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Celebrating 100 Years of Michigan State Parks

By CASEY WARNER - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Visitors enjoy picnic area at Hayes State Park18JAN19-From iconic destinations like Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the eastern Upper Peninsula to lesser-known gems like Hayes State Park in southeastern Michigan’s Irish Hills, the Great Lakes State offers 103 state parks to enjoy.
Within these parks, there’s hunting and fishing along with campgrounds, boat launches, swimming beaches, trails and lighthouses.
Whether it's city destinations like Belle Isle Park and the Outdoor Adventure Center or wilderness areas like Craig Lake State Park, Michigan has plenty to offer.
But before 1917, our state parks numbered only one – Mackinac Island State Park, which was established in 1895 as a gift from the federal government. It had been the country’s second national park.
Interlochen State Park is considered Michigan’s first official state park, having been purchased by the state Legislature in 1917.
At the beginning of the 20th century, when Michigan’s population rapidly expanded as the automobile industry grew, cars became affordable and people could drive from their urban homes to the country or the lakeshore. But with few places available for the public to enjoy these scenic outdoor settings, it became clear that a statewide system of recreational areas open to everyone was needed.

A scenic view of forest at Yankee Springs Recreation AreaAccording to P. J. Hoffmaster, Michigan’s first superintendent of state parks: “The appearance of ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Property, Keep Out’ signs has been a growing one, all tending toward an approaching era of exclusion of the great mass of our residents and visitors from wonderful recreational advantages offered by the state. Through this, if nothing else, has come the setting aside of tracts of land and water by the people for the use and enjoyment of all.”
On May 12, 1919, the Michigan Legislature established the Michigan State Park Commission to oversee, acquire and maintain public lands for state parks.
To commemorate this historic milestone, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Michigan state parks throughout 2019.
“A hundred years ago, people in Michigan were rallying to protect the state’s most beautiful outdoor destinations,” Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said. “Fast forward through time and you’ll find that generations of residents and visitors have fallen in love with these treasured natural places.”

Still frame from state parks centennial videoThe centennial celebration will encourage the public to get involved by sharing their stories and photos, attending events taking place throughout the year, exploring a new or favorite park, learning more about the history of state parks and much more.
Learn more about how to get involved in commemorating the 100-year legacy of Michigan state parks – and about the parks and their history – at michigan.gov/stateparks100.
An average of 28 million people each year visit Michigan state parks ranging from Milliken State Park and Harbor in Detroit – Michigan’s first urban state park providing a green oasis in the heart of the city – to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, offering one of the few remaining large wild areas in the Midwest.

See a Michigan state parks fact sheet.

“State parks play a role in helping visitors connect physically and emotionally to all of Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities, including inland lakes, miles and miles of shoreline, lush forests and a variety of fish and wildlife species,” Olson said.

lady on bench overlooking Snail Shell Harbor at Fayette Historic State ParkOne way people can share their connection to state parks is by contributing photos and memories to the digital Michigan State Parks Memory Map.
“We launched the memory map to capture the special memories – camping trips, family traditions, fish tales, Scouting excursions, day hikes and more – that people have made over the years,” Maia Turek, a recreation programmer with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said.
“It’s a virtual guest book of sorts where visitors and staff – the heart of Michigan state parks – can share stories and photos.”
A few examples of the reminiscences people have contributed:

As a child my family and I would go for walks on the trails around the marshes. This remains such a special memory of mine; one that has truly sculpted who I am today. (Sterling State Park, Monroe County)

Campsite #29 was the BEST lakefront site I’ve ever camped at! Great view, bald eagle hanging out and it was so quiet and beautiful, loved it sooo much. We will be returning to this site yearly to continue making memories. (Leelanau State Park, Leelanau County)

A local suggested we hit the Lake of the Clouds overlook for sunrise. It. Was. Stunning!!! I will never forget how magical that morning was. (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties)

girl and mother learn how to pitch a tentMore state park memories will be offered as part of the centennial’s Campfire Storytelling Project, launching in May.
“There is something special about stories around a campfire. The stories always seem authentic, honest and, often, heartfelt,” Turek said. “With this in mind, we are introducing the Campfire Storytelling Project, where seasoned storytellers will share their favorite state park stories and memories.”
Turek said that campfire attendees will also be invited to share their anecdotes. Each event will be recorded and distilled down into a podcast that will be posted on the centennial webpage and shared via DNR social media.
Under the Radar Michigan, a PBS television series featuring the people, places and things that make Michigan great, will help share state parks’ stories with five new segments showcasing parks across the state and a collection of state park feature segments from years past.

Check out the Under the Radar videos on the centennial webpage.

