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Updated 04/01/20

 

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Burn Permits Suspended Across Michigan Due to COVID-19

01APR20-In response to the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Executive Order to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 virus, permits for open burning will be suspended across the state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the order Monday, aimed at further protecting public health and safety.
“We need to make sure our emergency response resources are available where they are needed at this time,” said Dan Laux, fire supervisor for the DNR Forest Resources Division. “Less open burning means less potential for escaped fires, and that means staff can deal with other, more critical needs.”

Because firefighters often work closely together on scene and when traveling to and from incident locations, the suspension of burn permits also will help protect first responders and fire fighters from infection by the novel Coronavirus.
“It’s out of an abundance of caution that we want to support the statewide effort to fight COVID-19,” Laux said. “Suspending burn permits in much of the state means fewer people will be burning debris which is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Michigan.”
State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer agreed, adding: “This preventative approach to limiting wildland fires is important so that first responders can continue making medical calls during this health crisis.”
Open burning in some parts of the state may still be allowed in areas where the ground is still snow-covered.
Burn permits in the southern Lower Peninsula are issued by local fire departments and governmental offices. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, permits are issued through the DNR’s website
Michigan.gov/BurnPermit. Residents are encouraged to frequently check the website to see when restrictions are lifted.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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DNR Reduces Amenities at State Parks, Recreation Areas and Trails

To protect public health, violations of social distancing guidelines may result in misdemeanor fines, penalties

01APR20-To help carry out Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Executive Order and further protect public health and safety, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is closing many amenities offered in state parks and recreation areas, effective now through at least April 13th.
State parks and recreation areas currently remain open to provide residents with local opportunities to get outdoors; however, extensive travel should be minimal – and reserved only for essential needs – and effective social distancing (of at least 6 feet between yourself and another person) is required so that unsafe conditions do not develop and state-managed lands can remain open.

“We are doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff at state parks and recreation areas,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “No matter how people are choosing to get outdoors, it is critical that everyone follows the social distancing guidelines. If they don’t, we will be forced to close public access to all state-managed lands.”

Closures and reduction in services include:

  • Many park amenities have been closed in order to minimize the chance of people gathering in groups and/or maximize the environment for effective social distancing. Current closures include, but are not limited to, concessions, playgrounds and play equipment, viewing platforms, fishing piers, GaGa ball bits, volleyball and basketball courts, designated dog areas, disc golf courses, radio-controlled flying fields, pump tracks, and picnic tables and shelters.
  • All bathroom buildings and vault toilets will be closed in all state parks and recreation areas, including those at campgrounds, boating access sites, trailheads at state-designated trails, etc. People are encouraged to plan accordingly to avoid needing a restroom during a visit. Note: Over the next few days, vault toilets will be closing. Many locations, where available, will be transitioning to portable toilets that will be cleaned by local vendors.
  • There will be minimal trash service available. Visitors are encouraged to bring trash bags, if needed, to carry trash home and minimize litter.
  • No hand washing stations will be provided. Please carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes containing at least 60% alcohol, as well as trash bags to carry out used wipes.
  •  Additionally, grooming of snowmobile trails (the season closes March 31st) and grooming, brushing, grading and clearing of all non-motorized trails and ORV trails are suspended until at least the end of the order. When out on any trail, be aware of surroundings, including the potential for washouts or debris. To report anything that could be a risk to other trail users, call 517-331-0111.
  •  For the duration of this order, the DNR is unable to reimburse trail sponsors or grant sponsors for any trail-related work.

Follow the DNR’s COVID-19 response webpage for the latest closure information related to events, meetings and facilities, including campgrounds, harbors and other sites.

Executive order mandates social distancing; fines/penalties possible

To help uphold the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Executive Order, individuals must maintain a minimum of 6 feet between themselves and other people. Anyone not following the social distancing requirement may face misdemeanor violation/arrest penalties, including up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500.

Social distancing practices are a top priority for any time spent outside an individual’s home or place of residence. They include:

  • Go out only if you’re feeling healthy.
  • Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and another person.
  • Long-distance travel is discouraged unless it is essential.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If those aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • When driving, keep windows slightly open to provide air flow.
  • If the parking is full when attempting to visit a park, recreation area, boating access site or trailhead, leave and choose a different location.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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DNR - Charter Fishing and Guide Operations Not Permitted

01APR20-In accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the governor’s Executive Order 2020-21, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has determined that charter and fishing guide operations that involve boats, canoes and other marine vessels are not currently permitted.
These operations do not meet any of the variances or exemptions outlined in the governor’s order as activities necessary “to sustain or protect life,” and they may also congregate anglers in violation of the order and state health recommendations.
These activities should cease immediately and not resume until at least April 13th.
In addition to the DNR’ Law Enforcement Division, Michigan State Police and local law enforcement agencies have full authority to enforce the provisions of this order.
The state is taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in reducing the coronavirus risk to Michigan residents.

