DNR News: Reopened snowmobile trails, new type of timber, RIVERS reporting app

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News Digest - Week of Jan. 27, 2020

four snowmobilers coming around a curve in the trail

It's time to hit the trails! (Photo courtesy International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association)

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Michigan 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.

Snowmobile trails in eastern U.P. reopen after massive storm cleanup

A trail view showing downed trees from recent storms in the eastern U.P.; provided by Les Cheneaux Grooming Club in Cedarville.

Thanks to a true team effort between the DNR and snowmobile grant sponsors, more than 120 miles of state-designated trails in Chippewa and eastern Mackinac counties have been cleared and are ready to welcome back snowmobilers. A storm that began in late December dumped ice and snow across the eastern Upper Peninsula, snapping power poles, breaking branches and leaving many miles of trail impassable because of the debris.

“I’ve never seen a storm like that,” said Rob Shields, a DNR forest fire supervisor based in Sault Ste. Marie. “On top of ice, we were hit with 6 inches of wet, sloppy snow and ice on top of that. It just started snapping trees.”

Many DNR employees joined the area’s snowmobile grant sponsors to get the job done. Those pitching in included the Chippewa Snowchasers, the Sault Ste. Marie Snowmobile Association, the Drummond Island Tourist Association, the Les Cheneaux Grooming Club, the Straits Grooming Association, the Curtis Chamber of Commerce, the Tahquamenon Area Snowmobile Association and the Paradise Area Night Riders. Revenue from the purchase of snowmobile trail permits provides important grant funding to sponsors and clubs for trail grooming.

“Without collaboration and total team effort on a cleanup like this, the trails likely would have been closed for the majority of the season,” Shields said.

Snowmobile grant sponsors play an important role in keeping snowmobile trails safe and ready to ride. Michigan’s snowmobile program is 100% funded by trail permit and registration dollars. That money is directly reinvested into the program for things like the funding allotted to snowmobile grant sponsors – the nonprofit organizations that groom and brush trails. Watch this brief video to learn more about using, funding and caring for these trails.

The DNR regularly updates trail closures and provides links to trail reports that provide helpful information on conditions. Before returning to the trails in the eastern U.P. or anywhere in Michigan, people are encouraged to visit Michigan.gov/Snowmobiling for information on purchasing a permit, getting trail maps and reviewing important safety tips as part of the DNR’s Ride Right program.

Questions? Contact Doug Donnelly at 517-284-6109.

April summit aims to build industry interest in mass timber

looking up at the corner of a multistory, mass timber building under construction, blue sky above

Stronger than steel, fire-resistant and sustainable, mass timber is an emerging building material catching the interest of architects and tradespeople throughout the U.S. and Europe. Closer to home, building industry leaders, tradespeople, lumber manufacturers and forest managers will meet April 20-21 at the Michigan Mass Timber Summit in East Lansing to explore new, innovative possibilities for wood-based construction.

Mass timber framing uses large solid or engineered wood columns. These techniques allow for tall buildings to be created out of renewable timber instead of concrete or steel, meaning that future skylines could include wooden skyscrapers.

Summit organizers including the DNR and the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute hope to spark adoption of mass timber in the Midwest. Attendees will get to tour a mass timber frame building – the first in the state – currently under construction on the Michigan State University campus.

“There is great potential to use mass timber to accelerate sustainable building techniques and promote Michigan’s forest products industry,” said Shannon Hanna, DNR natural resources deputy. “Creating sustainable pathways for the state’s forest industries will provide many ecological and economic benefits.”

Michigan’s state forests are dual-certified by two independent organizations as sustainably managed.

Get more information and register for the summit at MIFBI.org/Events. Questions? Contact Brenda Haskill (DNR) or Julie Manley (Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute).

ICYMI: New app helps the public help local rivers, watersheds

screen shot of Trout Unlimited's RIVERS app, a tool that can help anglers and anyone on the water report trash, erosion or other problems.

On a brisk October day, Trout Unlimited volunteer Parker VandenBerg and DNR forester Mike Smalligan paddled a canoe down the White River in Newaygo County, testing out Trout Unlimited’s new mobile application, RIVERS. The acronym stands for “River Inventory by Volunteers for Efficient Restoration Strategies.”

The long name is part of a big goal – to help Trout Unlimited and local White River Watershed Partnership managers plan restoration projects by recording degraded habitat locations. To do this, the organizations developed a downloadable app to enlist the help of anglers and citizen scientists – volunteers who share scientific insights about places they love.

In case you missed it, we recently shared a story about how the app makes it easy for people paddling, fishing or just spending time on their favorite rivers to take note of unusual or potentially problematic things like too much sediment, shoreline erosion, trash or poor water visibility, and then share what they see and where they are.

Read the full RIVERS story and learn more about how this simple app can help people serve as citizen scientists.


Have you made it to the Michigan History Museum yet to check out the Secret Lives of Michigan Objects exhibit? Unusual things, childhood treasures and more; they all tell Michigan's story!


Just a few weeks left to visit managed waterfowl hunt areas for this season's Wetland Wonders Challenge – make sure to get your punch cards in, and then find out March 1 who the seven lucky winners are.


Whether you walk, run or hike it, don't miss out on our first Bob Ross-inspired Run for the Trees / Happy Little 5K! Coming up in April, it's a great opportunity to get outdoors, have some fun and help state parks.

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