Family playing volleyball on beach at Van Riper State ParkThe 100-year anniversary celebration includes a series of centennial events across the state. More events will be added throughout the year, so check back often.
State park enthusiasts can also
follow centennial activities on social media all year long.
Michigan State Parks Centennial Geotour, kicking off May 23, will offer an opportunity to join a worldwide scavenger hunt and explore state parks while seeking out 100 new geocaches created in honor of the 100-year anniversary.
Those who want to camp at state parks during the official anniversary weekend, May 10-12, can book their favorite spots at the DNR’s updated campground and harbor reservations website,
midnrreservations.com. All camping parties that weekend will get a complimentary commemorative bumper sticker upon arrival.
Check out a
story and video from our Showcasing archive on destination weddings at Upper Peninsula state parks.


Man in kayak on the waterIn addition to looking back on the history of Michigan state parks and encouraging people to explore the outdoor recreation opportunities available in state parks today, the centennial celebration also focuses on the concept of giving forward – ensuring that state parks continue to thrive into the future.
Giving forward might include buying gear that supports Michigan state parks, trails and waterways, volunteering time to help with park stewardship and other DNR efforts, or simply purchasing a Recreation Passport and visiting a state park.
Get more information about Michigan state parks at
Look for a series of upcoming Showcasing the DNR stories about the people, places and events that shaped the development of Michigan’s state park system.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at
michigan.gov/dnrstories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at michigan.gov/dnr.


Regulation Change Affects Smelt Fishing

Close-up view of a rainbow smelt in someone's hand15JAN19-If you're fishing for smelt this year, make sure you know about a legislative change, signed at the end of 2018, that alters how anglers can target smelt in Michigan.
The previous state statute let people use any number of hooks attached to a single line, while fishing for smelt, alewife or other bait fish in the Great Lakes or recognized smelt waters. Now, anglers fishing for those species can use no more than three lines per person, with no more than six hooks or lures on all lines. All hooks attached to an artificial bait or “night crawler harness” are counted as one hook (note: for crappie/perch rigs and umbrella rigs, each hook is counted as part of the total six allowed). This means anglers may use up to six hooks on one line or spread the six hooks out over up to three lines.
For more information on fishing regulations, see the current Michigan Fishing Guide, available at fishing license vendors and online at michigan.gov/fishingguide. Questions? Contact Christian LeSage, 517-284-5830 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.


Don’t Forget About Mandatory Muskie Harvest Registration

snowmobile and fishing shanty on a frozen lake15JAN18-With Michigan's ice-fishing season well under  way, the DNR reminds anglers who harvest a muskellunge that there is mandatory registration. The muskie harvest limit is one fish per angler per license year.
A muskellunge harvest must be reported within 24 hours of the catch. Reports can be made online through the DNR’s Harvest Reporting System (
michigan.gov/registerfish), toll-free by calling 844-345-FISH (3474), or in person at any DNR Customer Service Center during normal state business hours and with advanced notice of arrival.
Fisheries managers use the registration information to evaluate muskie harvest across the state, helping them better manage those fish populations.
The general possession season for muskellunge is open through March 15 for all Great Lakes and inland waters and the St. Marys River. For more information, check out the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide at
michigan.gov/fishingguide or contact Cory Kovacs, 906-293-5131, ext. 4071 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.


Michigan State Parks: 100 Years Young and Going Strong

Michigan state parks turn 100 in 2019!15JAN18-With 103 state parks – from Milliken State Park in Detroit, to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on the western end of the Upper Peninsula – Michigan's enviable collection of outdoor recreation destinations is a draw for more than 27 million visitors every year. But it didn't happen by accident. 
Almost 100 years ago, Michigan's state parks system was established, moving forward a vision to acquire lands for great outdoor spaces where the public could enjoy leisure time in some of the most beautiful woods and water found anywhere in the country. Today, no matter where you are in Michigan, you're never more than a half-hour away from a state park, state forest campground or state trail system!
If it's been awhile since you've been in a Michigan state park, check out the video above for a bird's-eye view of some of these special places.
"Over the past 100 years, we are all fortunate for the vision and passion of those who had the foresight to secure these priceless natural treasures for future generations," said DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson. "During this centennial celebration year, we invite old friends and first-time visitors to explore four seasons of fun. It's time to get to know your Michigan state parks all over again."

Take advantage of this yearlong celebration by visiting michigan.gov/stateparks100 to learn more about the rich history, find events near you, listen to podcasts, watch videos, and many other ways to enjoy and support Michigan's award-winning state parks system. For more information, contact Maia Turek, 989-225-8573.