For current and up-to-date information regarding the Coronavirus visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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Haywire for a Half A Century

By DOUG DONNELLY - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A gathered crowd listens to presentations at the Haywire Grade’s 50th anniversary snowmobile ride.01APR20-Michigan’s first rail trail is 50 years old.  Some residents who live near the Haywire Grade, a multi-use trail that crosses the Upper Peninsula north to south from Shingleton to Manistique, are glad the trail is getting the recognition it deserves.
“I’d say over the past four years, Michigan has truly started to recognize the significance of the Haywire,” said Gerry Reese, who has owned property near the trail for nearly 30 years and is a part of the Schoolcraft County Motorized Trail Association.
A yearlong celebration of the Haywire Grade kicked off in February with a snowmobile ride and will continue throughout the year with equine, ORV/ATV and bicycle events as local, regional and state officials commemorate the trail’s history.
The celebration of the Haywire rail trail has been in the making for five years.
“There are a lot of partners that picked up the pieces of this project and a lot of people who have come together for this,” Reese said. “There are still some residents in the area who are unaware of the trail’s rich history. We want to change that.”

History

A wintry view of the Haywire Grade is shown.With more than 2,600 miles logged, Michigan has converted more miles of abandoned railroad corridor into trails than any other state. This conversion is done through a process called rail banking. The trails, some paved and some not, are used for recreation purposes, but may be recalled to railroad service and the recreation trails rerouted should the need arise.
The first rail-trail in Michigan was the Haywire Grade in Schoolcraft and Alger counties.
Established in 1970, two years after the Manistique and Lake Superior Railroad ceased operation, the Haywire Grade runs 32 miles. Originally planned for seasonal snowmobile use, the Haywire has since become a popular year-round multi-use trail.
“People have long used the trail for a variety of activities,” Reese said. “It was very common to see an equestrian rider, and at the same time someone walking. It’s truly a multi-use trail.”

The trail’s historical significance dates to the late 1800s. The Manistique and Northwestern Railroad began operation in 1898 and reorganized as the Manistique and Lake Superior in 1909.
The railroad served the logging industry and fostered settlement in the region. Many of the trees harvested from the area were sent to Illinois to help rebuild after the Great Chicago Fire.

Interpretation

Schoolcraft County Motorized Trail Association members attach a celebration banner between trail groomers.Stories like this are being permanently memorialized through a series of 11 historical interpretive kiosks that will be installed along the trail as a part of the golden anniversary celebration.
“We want the Haywire Grade’s 50th anniversary to acknowledge and celebrate this important milestone for Michigan’s trail network, and at the same time help trail users interact with the heritage of this beautiful area for years to come,” said Dan Spegel, Michigan’s heritage trail coordinator.
The kiosks themselves are part of that history, as they were fabricated with steel from Upper Peninsula railroad tracks and cedar logs grown in the region. Each kiosk also contains metal art depicting a train engine and Manistique and Lake Superior railroad cars.
“We designed the kiosks to have that rustic flavor, but also the railroad and the logging camp flavor,” Reese said.
As Michigan’s heritage trail coordinator, Spegel works on projects like this one to help shed light on some amazing history around Michigan’s 13,000 miles of state-designated trails.

Since 2015, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Michigan History Center has helped communities around the state create a deeper sense and experience of “place” for trail users through its Heritage Trails Program.
“Heritage trails connect people with the natural and cultural heritage of the landscape they are passing through,” Spegel said.

Celebration

A photo of snowmobilers gathered for the Haywire Grade's 50th anniversary celebration is shown.The Haywire Grade’s golden anniversary celebration includes four events.
The first was a snowmobiling event held Feb. 29. Spegel said starting off with a snowmobile ride was fitting since that’s how the trail began.
“The 50th anniversary snowmobile ride was a celebration of the Haywire Grade’s significance to Michigan’s trail network,” Spegel said.
The event kicked off at the Schoolcraft County Motorized Trail Association clubhouse with refreshments and presentations by DNR representatives. Participants then rode the freshly groomed trail about 15 miles from Manistique to the Jack Pine Lodge, where they stopped for lunch. Riders received a commemorative patch marking their participation in the event.
Yet to come in 2020 are
three additional planned activities (barring COVID-19 postponements), including June 6 equine, Aug. 22 bicycle and Oct. 3 ATV/ORV events.
In addition to the DNR and Schoolcraft County Motorized Trail Association, other trail partners that helped make the Haywire Grade celebration events possible include the city of Manistique, the Hiawatha National Forest, the Schoolcraft County Historical Society, the area’s tourist council and several private donors.

Pure Michigan

A sunny springtime view of the Haywire Grade is shown.In February, the Haywire Grade reached another significant milestone when it was designated one of three new Pure Michigan Trails.
According to Pure Michigan officials, designated
Pure Michigan Trails provide access to national, state or regional scenic resources of high quality and splendor, and articulate the natural essence of Michigan.
“Michigan is known for having thousands of miles of hiking, biking and kayaking trails, but the trails and communities that receive this designation are truly outstanding and embody what Pure Michigan is all about,” said David Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “We are pleased to partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to honor these trails and trail towns.”
To qualify as one of the trails, routes may be a single trail or combination of trails and must be more than a mile in length, open to the public and substantially completed.

