DNR News: State-record sunfish, wildlife habitat grants, ORVs on forest roads

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News Digest - Week of Oct. 1, 2018

This print, from noted outdoor outfitter Webster Marble, is from the historical collections of the Archives of Michigan.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at michigan.gov/dnrpressroom.

Check out recommendations for ORV use on state forest roads in U.P., southern Lower Peninsula

The public is invited to review and comments on revised recommendations for ORVs on state forest roads in U.P., southern Lower Peninsula

When Public Act 288 was enacted in 2016, it directed the DNR to inventory and map state forest roads as a way to encourage more people to enjoy Michigan’s public lands through enhanced off-road vehicle opportunities.  

The northern Lower Peninsula inventory and classification are complete, currently with roughly 6,300 miles of roads open to ORVs. Inventory and classification for the southern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula are under way right now, and public opinion continues to be a key part of the process.

Bill O’Neill, DNR natural resources deputy, said that feedback received this spring and summer helped the department revise draft recommendations.

“That public input has been an important part of the process as we work to finalize the recommendations for the U.P. and southern Lower Peninsula,” O’Neill said. “We want to hear from users about proposed roads’ impact on local communities.”

Revised recommendations will be discussed at the Oct. 11 and Nov. 8 Natural Resources Commission meetings, with a final decision at the Dec. 13 meeting. Approved recommendations will go into effect January 2019.

The DNR will accept public input throughout the process; in-person comments will be accepted at all three NRC meetings; and mail, email and online feedback can be shared until Nov. 15. 

  • Comment on Upper Peninsula recommendations by email to DNR-RoadInventoryProject@michigan.gov or mail to DNR Roads Inventory Project, 1990 U.S. 41 South, Marquette, MI 49855. 
  • Comment on southern Lower Peninsula recommendations by email to DNR-SouthernMIRoadInventory@michigan.gov or mail to DNR Roads Inventory Project, 4166 Legacy Parkway, Lansing, MI 48911. 
  • View maps and comment online at michigan.gov/forestroads. Select either the U.P. or the southern Lower Peninsula interactive map and follow website instructions to submit comments. 

Next year, all state forest roads will be open to ORV use unless designated closed by the DNR for reasons of ensuring user safety, preventing user conflicts or protecting environmentally sensitive areas. 

Learn more at michigan.gov/forestroads or contact (U.P.) Scott Whitcomb at 989-983-4101 or Kerry Wieber at 517-643-1256, or (southern Lower Peninsula) Anna Sylvester at 989-324-8621 or Kristin Wildman at 517-284-4739. 

Learn more about trails in Michigan and sign up for trail email updates at michigan.gov/dnrtrails.

2018 Wildlife Habitat Grant recipients share more than $1 million

A forest opening being worked up for planting at Camp Grayling through combined effort of National Wild Turkey Federation and Army National Guard.

More than a dozen conservation organizations, units of government, landowners and nonprofit groups have been awarded a total of $1,037,600 in DNR Wildlife Habitat Grants for projects to be completed by Sept. 30, 2020. These grant dollars will support projects to enhance large wetland complexes, winter deer complexes, mast-producing food sources, forest openings, oak savannas and small-game habitat.

The successful applicants, the counties in which their habitat projects will take place, and the amounts awarded are:

  • Allegan Conservation District (Allegan), $81,300
  • Blue Water Conservation District (Sanilac), $50,700
  • Clinton Conservation District (Clinton), $36,000
  • Clinton Conservation District (Clinton), $32,700
  • Greenleaf Timber Holding, Inc. (Alger, Iron), $79,300
  • Huron Pines (Cheboygan, Montmorency, Otsego), $111,200
  • Lenawee Conservation District (Hillsdale), $17,500
  • Little Traverse Conservancy (Cheboygan), $25,500
  • Muskegon Conservation District (Muskegon), $36,200
  • National Wild Turkey Federation (Barry, Kent, Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana), $191,200
  • National Wild Turkey Federation (Alcona, Crawford, Manistee, Oscoda, Ottawa), $231,200
  • Pheasants Forever (Lenawee), $19,500
  • Safari Club International Foundation (Baraga, Mackinac, Ontonagon), $71,800
  • U.P. Whitetails Association, Inc. (Delta), $53,500

The Wildlife Habitat Grant Program began in October 2013 and is funded with a portion of the revenue from hunting and fishing licenses sold each year. The program is cooperatively administered by the DNR’s Wildlife Division and Grants Management Section. The grant program’s main objective is to enhance and improve the quality and quantity of game species habitat in support of a specific goal from the DNR Wildlife Division’s strategic plan.

Learn more about the Wildlife Habitat Grant Program at michigan.gov/wildlife or michigan.gov/dnr-grants or contact Clay Buchanan at 517-614-0918 or Chip Kosloski at 517-284-5965. 

State-record hybrid sunfish caught in southwest Michigan

Joel Heeringa caught this state-record hybrid sunfish in July 2018 on Lake Anne in Berrien County

Michigan has a new state-record hybrid sunfish, out of Lake Anne in Grand Mere State Park in Berrien County. Joel Heeringa, of St. Joseph, Michigan, caught the fish July 9 while still-fishing with a crawler. The record fish weighed 1.8 pounds and measured 11.7 inches. 

The record was verified by Brian Gunderman, a DNR fisheries unit manager for southern Lake Michigan. Because the fish was believed to be a hybrid, additional identification was required, delaying final confirmation. The fish also was examined by University of Michigan fisheries experts who confirmed it indeed was a hybrid sunfish. 