Celebrating a Decade of Success: DNR Announces $100,000 Available in UP Deer Habitat Improvement Grants

A crew of migrant workers plants seedlings to improve deer habitat on a project in Marquette County.15JAN19-Over the last decade, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has invested over $630,000 of hunting license sales revenue to enhance deer habitat on private lands in the Upper Peninsula.
That significant investment has been made through the Deer Habitat Improvement Partnership Initiative, a competitive grant program offered through the DNR’s Wildlife Division.
“Over 80 projects in nearly all of the U.P.’s 15 counties have benefited thousands of acres of deer habitat,” said Bill Scullon, DNR field operations manager in Norway and administrator for the grant initiative. “Partners have contributed over $450,000 in matching funds, which have contributed to expanding the impact of projects.”
For this year, the DNR has announced a March 1 deadline to apply for a total of $100,000 in deer habitat improvement grant funding.
Groups eligible for these grants include organizations with a formal mission to promote wildlife conservation and/or hunting, such as sportsmen’s clubs, conservation districts, land conservancies, industrial landowners with more than 10,000 acres, or private land affiliations where two or more unrelated persons jointly own 400 or more acres.

"There are three primary goals applicants should strive to meet," Scullon said. "The projects should produce tangible deer habitat improvements, build long-term partnerships between the DNR and outside organizations and showcase the benefits to the public."
Scullon said the total amount of grant funding available is $100,000. The maximum amount of individual grants is $15,000 and the minimum is $2,000.
Now in its eleventh year, the initiative is supported by the state’s Deer Range Improvement Program, which is funded by a portion of deer hunting license revenue.
Previous projects funded under the initiative include planting of red oak, conifers and wildlife orchards; rehabilitation of historic wildlife openings; native prairie restoration, and scarification for conifer regeneration. Some past grant recipients have also facilitated youth hunting opportunities on improved private lands.
Project applications must be postmarked by Friday, March 1, and successful applicants will be notified by Monday, March 18. The complete grant application package is available on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants.

For more information or questions regarding eligibility, please contact Bill Scullon at 906-563-9247 or scullonh@michigan.gov.


Coming to a State Park This Winter? Come Prepared

By THERESA NEAL - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Trail Between the Falls is closed until further notice.14JAN18-Dealing with mild winter conditions is sometimes more challenging than preparing for a whole lot of cold and snow.
A trio of visitors to Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the eastern Upper Peninsula were reminded of this recently when a hike on a relatively mild winter day turned into a hazardous situation.
The incident underscores the importance of being prepared for the location and the wintertime conditions.
Early winter rain showers had produced a sheet of ice that covered 4 inches of snow. This frosty glaze encased park features, including the 4-mile-long trail between the spectacular Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls.
Three young men who attempted the trail hike became stranded along the banks of the wide, winding river. After sliding down an embankment, they were unable to get back up.

Their call to 9-1-1 from the remote location went through. With flashlights in hand, park rangers and emergency personnel soon began their own trek to try to rescue the men.
Sheriff’s deputies and EMS workers were there, along with state police troopers and the U.S. Border Patrol. All were risking their own safety to affect the rescue of the men.
“The trail was covered in glare ice, especially the stairways,” said Eric Johnson, a park officer who led the rescue effort. “Despite walking slowly and carefully, we all fell multiple times. The ice, plus pitch darkness and cold temperatures, made for a treacherous situation.”
Campers enjoy breakfast at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the eastern Upper Peninsula.After two hours, the three men were located, stranded at the bottom of an icy ridge. One man was showing signs of hypothermia, including confusion and fatigue, and was struggling to move.
Emergency personnel formed a human chain to pull the men away from the river. They used ropes to get everyone to the relative safety of the embankment.
“Fortunately, this situation has a positive ending. Park rangers are familiar with the terrain and were able to organize the search efficiently by asking the right questions to figure out where the men were along the trail,” said Tahquamenon Falls State Park Manager Kevin Dennis. “Without park rangers assisting with the search, these visitors would have been exposed to the cold even longer, with potentially dire consequences.”
Even mildly cold environments can lead to hypothermia. Symptoms of exposure to cold conditions develop quickly, including shivering, shallow breathing, confusion and loss of coordination.
All these concerns can be avoided by wearing proper clothing and layering.

Use the following checklist to dress before winter activities:

  • No cotton touching skin: The key is to avoid cotton materials. Cotton will absorb sweat and water and stay wet, causing a person to become cold. Start with a polyester blend, or merino wool, as a first layer, which will provide heat even when wet.
  • Fleece or wool sweater: Follow that first non-cotton layer up with one or two layers of insulation, such as a fleece or wool sweater.
  • Wind/waterproof jacket: The top layer should be waterproof or water resistant. A rain jacket, that can be unzipped after warming up during outdoor activity is ideal.
  • Hat, gloves or mittens: A hat and gloves are important for any winter activity. Mittens are best for those who tend to get cold fingers. If people get warm, they can always take their hat and gloves off for a few minutes – they may be amazed at how quickly they cool off.
  • Warm footwear: Footwear should also start with a non-cotton sock. Wool or polypropylene socks are soft, warm and lightweight. They don’t bunch up inside boots and will keep feet warm, even if sweating. Winter boots or waterproof hiking boots are necessary. Ice-traction devices can be invaluable during mild winters, which are often characterized by icy conditions.
  • Snow pants or gaiters: Snow pants are great for cold weather, but some people opt to wear gaiters, which fit over boots and cover pants up to the knee. Gaiters keep snow and water out of boots without the bulkiness of snow pants.