The trails and towns receiving Pure Michigan designations comprise some of the elite Michigan trail experiences. They promote healthy lifestyles, conserve natural and cultural resources in the area, display iconic signage, increase awareness of trails for tourism and provide a catalyst for economic activity in their associated communities.
Those qualities, officials say, fit the Haywire Grade perfectly.
Reese said the Pure Michigan designation, scheduled commemorative events and recognition the Haywire Grade is receiving are great for the region and the state.
“It’s exciting for everybody,” he said. “This has been building momentum for years.”

For more on the Haywire Grade celebration and background, go to VisitManistique.com.

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.

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Michigan's Outdoors Is Here For You

Enjoy getting outside, but be ‘COVID-19 smart, safe and solo’

31MAR20-We know there’s been a steady stream of “closure” information and messaging about self-isolating to slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s true, we are in uncharted territory, and such steps are critical in protecting Michigan residents from Coronavirus risk. Safeguarding mental health is just as important, and spending time outdoors – whether in your backyard, on your balcony or in big, open spaces – can boost mind, body and spirit.

Although the public contact areas (restroom buildings, shooting ranges, visitor centers) at many DNR-managed facilities are temporarily closed, people are still welcome to enjoy the public outdoor areas at state parks and recreation areas, state game and wildlife areas, state forests, state trails and, of course, our lakes, rivers and streams. For the duration of the COVID-19 situation, we’re waiving the need for the Recreation Passport for entry at state parks and other destinations.

Whether you want to hike or bike a new trail, scout your next hunt, paddle the open water or find a favorite fishing spot … Michigan’s outdoors are here. Explore things to do on our website for inspiration; check out our YouTube channel for how-to videos; and get hunting and fishing licenses at our new license system website. Closer to home, you could soak up some sun on the back deck, walk around the block or jog the nearest local trail.

No matter how you enjoy the outdoors, we urge you to practice effective “social distancing” and other measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and keep you, your family and your community safe:

  • Go out only if you’re feeling healthy.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others when in a public setting, including the outdoors.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If those aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Minimize UV sun exposure by properly applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.
  • When driving, keep windows slightly open to provide air flow.

Thanks for doing your part to protect the health and safety of Michigan residents! Before you head outdoors, be sure to check the latest on facilities and state COVID-19 recommendations.

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State Park Campgrounds, Overnight Lodging Facilities and Shelters are Closed, but State Parks Stay Open For Now

31MAR20-LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that, in response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21, it will close state park campgrounds, overnight lodging facilities and shelters, effective now through at least April 13. State parks and recreation areas will remain open to provide residents with opportunities to get outdoors, provided all visitors adhere to the requirement for proper social distancing – at least 6 feet between yourself and another person – in all areas of the parks.

Gov. Whitmer issued the “stay home, stay safe” order earlier today in an effort to “suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths.”

The DNR will not be able to honor camping reservations for dates between March 23 and April 13. Reservations for that time frame will automatically be canceled. Those reservation holders will receive full refunds, including the reservation fee paid at the time reservations were made. No cancellation/modification fees will be charged.

Reservation holders will receive email notifications once cancellations are processed. Refunds will be applied to the original payment method.

For questions about reservation cancellations, call 800-447-2757.

Collective DNR closures, cancellations

Since March 13th, the DNR has announced a series of facility and event closures, cancellations and modifications. Many public meetings have been postponed or moved to a webinar or conference call format. State parks, recreation areas, trails and other state-managed public lands are open, but with provisions to decrease the coronavirus risk to Michigan residents.

Follow the DNR’s COVID-19 response webpage for the latest closure information about facilities, events and meetings.

What the EO means to outdoor recreation

State and federal health officials repeatedly have pointed to the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors, especially at a time when many are feeling house-bound. DNR Director Dan Eichinger stressed that while Michigan state parks and recreation areas, state boat launches, state forests and other state-managed resources are open to help meet those needs, he wants to make sure those options remain open.

“Gov. Whitmer’s executive order requires people to follow the CDC guidelines and stay at least 6 feet away from other people when outside of their own households, to the greatest extent possible,” Eichinger said. “We want residents to use and enjoy our public outdoor spaces, but we ask them to do so responsibly and safely, whether in a forest, on a trail or in a parking lot.

“If it becomes evident that people are not practicing effective social distancing while visiting these state-managed resources, we will close them to protect the health of our visitors and our staff.”

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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DNR Announces Closures at High-Traffic Facilities

27MAR20-In accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced a series of closures for several of its state-managed facilities.

The following facilities will be closed to the public March 14th - April 13th. These are closed-door facilities that draw large numbers (over 100) of people during the day.

Moving forward, the DNR will consult with Michigan’s State Emergency Operations Center for the latest on COVID-19 in Michigan to determine if additional events and programs need to be canceled or postponed. Before traveling, please check Michigan.gov/DNRCalendar for updates.

The state is taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in reducing the coronavirus risk to Michigan residents.

