bike.
Soon we’ll be welcoming back to Michigan one of the most distinctive signs that summer is on its way – the brightly colored monarch butterfly. Monarchs are on their way north from Mexico, where they spend the winter months. One of the most well-known and beloved butterfly species in North America, with their easily recognized orange and black wing pattern, monarchs have become a much less common sight in recent decades as their populations have drastically declined.
While Arbor Day may be the only day of the year specifically set aside to celebrate trees, the importance of trees is something many organizations focus on year-round. A good number of these organizations spearhead volunteer efforts, many in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, to plant trees for the benefit of Michigan’s wildlife and communities around the state.
A small group of fifth-grade kids at Cherry Creek Elementary School, south of Marquette, was recently introduced to target archery by a couple of teachers and a national program supported by the DNR. Across Michigan, more than 500 schools have adopted the National Archery in the Schools program. Cherry Creek Elementary is among the most recent.
It has been reasonably common in America, over generations, for youngsters to follow in the same career footsteps as their parents. Natural resources professionals are not immune. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has plenty of second- and even third-generation representatives of families who have followed the family tradition.
With spring now sprung, a sleeping Michigan giant is waking up – and now is a great opportunity for residents and visitors to see it. It’s Michigan’s growing system of designated trails, ready for endless spring and summertime opportunities to relax, have fun, travel, learn and explore.
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 for one DNR employee and his family.
Students at a recent Hard Water School, the ice-fishing clinic that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources hosts several times a winter, got a lesson in in one of the basic rules of fishing: Weather trumps all. But extra time in the classroom allowed instructors to explore some additional subjects that would not have otherwise made the agenda.
From Adopt-A-Forest and invasive species and forest health monitoring to classroom visits and renovation of cabins and park facilities, AmeriCorps members make a tremendous positive impact serving with the Department of Natural Resources.
With the potential threat of chronic wasting disease spreading to the Upper Peninsula from across the Wisconsin border, or by other means, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, hunter groups and others are working cooperatively to try to protect the region’s deer population and valuable hunting tradition.
With hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, Mackinac Island has long been one of Michigan’s favorite vacation destinations. The island is known for its scenic views – often seen from a bicycle – historic attractions, fudge and horses, but until recently, many visitors did not know about its connection to Native American history and culture.
Only at Black Lake in Cheboygan County can sport anglers use spears to harvest a sturgeon. There is a strict quota limiting total angler take and, individually, anglers can harvest only one sturgeon per season. Across Michigan, fishing seasons for lake sturgeon can extend several months, depending on the water body, but the Black Lake season often lasts only a matter of hours. This year’s season, which just recently concluded, was no exception.
There are numerous occasions when Michigan Department of Natural Resources divisions work together to perform a good number of tasks, but this cooperation is often unknown to the general public. Recently, in the Upper Peninsula, an especially great deal of cooperation was in evidence between several DNR divisions, as well as outside entities, called to respond to the impacts of two vicious storm systems that struck the western part of the region over a 10-day period.
For many decades, passing on the skills and knowledge of the hunting tradition from adults to youth has been a meaningful and vitally important part of our heritage in Michigan. Today, the practice continues, often with the help and support of hunters’ groups and the DNR.
Decoys have long been used by ice fishermen to lure large fish – generally pike, but also sturgeon and others – within range of the spearing hole, though some hook-and-line anglers use them as well. Primarily turned out by home-shop artisans, fish decoys were once manufactured by major bait companies, but the homemade models have become highly collectable, unique examples of American folk art.
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.
Several Michigan state parks offer a unique way to experience nature each winter as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources presents lantern-lit snowshoeing and cross-country skiing events.
Michigan is a place where anglers can take up their rod and fish year-round with the expectation of having fantastic experiences. Winter is no exception, with thousands of lakes open to ice fishing. Ice fishing attracts thousands of Michigan men and women who brave winter weather to keep on fishing. Many say they actually prefer fishing through the ice to the open-water sport.