Beyond dressing properly, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Leave a note, a text or a voicemail.
“Visitors to the most wintry of our Michigan state parks should be prepared for conditions when they arrive, even if they only plan to stay a few minutes,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “A quick walk to a scenic vista could become a serious situation if unexpected circumstances occur, perhaps leaving a person injured or stranded, unprepared to deal with nature’s elements.”

The Lower Tahquamenon Falls are shown on a cold, wintry Saturday.

Not all of Michigan’s 103 state parks have the steep terrain of the Porcupine Mountains, or the inherent danger of the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, but all the parks possess the potential for serious challenges for visitors who arrive unprepared to deal with a variety of changing weather-related conditions.
Visitors should make sure vehicles are packed for an emergency during winter adventures. Bring a shovel, blankets, a bucket of sand or cat litter for traction, a flashlight, water and snacks. These items can help drivers remove a vehicle from a ditch or snowbank or make the wait for help to arrive more tolerable.
“Our park is open year-round, so people can experience the waterfalls in the winter,” Dennis said. “We encourage visitors to do their part and come prepared for winter conditions. This way, they can enjoy their visit, and everyone can stay safe.”
The River Trail at Tahquamenon Falls State Park is now closed due to unsafe conditions until further notice.

Get additional winter safety tips in this video with DNR Conservation Officer Jennifer Hanson, who patrols in Gogebic County.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at michigan.gov/dnrstories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at michigan.gov/dnr.


Enjoy A Historic Summer as a Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper
Apply by February 1st

couple that volunteers as keepers stands in front of Tawas Point Lighthouse11JAN19-The Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper Program is now accepting applications for keepers for May 1st through October 29th. Those selected will get to live in the restored keeper’s quarters at the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse, located in Tawas Point State Park off Tawas Bay in Lake Huron.

Each participant pays a $75 per-person fee and provides roughly 35 hours of service each week in and around the historic lighthouse that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Keeper duties include greeting visitors, giving tours, providing information about the lighthouse and routine cleaning and maintenance. Keepers stay in the second story of the keeper's quarters attached to the lighthouse. Accommodations include two bedrooms sleeping up to four adults, a modern kitchen, bath and laundry. Keepers must commit to a two-week stay at the lighthouse.

The lighthouse keeper program looks for teams of two, three or four adults – especially those with knowledge of lighthouse lore or Great Lakes maritime history – but there is no requirement for such a background. Prospective keepers should be physically able to climb up and down the 85 lighthouse stairs and have excellent customer service and public speaking skills.

The application and additional information are available at the Lighthouse Keeper Program webpage. For more information, contact dnr-tawaskeepers@michigan.gov. The application period is open through February 1st.

(Archived) Enjoy A Historic Summer as a Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper

Tawas Lighthouse bedroom view06DEC18-Winter may have just begun, but it's the perfect time to start making summer travel plans. Looking for uncommon travel experiences? How about a two-week stay at the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse, located in Tawas Point State Park off Tawas Bay in Lake Huron?
Starting today, the Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper Program will accept applications for volunteer keepers for May 1 through Oct. 29. Those selected – the program gets more than 100 applications a year – will get to live in the restored keeper’s quarters. Each participant pays a $75 per-person fee and provides roughly 35 hours of service each week in and around the historic lighthouse that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Tawas Lighthouse interior"The Tawas area is known as Michigan's Cape Cod," said Hillary Pine, Tawas Point Lighthouse historian. "It's a lovely area favored by bird-watchers, sailors, history enthusiasts and others. We make sure our volunteer lighthouse keepers have plenty of time to enjoy Lake Huron, Tawas Bay and other recreational
Keeper duties at this nationally accredited museum include greeting visitors, giving tours, sharing information about the lighthouse, and routine cleaning and maintenance. Lodging is in the second story of the keeper’s quarters attached to the lighthouse. Accommodations include two bedrooms that sleep up to four adults, a modern kitchen, bath and laundry. Keepers must commit to a two-week stay.

Tawas Lighthouse keepersPine said the program looks for teams of two, three or four adults – especially those with knowledge of lighthouse lore or Great Lakes maritime history, but that background is not required. Prospective keepers should be able to climb up and down the 85 lighthouse stairs and have excellent customer service and public speaking skills.
"We give our volunteer lighthouse keepers historical information and on-site orientation to help prepare them for their experience," Pine said. "They take great pride in helping to promote and preserve the lighthouse … and who wouldn't love waking up to a beautiful view of the bay every day?"

Applications will be accepted through February 1st. The application and additional information are available at michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse. For more information, email dnr-tawaskeepers@michigan.gov or contact Hillary Pine at 989-348-2537.


Stewardship Volunteers Needed in Southern Michigan State Parks

DNR staff member shows volunteers example of invasive plant11JAN19-State parks in southern Michigan will host a number of volunteer stewardship workdays in January.