For current and up-to-date information regarding the Coronavirus visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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DNR Adjusts or Cancels Some Public Meetings and Events

27MAR20-In accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will cancel, postpone or adjust several public meetings and events.

Please visit the DNR closures webpage for up-to-date facility closure information.

Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting adjusted

The executive directive, issued March 13th, provided the NRC with guidance regarding compliance with the Open Meetings Act during the COVID-19 emergency. This instructs the NRC, to the extent practicable, to consider postponing public meetings and/or agenda items that may be deferred until a later time. All action items on the March agenda will be postponed until the April meeting.

In addition, the Wildlife and Fisheries Policy Committee will not be meeting in March.

Visit Michigan.gov/NRC for the updated agenda. Questions can be directed to NRC@Michigan.gov.

Canceled meetings

The following meetings have been canceled:

  • Northern Inland Lakes Citizens’ Advisory Committee, April 17th, Tuscarora Township Hall, Indian River.
  • Lake Michigan Citizens’ Fishery Advisory Committee, April 23rd, Jay’s Sporting Goods, Clare.

Frequently check the DNR boards, commissions, committees and councils web pages for updates on further meeting cancellations and postponements, as well as new meeting dates as they are confirmed.

Canceled events

The DNR Fisheries Division Coffee and Conversations events – which invite the public to discuss local and statewide fisheries management activities with DNR staff – have been canceled, with the exception of the northern and southern Lake Michigan management unit virtual meeting, scheduled for May 7th. Some of these canceled events may be rescheduled as virtual meetings. Watch that webpage for updates. 

Additionally, other DNR events and programs likely will be canceled or postponed in the coming weeks. Please check Michigan.gov/DNRCalendar often for up-to-date information.

Additional Coronavirus information

The state is taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in reducing the Coronavirus risk to Michigan residents.

For current and up-to-date information regarding the Coronavirus visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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DNR Closes Customer Service Centers and Field Offices

27MAR20-In accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources closed numerous customer service centers and field offices statewide to general public traffic.

The closures took effect at 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 18th.

Fishing and hunting licenses, camping reservations and other items will remain available for purchase online. Hunting and fishing guides and digests are also available online. Burn permits are available free at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit.

The affected DNR offices will be open for regular deliveries and by appointment only to customers who need services such as obtaining hunting and fishing licenses, burn permits and charter licenses.

Here is a list of the facilities closing to general public traffic and contact information for making appointments:

Customer Service Centers

  • Baraga - 906-353-6651
  • Bay City - 989-684-9141
  • Cadillac - 231-775-9727
  • Detroit - 313-396-6890
  • Escanaba - 906-786-2351
  • Gaylord - 989-732-3541
  • Lansing - 517-284-4720
  • Marquette - 906-228-6561
  • Newberry - 906-293-5131
  • Plainwell - 269-685-6851
  • Roscommon - 989-275-5151
  • Sault Ste. Marie - 906-635-6161
  • Traverse City - 231-922-5280

Field Offices

  • Crystal Falls - 906-875-6622
  • Gwinn - 906-346-9201
  • Naubinway - 906-477-6048
  • Norway - 906-563-9247

The state is taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in reducing the coronavirus risk to Michigan residents.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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DNR Closes Shooting Ranges, Restricts Access at Offices to Appointment Only

27MAR20-In accordance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has closed shooting ranges and will restrict general public walk-in traffic at facilities statewide.

The restrictions took effect at 8 a.m. Thursday, March 19th.

Fishing and hunting licenses, camping reservations and other items will remain available for purchase online. Hunting and fishing guides and digests are also available online. Burn permits are available free at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit.

The affected DNR offices will be open by appointment only to customers who need services such as obtaining hunting, fishing and charter licenses. Regular deliveries will continue.

These facilities include DNR fisheries research stations and hatcheries, forestry and wildlife field offices and visitor centers. Earlier today, the same provisions were put in place for DNR customer service centers and certain field offices.

The Archives of Michigan is closed to walk-in traffic, but will continue to provide service via phone and email. The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Visitor Center and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary offices are closed to the public, along with other state museums.

State-managed lands, trails and parks remain open. However, numerous provisions affecting visitor services are being put in place for state parks and recreation areas.

These measures include:

  • The opening of the Silver Lake State Park ORV Area is delayed until May 1st.
  • State park headquarters buildings and contact stations are closed to the public.
  • A requirement that a Recreation Passport is needed for state park and recreation area entry has been suspended.
  • Mini-cabins, cabins, yurts, shelters and lodges are closed until May 15th.
  • Campgrounds at state parks remain open. Campers should plan to have a reservation before reaching the park. There may be limited access for self-check-in via personal phones if customers arrive without a reservation. All modern campgrounds become semi-modern with toilet-shower buildings closed. Vault toilets remain open. Current reservation holders who wish to modify their reservation to a later date beyond May 15, without incurring any fees, may contact the reservation call center at 1-800-447-2757 for assistance.
  • State Forest Campgrounds remain open with self-registration continued and vault toilets open.
  • At day-use areas and boating access sites, vault toilets are open, no organized events are being held.

Check the latest updates for DNR facilities at Michigan.gov/DNRClosures.  