The previous hybrid sunfish state record actually was a tie between two fish: one caught May 28, 1988, by Daniel Manville on Arbutus Lake in Grand Traverse County and one caught June 1, 1988, by Lloyd Jarman, Jr. on Doan’s Lake in Allegan County. Both fish weighed 1.44 pounds. 

State records in Michigan are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist. 

For more information, visit michigan.gov/masterangler or contact Brian Gunderman at 269-685-6851, ext. 145.

New look in November for state park and harbor online reservation system

A campsite at Baraga State Park in the Upper Peninsula

The DNR’s online reservation website for Michigan state parks and harbors (midnrreservations.com) is getting a fall makeover. The new website – launching Nov. 5 – will offer the same basic functionality that many campers and boaters have come to expect, be more mobile-friendly and have a new look and feel. Customers still will be able to see photos of individual campsites and search for availability from a map, list or calendar display.  

Customers who have made reservations for a state park or harbor anytime in the last four years will have their customer profiles, current reservations and reservation histories carried over to the new site. In late October, customers will receive an email with instructions on how to reset their profile passwords. 

“Our goal is to make this system upgrade seamless for our customers and ensure that everyone has the information they need to easily plan their next state park and harbor adventures,” said DNR reservation system specialist Christa Sturtevant-Good.

To prepare for a successful transition for both the website and “in house” application, there will be a small window of time (Oct. 29 through Nov. 4) when reservations cannot be made via the website or call center. Customers who want to camp during this time are encouraged to make a reservation before Oct. 29 or plan to register when arriving at a campground.

When the new website goes live, customers again will be able to book campsite and harbor slip reservations up to six months in advance, and overnight lodging and shelters up to one year in advance.

Questions? Contact Christa Sturtevant-Good at 231-861-2703 or Dennis McDermott at 231-347-4899. 

Iron Belle Trail Fund awards $50,000 to help complete Iosco Exploration Trail

A team got to work recently in Hale, clearing brush and moving forward on the project to complete a segment of the Iosco Exploration Trail

A trail development project in Iosco County recently got a $50,000 boost from the Iron Belle Trail Fund. Awarded to Plainfield Township, the funds – a match for a $30,000 DNR grant and $20,000 in local support – will be used to complete 1.16 miles of the Iosco Exploration Trail, part of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail.

The Iosco Exploration Trail is a 34-mile stretch connecting Oscoda-AuSable to Hale on the River Road National Scenic Byway on Michigan’s east side. Community leaders met last week in Hale for the project announcement and to begin clearing trees and brush where the new multiuse trail segment will go. It is expected to be completed in May.

"This is just one of many Iron Belle Trail projects under way across Michigan, including efforts in metro Detroit, Gaylord, St. Ignace, Battle Creek, Flint and several other areas," said Steve DeBrabander, Iron Belle Trail Fund executive director. "We’re excited to provide private funding to support this trail connection that will help bring communities together.” 

The Iron Belle Trail, at more than 2,000 total miles, is the longest state-designated trail in the nation and aims to connect Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula with a hiking trail on the southern and western sides of Michigan and a biking trail to the east. It is 69 percent completed.

The Iron Belle Trail Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that raises private funds that can be used to match public dollars to complete this statewide project. Learn more about the trail and fundraising efforts at michigan.gov/ironbelle or by contacting Doug Donnelly at 517-284-6109. 

Looking for fab fall color? Try the nearest state forest

A scenic shot of striking fall colors in an Upper Peninsula forest

If you plan an October road trip to catch Michigan’s fall color show, a new interactive map can help you choose spots to visit in Michigan’s state forests. The map includes 77 sites in the northern Lower Peninsula and across the Upper Peninsula. 

“The map shows little-known and unique spots to visit in Michigan’s state forests, where you can walk, hike, bike or drive through some of the state’s most beautiful scenery,” said Deb Begalle, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division, which manages 4 million acres of public forest land. 

Highlighted sites range from High Rock Bay at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, where you can enjoy views by bike, car or on foot along a rugged, narrow 7-mile road, and as far south as a section of the Midland to Mackinaw hiking trail near Gladwin that follows a historic Native American travel route through a variety of forest landscapes. 

Look for fall color from your ORV at the St. Helen Motorsport Area just off I-75 and north of M-55, complete with several sand bowls and a rock-climb obstacle course for full-size four-wheelers. Or enjoy the rushing water at Ocqueoc Falls, the largest waterfall in the Lower Peninsula. The site includes a trail accessible for wheelchair users.

Find the map at michigan.gov/dnr under “Places to Go” and then in the Forests section under “A Tour of Michigan’s Forests.” Choose any pin on the map for a photo and description of the site.

To learn more about the map, contact Paige Gebhardt; for more on fall color, contact Kathleen Lavey at 517-284-5852.

PHOTO INFO: High-resolution versions of the images used above, and additional photos, are available in this photo folder.

Events button

Interested in learning new ways to observe and experience the sights and sounds of the world around you? Sign up for "Think Like a Naturalist" Oct. 5 at Negwegon State Park in Harrisville. 

buy and apply

Deer hunters, it's time to grab your bows and get outdoors! Michigan's early archery season starts today and runs through Nov. 14 statewide. Get all the info you need at michigan.gov/deer.  

get involved

If you're a fan of Mears State Park in Pentwater, consider lending a hand at the Oct. 6-7 volunteer weekend. Help install snow fence, paint, clean fire pits and more – and earn some free camping!