Volunteers are needed to help locate and cut non-native, invasive shrubs that threaten to crowd out native plants and disrupt balance in high-quality ecosystems. Workdays are an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors while restoring Michigan's ecosystems and learning about its inhabitants.

Workdays will take place:

  • Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County)
  • Sunday, Jan. 20, 1 to 4 p.m. at Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien County)
  • Saturday, Jan. 26, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Highland Recreation Area (Oakland County)
  • Sunday, Jan. 27, 1 to 4 p.m. at Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien County)

More information about volunteer stewardship workdays, including a calendar of opportunities, is available at michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers.

To volunteer, please register by completing and submitting the stewardship volunteer registration form.


State Forest Roads Inventory Completed

By KATHLEEN LAVEY - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Almost all of the state forest roads in the Upper Peninsula are open to ORV traffic.07JAN18-After two years of mapping and reviewing the condition of state forest roads maintained by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources across both peninsulas, an initial inventory that provides a snapshot of the road network is complete.
One significant result of that work is a compilation of interactive maps showing where off-road vehicle use is allowed on Michigan’s state forest roads, which will be published online (michigan.gov/forestroads) and updated each spring after that.
“Forests roads are a resource to help people get out and enjoy Michigan’s public forests,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division.
The inventory and road assessment were required by Public Act 288 of 2016, which provided a time frame for inventory and classification of roads. The law focused particularly on which roads should be open to off-road vehicle traffic.
Roads in the northern Lower Peninsula were inventoried during 2017, and roads in the southern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula were inventoried during 2018.

“Roads have always been important to forest management, whether you are figuring out how to get forest products out of the woods or if you’re trying to get out there for recreation and all of these activities that people love,” said Scott Whitcomb, unit manager of the Pigeon River Country State Forest in the northern Lower Peninsula, who has been instrumental in the road inventory.
The inventory didn’t involve getting out and driving over every mile of road – there simply wasn’t time for that. Instead, the effort to catalog the roads used computer mapping technology to consolidate previously mapped roads into a single, comprehensive database.
“We’ve been collecting information on roads for a very long time,” Whitcomb said. “What we did here was flip them into a new platform online.”
An interactive map and printable maps were provided online, which were used to solicit public comment on the road inventory and issues connected with opening or closing certain roads to ORVs.
Various roads or road segments were proposed to be opened or closed to ORV use. Members of the public could drop a pin on one of the maps to mark an area and express their concern about it. They also could comment by email or mail.
Thousands of miles of state forest roads are now open to ORV use.
A total of 84 people commented on nearly 5,600 miles of forest roads in the Upper Peninsula. There, 5,582.06 miles (99.1 percent) of roads are open year-round; 50.28 miles (0.89 percent) of roads are closed year-round and 0.48 miles (0.01 percent) of roads are closed seasonally.
There were 77 comments regarding nearly 370 miles of forest roads in the southern Lower Peninsula. In that region, 8.95 miles (2.43 percent) of roads are open year-round; 285.92 miles (77.67 percent) of roads are closed year-round and 73.25 miles (19.9 percent) of roads are closed seasonally.
There are more than 7,500 miles of state forest roads in the northern Lower Peninsula, with 6,308.6 miles (84 percent) of roads open to ORV use, while 1,213.6 (16 percent) miles of road were closed by a land use order of the DNR director. More than 2,000 members of the public weighed in on that decision.
“We had hundreds of pin drops with people telling us everything from, ‘This is a great idea, I can’t wait’ to ‘You guys are crazy, this is going to cause problems,’” Whitcomb said.
DNR road evaluations considered user conflicts, the condition of the road and a review of current land use orders. An example is the Pigeon River Country State Forest. It’s home to Michigan’s elk herd and focuses on quiet recreation.
“There’s a lot of public land where ORVs are the best use,” Whitcomb said. “The Pigeon River management plan differs from other state forests in that it emphasizes quiet recreation and scenic values.”
A few other northern Lower Peninsula areas that are focused on quiet recreation also are closed to ORVs. Those include Jordan Valley, the Mason and Deward tracts and the Sand Lakes quiet area.
The maps are a work in progress and will be updated annually as DNR staff in the field monitor road conditions or find mapping errors. There are some proposed changes currently under consideration for the northern Lower Peninsula, with a decision pending by the DNR director and Michigan Natural Resources Commission.
Roads that are currently open could be closed to ORVs or other vehicles in the future if erosion threatens the forest or fish habitat in nearby waters, for example.
“Getting our forest roads into an inventory system on the map gives us a baseline that we can begin working with to manage the forest better,” Whitcomb said.
Comments from the public will be evaluated each year. Several criteria will be used to make evaluations, and recommendations will be reviewed by DNR staff members and the public before the DNR director makes decisions.
The goal is to have forest roads that are safe and provide access to various users, while ensuring that forests and waterways aren’t negatively impacted.