The state is taking proactive steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in reducing the coronavirus risk to Michigan residents.

For current and up-to-date information regarding the Coronavirus visit http://www.Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or http://www.CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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The expanding mission of conservation officers

By KATIE GERVASI - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A line of conservation officers in uniform is shown.26MAR20-The mission of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division is to, “protect Michigan’s natural resources and the environment, and the health and safety of the public through effective law enforcement and education.”
It is a physically and mentally demanding career that officers and their families commit their lives to.
“Our mission evolves based on how our citizens and stakeholders engage in outdoor recreation,” said Steven Burton, assistant chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “Our mission has been shifting for 133 years.”

Early conservation

State historical documents explain that the conservation movement began during a time when most people thought natural resources were in infinite supply.
Michigan citizens then realized there was a shortage of game, fish, timber and land due to human overexploitation and took it upon themselves to preserve what remained. As a result, citizens identified the need for natural resources regulation.
William Alden Smith was appointed the state’s first game warden in 1887, establishing the Law Enforcement Division. Smith was one of the first salaried wardens in the United States and began a tradition of excellence the division continues to adhere to today.
“As conservation officers, we ride on the coattails of those who came before us,” said Corporal Ivan Perez, a marine safety specialist with the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “We understand the prestige that comes with this specific type of law enforcement work. We try to uphold ourselves to that quality and level of respect in everything we do.”
Game wardens always have focused on the state’s natural resources and the people who utilize those resources. Given that, duties of officers have expanded over time.

In a historic photo, a conservation officer shows a young boy how to tie a fishing knot.“Our mission is to protect the natural resources and those who enjoy them,” Burton said. “Today, this includes search and rescue, marine, off-road vehicle, snowmobile, parks, forests, environmental protection – in general, all outdoor recreation and protection, in addition to duties inherent to law enforcement officers.”

Historical developments

In 1907, the game warden’s mission expanded from “game and fish” to “game, fish and forestry.”
In 1921, the Michigan Legislature created the Michigan Department of Conservation –the precursor to the Michigan DNR. That same year, the Conservation Commission, a citizen body appointed by the governor, was established to provide policy direction for department activities.
Throughout the following decades, the ranks of game wardens grew.
By 1924, there were 115 conservation officers in Michigan, who were paid $2.50 a day and each patrolled 841 square miles of land. There were more than 300 unpaid deputies who assisted.

Four years later, uniforms were issued to the 140 officers who then each patrolled just over 690 square miles of land, earning $5.50 per day. In 1931, a field administration section was formed to include wildland firefighting and law enforcement.
In 1932, due to the Great Depression, the division was reduced to about 120 officers. In 1933, radios with an AM-only signal were issued to officers to report forest fires.
Four years after that, the state’s 122 officers were issued department handguns for the first time. Previously, they had to provide their own firearms. In 1941, conservation officers received their first FM radios. In 1948, the division acquired two new commercial fishing patrol boats, uniforms and two planes.
With the Baby Boom after World War II, the 1960s signaled a new era in conservation as more demands were placed on natural resources by a growing population. In 1968, the Department of Conservation was renamed the Department of Natural Resources to address broader responsibilities.
“Shifting funding sources shifts priorities and creates new wildlife management methods,” Burton said. “In the past, revenue was generated from license sales and excise taxes. Now, it is shifting to funding models like the
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, timber sales, state land leasing (minerals, gas and oil), non-motorized use permits, camping or recreational fees, and sometimes, an increase in general fund budgets.”

A female conservation officer is shown on a fishing patrol, using technology to check property lines.

As the department’s responsibilities expanded, so did the need to protect Michigan’s resources. This created an emphasis on building relationships with local user groups and concerned sportsmen and women who have similar goals.
During the 1970s, the number of conservation officers in the division rose from 162 to 202 who were each responsible for patrolling anywhere from 478 to 597 square miles.
“Our state’s population has boomed since those days,” Perez said. “What used to be corn fields are now subdivisions. It’s harder to establish a good rapport with people – we don’t have enough officers in the field to constantly know what’s going on in every single town like a small-agency officer may know. We will always rely on local relationships and for people to report complaints and tips.”
Today, the DNR is funded for 252 conservation officers – an all-time high.
“I’m proud of the excellent workforce we have today,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “We have sworn officers and civilian employees that are flexible and adaptable to the evolving nature of conservation law enforcement.”

Today’s roles and tradition

The current structure of the Law Enforcement Division includes at least two conservation officers assigned to patrol each of Michigan’s 83 counties. The officers are required to live in the counties they patrol. Sergeants and lieutenants oversee the day-to-day operations at the local level.
In addition, there are lieutenants, captains and executive and civilian staffers who manage operations at a regional and divisional level, and specialized units of conservation officers that include employment, training, legal and technology, recreational safety, education and enforcement, special investigations, Great Lakes enforcement and environmental investigations.
“When there was less population in an area, you knew a lot of people, and a lot of people knew you,” Perez said. “We used to knock on the door and do a lot of property visits. I still talk to the game warden who worked my spot prior to me because there’s always some wisdom he can share about a person, family or the county – there’s a lot of history there. There used to be more kids involved in the outdoors; technology didn’t keep them inside.”

