DNR News: Forest health report, backyard birds, steelhead egg take

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News Digest - Week of April 8, 2019

purple wildflowers in green grass

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.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Bringing more birds to your own backyard

A ruby-throated hummingbird in flight near cardinal flowers

Spring migration is a special time, particularly in the Great Lakes State. Michigan lies at the intersection of the Atlantic and Mississippi migratory flyways – avian super-highways that bring more than 340 bird species to our state every year. Just like many of us, these birds love a great garden, especially one that is brimming with native plants.

Native plants produce four times the amount of “insect biomass” – the total amount of living insects in a given area – as non-native plants do.

“That’s a big reason why native Michigan plants are an excellent food source for our feathered friends and their hatchlings,” said Erin Rowan, MI Birds program associate. “Growing bird-friendly, native plants will attract and protect the birds you love while making your space beautiful and easy to care for.”

A scarlet tanager perched on the ground, casting a shadow in the dirt

Rowan said that upcoming workshops will offer great opportunities for people to learn more about creating a backyard habitat that will attract birds, deer, pheasants, pollinators and other wildlife. Register for one of the following:

In Lapeer, Gratiot and Tuscola counties: The DNR, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative will host free habitat workshops this month. Get event details and register.

In the Lansing area: Michigan Audubon will host a backyard bird habitat workshop May 11 in Okemos. Get event details and register..

Can’t attend a workshop? Want to learn more about starting your own bird-friendly garden, but not sure where to start? Check out Audubon’s Plants for Birds Resources, including a database of plants native to your area. Additionally, you can explore the birding resources of the MI Birds webpage.

Questions? Contact Erin Rowan, 313-820-0809.

The top photo above, Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting Cardinal Flower, courtesy Kristen Cart/Audubon Photography Awards.

Forest Health Highlights: Pest threats and how to help

oak trees in the Allegan State Forest, along a country road

Last year, the DNR created a team of foresters for one purpose: to search for and assess threats to Michigan trees. These threats — like the hemlock woolly adelgid, oak wilt and Heterobasidion root disease — pose significant risk to oak, pine and other tree species integral to the health of Michigan’s forests and landscape.

“We are working with university, state, federal and community partners to tackle forest health issues in the most effective ways possible,” said Susan Tangora, forest health section manager for the DNR. The U.S. Forest Service, the DNR and partner agencies also are sharing the cost of the work.

These efforts and more are chronicled in the DNR’s annual Forest Health Highlights report, which includes updates on issues including spruce decline, forest tent caterpillars and Japanese stiltgrass. It details efforts to keep invasive pests such as the spotted lanternfly and the Asian longhorned beetle, both found in nearby states, from infesting Michigan trees.

a screenshot of the Michigan DNR's oak wilt map

The report outlines what the DNR and others are doing to make sure rural and urban trees stay as healthy as possible — and the public can help.

The DNR has developed some interactive maps where people can report suspected problems or concerns on specific tree and pest issues. Check out the oak wilt map and the Heterobasidion root disease map on the Forest Health webpage to see where these problems are clustered and learn about efforts to fight them.

Find the current report at Michigan.gov/ForestHealth. Questions? Contact James Wieferich at 517-284-5866.

Little Manistee River steelhead egg take set for spring

A female fisheries biologist drains steelhead eggs captured in a 2018 egg take on the Little Manistee River

Since 1968, the Little Manistee River weir, located in Stronach Township, Manistee County, has served as the sole source of winter-run steelhead eggs for fish hatcheries in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. These hatcheries help keep the steelhead population stocked and healthy, which is great news for anglers.

“Steelhead are just one of Michigan’s many sport fish,” said Joe Mickevich, DNR fisheries technician supervisor. “They are known fighters, which makes them popular with anglers looking for a real challenge out in the open water of the Great Lakes or in tributary streams.”

The annual collection of steelhead eggs at the weir tentatively will begin next week. Operations begin by lowering the weir grates by mid-March, stopping the upstream migration in the river and diverting the fish into holding ponds. Usually during April, the fish ripen (meaning they are ready to release eggs or milt) and egg-take operations begin, continuing until the established egg quota is reached. The weir grates then are removed, and all remaining fish are allowed to migrate upstream.

During egg-take operations, unripe or "green" steelhead are held in maturation ponds or counted and passed upstream to sustain the river’s wild steelhead run. Steelhead that are spawned during operations also are passed upstream and many eventually return to Lake Michigan.

Call the Little Manistee River weir hotline, 231-775-9727, ext. 6072, to check the egg-take schedule. The facility is open to the public for viewing during egg-take operations, and fish can be observed in the river below the weir at any time.

Questions? Contact Joe Mickevich, 231-389-2551 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

Natural Resources Commission meets Thursday

turkeys walking in a Michigan forest

General management plans for several state parks, chronic wasting disease, fall turkey regulations and the state trails plan and program are just some of the topics on the agenda for the next meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission. The commission is set to meet Thursday, April 11, at the MSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, 4125 Beaumont Road, in Lansing. 

The day's sessions include the Michigan State Parks Advisory Committee at 8:30 a.m., the Policy Committee on Wildlife and Fisheries at 10:30 a.m. and the Committee of the Whole at 1 p.m.

The commission is expected to take action on proposed changes to statewide fishing regulations on lake herring, salmon, smelt, trout and whitefish. DNR Director Dan Eichinger is expected to approve the parameters of the proposed May 7 oil and gas lease auction involving roughly 4,130 acres in Alpena, Arenac, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Isabella, Lake, Mason, Midland and Wexford counties.

See the meeting's full draft agenda on the NRC webpage at Michigan.gov/NRC. Questions? Contact Cheryl Nelson, 517-284-6237.


Learn all about the growing popularity of local farming in Michigan! Join us for the Michigan Farm to Table event April 14 at the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit.


Did you know there are more than 100 state parks in Michigan? With the Recreation Passport (just $11 when you renew your license plate registration), you get into every park, all year long!


Off-road veterans, how about sharing your expertise with new riders? Become a volunteer ORV instructor! Upcoming academies May 3-5 (Roscommon) & June 7-9 (Escanaba).

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