Take a look at the road maps and learn more about Public Act 288 at michigan.gov/forestroads.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at michigan.gov/dnrstories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at michigan.gov/dnr.


DNR Reflections on the Year That Was 2018

02JAN18-For the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 2018 has been busy. The DNR, with the help of many partners, has made great strides in its ongoing efforts to take care of the state’s natural and cultural resources and provide outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

Here are a few highlights of how the DNR spent 2018.

Providing quality outdoor recreation opportunities

angler poses with state record black buffalo fishThe DNR continued its work to ensure excellent opportunities for hunting and fishing, both of which contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy each year.
Fourteen state-record fish have been caught in Michigan in the last 10 years, pointing to the abundance and health of our fish populations.
The DNR stocks more than 25 million fish each year, in more than 1,000 locations across both peninsulas. Forty percent of all recreational fishing in Michigan depends on stocked fish.
In 2018, the DNR expanded the recently created Fishing Tournament Information System – a statewide, online registration and reporting tool that makes it easier for tournament managers to meet the requirement of having all bass fishing tournaments registered – to include all bass and walleye tournaments. To date, the system has received more than 2,000 bass tournament registrations and results reports.

The DNR is continually improving habitat on the 4.5 million acres of public hunting land it manages. Hunters can explore seven managed waterfowl areas, 19 grouse enhanced management sites (known as GEMS) that allow walk-in hunting, and more than 180 state game and wildlife areas. These locations also offer abundant wildlife watching opportunities.

waterfowl hunter holding firearmSo far this year, hunters have contributed almost $200,000 to wildlife management by purchasing Pure Michigan Hunt applications that give them a shot at a prize package valued at over $4,000, as well as licenses for elk, bear, spring and fall turkey and antlerless deer, and first pick at a managed waterfowl area. The application period ends at midnight December 31st.
Michigan’s 103 state parks continue to provide the scenic spaces, natural resources and access to outdoor recreation opportunities that attract tens of millions of people every year.
With 12,500-plus miles of state-designated trails and pathways – one of the largest, interconnected trail systems in the country – Michigan is known as The Trails State. This trails system offers plenty of social, economic and health benefits, catering to a variety of users, including bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders, paddlers and others.
The system also includes the
Iron Belle Trail, Michigan’s signature hiking and biking trail extending more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

father and two sons on bikes on bridgeThere was renewed interest sparked in 2018 in the Iron Belle Trail Fund Campaign, marked by an event in Ann Arbor where more than $10.5 million in private donations was announced.
“Quality outdoor recreation resources and opportunities mean a lot to the people who use and value them, and to the communities they serve,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said. “The Iron Belle Trail offers so many beautiful places where people make memories, improve their health, and recharge their energy. The state and our many partners are on an ambitious timeline to get the remainder of these connected miles in place.”
To date, the DNR and partners have built and engineered more than 100 miles of new trail to complete completed the Iron Belle Trail’s 1,422 miles of existing hiking and biking trails, with just over 600 remaining to be connected.
In October 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation announced a $100 million investment of parks and trails in Southeast Michigan, including segments of the Iron Belle Trail.

With the creation of a new State Water Trails program, the DNR announced this month that eight waterways, totaling 540-plus miles flowing through more than a dozen counties, have been selected as the first state-designated water trails in Michigan.

two people in kayak paddling on riverDNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson said that water trails are an increasing trend in Michigan and nationally, as interest in paddle sports and other water-based recreation continues to grow.
Water trails feature well-developed access points, often are near significant historical, environmental or cultural points of interest and often have nearby amenities like restaurants, hotels and campgrounds.
“These state-designated water trails will encourage close-to-home outdoor recreation and healthy lifestyles while boosting local economies, giving even more reason to call Michigan The Trails State,” said Paul Yauk, the DNR’s state trails coordinator.
The DNR’s staffed shooting ranges, located in southern Michigan state parks and game areas, made improvements to accommodate a growing number of shooting sports enthusiasts. Updates this year included expanding parking, adding new handgun shooting stations and installing a well to provide potable water, with construction of new accessible parking and walkways planned at three ranges in 2019.

Looking to get outdoors in 2019? Check out michigan.gov/dnrcalendar.

Taking care of Michigan’s woods, waters and wildlife

DNR forester marks a boundary for timber saleThe “Good Neighbor Authority” allows state natural resource agencies to assist the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management on timber and watershed restoration projects across the country.
In 2018, the DNR increased its Good Neighbor Authority efforts from the previous year, preparing 2,400 acres for timber sale and producing 38,500 cords of wood from the four national forests in Michigan – the Huron and Manistee national forests in the Lower Peninsula and the Ottawa and Hiawatha in the Upper Peninsula.
This state/federal partnership will grow to more than 7,500 acres in 2019.
In 2018, oversight of the state’s Registered Forester program transferred to the DNR from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The move was part of a restructuring process for this voluntary program that encourages higher standards for Michigan’s foresters.
Changes to the program include an up-to-date online database and a new complaint review process.