Two conservation officers stand behind a pile of winter-killed deer in the early 1930s.Conservation officers utilize modern technology, but it can’t replace traditional face-to-face communication – a strong skill that future conservation officers must have.
“It’s up to the individual officers to reach out to people in their community to build relationships,” Perez said. “Often, when we contact families, parents will tell their child, ‘this is who protects the deer,’ but we also protect the rights and safety of the people who hunt the deer.”
Education goes together with communication, and conservation officers always have maintained a strong tradition of educating the public, particularly youth, about the natural resources.
“What has remained constant to every conservation officer in Michigan, old or new, is that we understand our responsibility to the youth of this state – to ensure they’re educated and understand the importance of our Great Lakes, forests, hunting and fishing,” Perez explains. “Hunting and fishing isn’t a right by law. I don’t know if people will still be hunting and fishing in 50 years, but I hope so. I’ll know that I did my part to help shape and encourage young minds to manage wildlife and enjoy the natural resources.”

Technology and training

Despite the learning curve that comes with modern technology, global positioning satellite (GPS) systems and digital documentation of evidence have their benefits for a conservation officer’s job.
“Technology has enhanced an officer’s ability to investigate a crime,” Perez said. “We can pull up a map to look at a piece of property to see who owns it and log daily reports from our patrol vehicles. It used to be you had a radio in your patrol vehicle that might be spotty at times. If you didn’t have that radio, you were literally on your own.”
The DNR’s 10th Conservation Officer Academy will begin in July. During the 23-week academy, recruits will be trained in state and national standards in general law enforcement, natural resource law and protection, survival skills and tactics, and equipment and technology.
Growing up hunting and fishing, Danny Walzak met several conservation officers and admired their commitment to enforcing laws and helping others. Today, Conservation Officer Walzak, who began his career in 1978, patrols Wayne County and has the most seniority in the DNR Law Enforcement Division.
“Everything a recruit goes through today was there in my academy – criminal contacts, search and seizure procedures – but it was in a reverse order,” Walzak said. “After attending orientation in Roscommon, I was sent home to begin training with field officers and then attended a regional police academy at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.”
Once the officer recruits in the upcoming academy graduate in December, they will receive a new Chevrolet Silverado patrol truck and spend about six months as probationary conservation officers working with field training officers throughout the state.
“We had basic equipment when I started as a conservation officer,” Walzak said. “My first patrol vehicle was a 1977 Plymouth Gran Fury, a common police vehicle at the time.”
During the probation period, new officers will gain hands-on experience and receive specialized training with snowmobiles, marine vessels and off-road vehicles. 

Conservation officer Ivan Perez is shown in a fishing safe boat.“When I started, I had a 16-foot skiff,” Perez said. “Now, I patrol with a 25-foot Safe-boat with enough electronics to land you on the moon. We have the best boats and vehicles that can handle all terrains and transport.”
This equipment is essential to the work conservation officers do and helps save lives every year.
Serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Perez was eventually stationed in Michigan to patrol the Great Lakes, where he met and worked with conservation officers. In 1995, Perez became a Michigan DNR conservation officer. He has spent most of his career as a conservation officer patrolling west Michigan’s Ottawa County.
Equipment and technology are vital for conservation officers, enabling them to be where they need to be, when they need to be there, to efficiently do their job.
“Conservation officers are a professional and reliable part of the fabric of law enforcement across the state,” Hagler said. “We not only protect the natural resources, but also the citizens and visitors that enjoy all of what Michigan has to offer.”

Perez says that the greatest perk of being a conservation officer today is having the ability to patrol areas as they see fit, according to various seasons and time of the year, to focus on the specific resource protection needs in each county.
“It’s always changing,” Perez said. “And that’s something that’s never changed.”

Visit Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers to learn more about the DNR Law Enforcement Division and its conservation officers.

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.

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Take down bird feeders now to reduce conflicts with bears

A black bear in the Michigan woods26MAR20-Michigan black bears soon will be rising from hibernation and searching for a replenishing meal. In order to help local communities avoid potential conflicts with bears, the Department of Natural Resources recommends that residents consider taking down bird feeders and removing any food sources that might attract wildlife.
Black bears are primarily found in the Upper Peninsula and the northern half of the Lower Peninsula. During hibernation, bears rely on fat reserves to keep them nourished. Bears rising from their dens will be hungry and in search of their next nourishing meal.
Despite the abundance of natural food sources available in the springtime, bears prefer bird feeds and suet because of their high fat content and easy accessibility. When bears discover a bird feeder filled with a calorie-rich meal, they won’t soon forget and could become repeat visitors.

“Bears are creatures of habit. Once they have found a reliable food source, they will return until the food source is removed,” said DNR large carnivore specialist Cody Norton. “While it can be exciting to see a bear, providing them food can cause problems for you, your neighbors and the bear.”
Bears that rely on human food sources can regularly encounter people, too, often causing them to lose their natural fear of humans. A habituated bear is not easily scared out of an area and will continue to visit the area looking for a meal. This could result in a bear causing property damage and/or having to be relocated or euthanized.
Food sources that can attract bears to your yard include bird feeders, trash cans, grills, pet foods, apiaries (where beehives are kept), bonfire pits and anything else that might contain food debris. Homeowners should take action to limit bear conflicts by taking down bird feeders, storing grills and trash cans in sealed buildings and cleaning all substances of food debris.

Anyone who has removed a bird feeder and is still experiencing bear problems two to three weeks later is encouraged to contact the nearest DNR office and speak with the local staff for assistance.

To learn more about Michigan’s black bear and how to be Bear SMART., visit Michigan.gov/Bear.

Additional tips and information on how to handle conflicts with wildlife are available at Michigan.gov/Wildlife.

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Heed Smokey's Safety Tips for Careful Campfire Fun

Play button for a Smokey Bear campfire safety video

19MAR20-Whether they’re due to debris burning, sparks from equipment or power lines, fireworks or, yes, campfires – in Michigan, nine out of 10 wildfires over 10 acres in size ultimately are caused by people. The good news is that by committing to some simple steps, anyone enjoying a campfire can help reduce that scary statistic.

As Michigan moves into prime campfire season in state parks, state forests and other outdoor spaces, everyone is encouraged to put safety first.

This brief “Smokey’s Campfire Safety Competition” video pokes a little humor at how easy it is to properly extinguish a campfire, and the importance of doing so. The next time you and your family and friends are ready to gather ‘round the campfire, make sure your fire-dousing techniques would earn a Smokey high-five!

Learn more about campfire safety at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires.

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DNR, MSU Seek More Chronic Wasting Disease Research Proposals

whitetail deer doe in forest12MAR20-The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State University are once again seeking proposals for research that addresses priority concerns related to the management of chronic wasting disease in Michigan and the Great Lakes region.
In 2019, the Michigan Legislature, recognizing the threat that CWD poses to Michigan’s hunting traditions and local economies, provided $4.3 million in funds to support collaborative research, education and outreach activities related to the disease, and to fund CWD field surveillance. The MSU-DNR Chronic Wasting Disease Advisory Group issued a national call for proposals last April to seek projects to address the most important issues around CWD in Michigan deer.
Eleven projects were selected for funding, with a number of these projects currently underway.
Now, with a portion of the $4.3 million remaining, the advisory group is again seeking research proposals.

“Michigan continues to take aggressive steps to combat CWD while emerging as a national leader in testing, research and management,” said Scott Whitcomb, DNR senior advisor for wildlife and public lands. “A coalition of dedicated partners – the Michigan Legislature, MSU, the DNR and so many more partners – have together appropriated significant funding, resources and personnel to research and fight this disease. Additional research as a result of these proposals will take these collaborative efforts even further.”

The proposals should address priorities such as:

  • Clarification of transmission pathways.
  • Evaluating and comparing management tools that impact disease spread.
  • Environmental decontamination or remediation strategies.
  • Evaluation of methods and technologies to remotely identify infected free-ranging deer.

“CWD is a deadly disease that threatens the white-tailed deer population in Michigan and has environmental persistence as well,” said Doug Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch. “We are pleased to be part of this collaborative initiative and look forward to making progress in meeting the greatest needs for CWD research and its implications on the state’s economy and protecting our natural resources.”
The proposals are due by 5 p.m. May 4 and will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee of subject matter experts of MSU faculty, DNR staff, external experts and stakeholder representatives. Notification of awards, including funding amount, will be made on June 1st.
The request for proposals and details are available at
CANR.MSU.edu/chronic-wasting-disease.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It causes a degeneration of the brain resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. CWD is fatal; once an animal is infected there is no recovery or cure.
It is caused by a normal protein, called a prion, that folds incorrectly and can infect other deer, elk and moose. It can be transmitted through direct animal to animal contact or by contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, carcass parts of an infected animal or infected soil. Prions are extremely resistant in the environment and can stay infectious for years. To date, there is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans.

Since May 2015, when the first free-ranging, CWD-positive deer was found in Michigan, the disease has been confirmed in white-tailed deer in the Lower Peninsula in eight counties. In 2018, a CWD-positive deer was found in the Upper Peninsula in Dickinson County.

Visit Michigan.gov/CWD for more information on CWD in Michigan.

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Letting You In On A Snowshoe Secret

By RACHEL COALE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Rachel Coale, the author of this story, is shown on a snowshoe outing.

10MAR20-Snowshoeing feels like a secret.
In the quiet winter forest, I rarely encounter other hikers. Watching my breath hang in the frigid air with a thumping heartbeat and sting of snowflakes on my cheeks is a refreshingly vital experience in a season where it’s all too easy to burrow into a pile of blankets and watch Netflix.
Some people love to whiz down ski hills at top speed – and that’s a great winter activity – but the muffled, rhythmic “crunch – crunch – crunch” of snowshoes on a trail is a different kind of experience. It allows for reflection and observation in a way that most other winter activities don’t.