“The new program is the ideal source for landowners to find highly qualified foresters to help them manage their forest land,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division.
Nearly two-thirds of Michigan’s 20 million acres of forest are privately owned; the state manages an estimated 4 million acres of public forest.

pile of cut timber at state game areaThe DNR also manages 360,000 acres of state game areas. At game areas throughout Michigan, DNR staffers have been harvesting timber to create early successional forest habitat.
The selective cutting of mature pine and aspen stands encourages the growth of young forests, which provide vital habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, deer, elk and golden-winged warblers.
“This important work may look destructive while in progress, but the result is outstanding habitat for many game and non-game wildlife species,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. 
Late in 2018, in partnership with Pheasants Forever and the Hal and Jean Glassen Foundation, the DNR launched its new Adopt-A-Game-Area program, which encourages individuals and organizations to sponsor grassland habitat projects on state-managed lands they use and value.

“Grasslands give important benefits to both wildlife and people. In addition to providing habitat and food resources for many wildlife species, grasslands also improve water and air quality,” said Al Stewart, DNR upland game bird specialist.
Stewart said grassland pollinators, like bees and monarch butterflies, help to generate crops that keep the country fed. Throughout Michigan, many grasslands are being converted to agriculture and development. Grasslands now are one of the rarest habitat types in the world.
Expanded support of this program, through sponsorships, will provide valuable nesting, brood-rearing, foraging and winter habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, rabbits, songbirds and pollinators.

Whitetail buck in a fieldThis year, the DNR has been intensely focused on mitigating impacts from chronic wasting disease on Michigan’s white-tailed deer population. This fatal disease has been found in free-ranging deer in Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, and Montcalm counties.
Following public engagement meetings and surveys, hunting regulations were changed for the 2018 deer hunting seasons to address concerns of CWD. The DNR also provided additional staffed deer check locations as well as drop boxes for hunters to submit their harvested deer for testing. More than 30,000 deer were checked and tested this year.
The coming year will see continued efforts to maintain the health of Michigan’s deer herd. For the latest information and updates on chronic wasting disease, visit michigan.gov/cwd.
The DNR also keeps a close eye on the health of Michigan’s fish, working continuously with Michigan State University’s Aquatic Animal Health Lab to be at forefront of disease identification, but also regularly analyzing groups of wild fish to test for diseases and performing fish health inspections at state hatcheries and on hatchery-reared fish.

In 2018, the DNR’s Office of the Great Lakes completed restoration of historical environmental impacts on the Menominee River, started the Saginaw Bay Fish Reef restoration project and made strides in implementing goals established in the Michigan Water Strategy.
The OGL staff also worked in communities to protect coastal resources, helped establish an alliance of Great Lakes island communities and facilitated the development of shared harbor visions in waterfront communities.
As it has each year since its introduction in 2014, the
Invasive Species Grant Program – implemented by the Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources – provided roughly $3.6 million in 2018 for projects designed to prevent, detect, eradicate and control invasive pests on the land and in the water.
Because of this grant program, more than 285,000 acres of land and water have been surveyed for invasive species; more than 18,000 acres have been treated for invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants; and millions of people have been reached with educational information about invasive species.
“It’s clear that Michigan’s Invasive Species Grant Program is accomplishing many of the goals set for the program at the very start,” said Creagh. “The fight to stop, contain and eradicate invasive species from Michigan’s woods and water is critical to the long-term protection of these valuable natural resources, and this grant program is helping in that fight.”

Protecting the state’s natural resources and citizens

conservation officer recruits learn to identify fish speciesLocated in every county of the state, Michigan conservation officers are first responders who provide lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. They are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by enforcing Michigan’s laws and regulations.
“A conservation officer has chosen to not only protect our people and local communities as first responders – they have devoted their career to being front-line defenders of our natural resources,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.
As community first responders, several conservation officers were involved in lifesaving actions during 2018, including saving a woman from drowning, rescuing people involved in snowmobile and kayak accidents and those stranded in Lake Huron and on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Superior. As a result, eight conservation officers received the Michigan DNR Lifesaving Award.

The DNR Conservation Officer Academy graduated 24 new conservation officers in 2018. The new officers were selected from nearly 500 applicants to be a part of Recruit School No. 9 – the DNR’s 23-week training academy based in Lansing.
“Our division selects the most highly qualified candidates to receive additional training that no other law enforcement agency in the state offers,” Hagler said. “Our officers are molded into quality people who are embedded within the communities they serve.”
As Michigan’s oldest statewide law enforcement agency, the DNR Law Enforcement Division continues to expand its abilities to protect our natural resources. The 252 officers budgeted for the 2019 fiscal year is an all-time high.