If you haven’t experienced the peaceful quietude of Michigan’s winter forests, I invite you to put a foot forward on the trail and enjoy the snowy outdoors. Pack some cocoa.

Getting started

Two women enjoy a snowshoe hike at the Island Lake Recreation Area in Livingston County.“Getting started snowshoeing is easy,” says REI Co-op’s intro-to-snowshoeing webpage. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”
The activity is physically low-impact and doesn’t require many special techniques. But don’t be fooled that it will be too easy; the exercise can get you huffing and puffing like on a treadmill, but with far more interesting scenery.
It’s also low-cost. You don’t need a lift ticket or club membership to go snowshoeing, or even a trail. Michigan’s 4 million acres of state forest are open to the public for free year-round, so all that’s needed are a few pieces of gear.
The
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex in Muskegon State Park offers snowshoe rentals for those who want to try it out before investing in their own pair, and the facility also offers adaptive ski and skate equipment for wheelchair users. For those who are ready to purchase their own, snowshoe kits (these often come with a carry bag and poles) range from $40 to $120 depending on size and materials.

Whether you choose newer-style, metal-frame snowshoes or the classic wood-frame variety, in the case of snowshoes – size matters. Smaller snowshoes with less “flotation” are best for wet, compact snow, while hikes in powder snow require larger snowshoes. Other features to consider are the type of bindings (these attach your boots to the snowshoes), heel lifts (they can help on hill climbs) and crampons – spiky cleats that that provide traction and stability.
In addition to the snowshoes themselves, many winter hikers use hiking poles or ski poles for added balance and to test for hazards (like logs, deep holes or thin ice) that can hide beneath fresh snow.

A few essentials to bring on a winter day hike in the forest include:

  • Snowshoes and warm, waterproof boots.
  • Clothing in layers: a wicking base layer, warm middle layer and outer shell.
  • A water bottle or hydration bladder and a snack.
  • A map of the route you wish to take.
  • A change of clothing in case you get wet.

A woman with snowshoe and trekking poles moves along a snowshoe trail.A recommended piece of equipment that may be surprising is a pair of sunglasses. Although they seem more suited to a summer hiking kit, they can be helpful on bright days when sunlight reflecting off glittering snow can be blinding.

With snowshoes, you can follow an established path or break a new trail but avoid snowshoeing on groomed cross-country ski tracks. Skiers do have the right-of-way on shared trail systems (it’s easier for a snowshoer to step off the trail than it is for a skier to go off-track).

Before heading into the woods, always leave a hike plan with someone you trust and a copy under your car seat.

For play – and work too

Snowshoeing is a great weekend recreational activity, but if you’re a forester, it’s part of the job. Michigan Department of Natural Resources foresters use snowshoes to trek through deep snow to evaluate timber and check trees for pests and diseases.
“It’s a great way to get out and enjoy some fresh air and natural light during the long winter months,” said Upper Peninsula forest health specialist Simeon Wright. “Up here, we have to really embrace winter.”
Over the course of the 2018-19 season, forest health teams working to prevent a tiny, invasive insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid from killing trees covered thousands of acres of west Michigan terrain in their hiking boots and snowshoes.
Their efforts and treatments have paid off, with no new infested areas found during last season’s monitoring surveys.

Find your forest adventure

A Michigan DNR forester uses snowshoes to check hemlock trees for invasive species.Michigan’s state forests – primarily located “knuckles north” on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula mitten and across portions of the Upper Peninsula – offer many opportunities for beautiful snowshoe hikes. In the Pigeon River Country State Forest, in the northern Lower Peninsula, lucky snow-shoers might spot a wild elk.
Visitors to the Sand Lakes Quiet Area near Traverse City will experience a peaceful hike in a totally non-motorized forest, and those hiking in the Lake Superior forest near Newberry will emerge from the woods at the Crisp Point Lighthouse, which sits on a rocky beach known for prime agate hunting.
Find your next forest hike on the DNR's interactive map at
Michigan.gov/StateForests.
For a fun group experience, many state parks offer guided, lantern-lit or moonlight snowshoe hikes – a perfect way to spend a winter evening with friends and family.

Visit the DNR snowshoeing page for hike dates. Some state parks and other locations also host snowshoe-building weekend workshops where participants build their own pair of traditional wooden snowshoes, spend a rustic night around the campfire and enjoy a guided hike.

From the secret adventure of winter snowshoeing to fall leaf peeping hikes, Michigan’s state forests offer year-round scenic beauty and opportunities for adventure – no matter the weather.

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.

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Join The DNR Parks or Wildlife Team

03MAR20-Looking for an interesting summer job that gets you outdoors and involved in conserving wildlife or helping people enjoy Michigan’s natural resources? We’re hiring seasonal park workers at state parks, state forest campgrounds, boating access sites and harbors and seasonal wildlife employees to work with staff at DNR field offices, customer service centers and state game areas. Learn more about these and other opportunities at Michigan.gov/DNRJobs. 

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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 © 2019 Carroll Broadcasting, Inc., All rights reserved.

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