Connecting people with the outdoors

Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, over 1,000 educators have received the DNR’s free wildlife curricula for their classrooms, information that helps give students an understanding of Michigan’s wildlife and their habitats. Kindergarten through high school educators can get these resources for use in the second half of the school year. Featured species include waterfowl, black bears and elk.
The DNR recently – after two years of mapping and reviewing the condition of the state forest roads it maintains across both peninsulas – completed an initial inventory used to create interactive maps showing where ORV use is allowed on these roads. The maps will be available online at
michigan.gov/forestroads and updated each spring.
Look for an early 2019 “Showcasing the DNR” story detailing the efforts to map state forest roads, a resource to help people get out and enjoy Michigan’s public forests.

line of ORVs on roadThe DNR’s work in providing GIS products and services gained national recognition at the annual Esri User Conference, when the department earned a Special Achievement in GIS Award for its innovative application of mapping, data analytics and thought leadership.
“Within the past 20 years, the DNR has implemented an enterprise GIS system to support the growing needs and challenges of caring for Michigan’s natural resources and connecting the public to those resources,” said Dave Forstat, DNR GIS manager and chief data steward.
“As web GIS has become more prevalent, we’ve leveraged the benefits of increased communication and data accuracy to provide customers with the best possible data on trails, water, minerals, trees, wildlife, fish and other areas.”
This includes online tools – like the Open Data Portal, interactive maps, story maps and customized apps – aimed at connecting outdoor enthusiasts and natural resources professionals with the information they need.

This is just a brief glimpse of a year in the life of the DNR. More information about the department’s broad range of work to ensure healthy natural resources and outdoor recreation is available on the DNR website, redesigned in 2018 to make it easier to use, at

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at michigan.gov/dnrstories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at michigan.gov/dnr.


DNR Urges Snowmobilers to Ditch Loud Exhaust Pipes and Cans

24DEC18-The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is urging snowmobilers not to use loud exhaust pipes or cans and is reminding riders that laws against loud machine violations will be enforced strictly.
“We are continuing to get numerous complaints from the public about loud sleds,” said Ron Yesney, Upper Peninsula trails coordinator for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division in Marquette. “We’re looking to riders to help us curb this ongoing problem.”
Several of these complaints have led to private property owners revoking their permission to route snowmobile trails across their land.

“This diminishes our trail connectivity and decreases riding opportunities for everyone,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “In areas without trails, loud sleds are still a source of resident complaints.”
Under Michigan law, the muffler on a snowmobile must be in good working order and, when in constant operation, noise emission cannot exceed 88 decibels at 13.1 feet, as measured using the 2004 Society of Automotive Engineers standard J2567 for a stationary snowmobile manufactured after July 1, 1980.
The penalty for violating sound levels for snowmobiles is a civil infraction, carrying fines of over $200. Snowmobiles may be impounded.
“Enforcement efforts are necessary, but our long-term goal is to gain voluntary compliance from riders,” Yesney said. “Mountain, trail and race cans are strongly discouraged. Loud sleds give snowmobilers a bad name and give those opposed to motorized sports a voice.”

DNR conservation officers are seeing increased use of “trail can” exhausts.
“These are cans that are designed to pass a decibel test, but they are still very loud and undermine our efforts to secure trail easements and provide opportunities for snowmobilers to ride,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, a district law supervisor in Marquette. “Most trail cans will pass a decibel test if new, but may fail after a few thousand miles.”
Whether riding on or off trails, the DNR urges snowmobilers and dealers to use stock or original equipment manufacturer exhausts.
“Many thousands of hours of volunteer effort go into developing and maintaining Michigan’s snowmobile program,” Yesney said. “It only takes one sled with a loud exhaust to ruin riding opportunities for many.”

Hand in hand with complaints about loud sled violations are private property trespass complaints. The DNR suggests off-trail riders “know before they go” making sure the property they will be riding on is public.
“Riders who decide to trespass compromise the goodwill landowners have extended to the DNR, snowmobilers and trail groups and sponsors,” Yesney said. “Trespassing is another serious problem that oftentimes leads to landowner permissions being pulled and our being forced to shut down trail segments as a result.”
A committee was formed recently to develop information indicating exactly where it is legal to ride off-trail. The goal is to eventually have off-trail riding opportunities signed and mapped. Until these developments occur, it is crucial that snowmobilers ensure they are off-trail riding only on public lands.
“Whether snowmobiling on trails or off, we all need to work together for the greater good to prevent trespassing and loud sled violations from occurring,” Yesney said. “Taking loud cans or pipes off your sled and staying on the trail helps everyone.”

For more information on snowmobiling in Michigan, including current laws and regulations, go to michigan.gov/snowmobiling.


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

DNR Public News is published here as a courtesy and does not represent the views or intent of the ownership of Carroll Broadcasting.

Copyright © 2018 Carroll Broadcasting, Inc., All rights reserved.


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