DNR News: Adapting to COVID-19, spring turkey hunting, fuelwood permits

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News Digest - Week of March 30, 2020

spring flowrs

In this week's news digest, some of the items reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is adapting to meet customers' needs. Public health and safety are our biggest priorities, and we will continue to share news and information about the safest, and sometimes new, ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources in this uncertain time.

With Gov. Whitmer's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Executive Order, it's important to note that you are still able to go outside and enjoy nature as long as you practice proper social distancing. When you're anywhere in public, be sure to keep at least 6 feet between yourself and other people not from your immediate household. Keep your health and safety – and the safety of your fellow Michiganders – in mind and use good judgment.

Follow our DNR COVID-19 response page for updates on facilities and closures/cancellations and stay up to date on the latest public health guidelines and news at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus

This week's DNR news digest includes:

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

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

Can I still go fishing?

young boy wearing a jacket and cap, holding a fish he caught

We understand there are questions about how COVID-19 is affecting outdoor recreation. Right now, yes, fishing is permitted, and the 2020 season opens April 1. In fact, fishing is one outdoor activity that can be done with proper social distancing – just make sure to remain 6 feet away from people outside of your household and be respectful of others. Also, keep it local. Extensive travel is allowed only for essential needs. Limiting your travel helps keep you and others safe, while also reducing the spread of COVID-19.

If you decide to go fishing, it’s easy to get your 2020 license online at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses. For the latest fishing regulations, check out the 2020 Fishing Guide at Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.

Be a good neighbor; act now to prevent wildlife conflicts

A bear and her cubs eat from a bird feeder on the lawn

Warmer weather means many animals are seeking food to feed their young. During this time, help your community – and be a good neighbor to wildlife – and consider removing bird feeders and other food sources that might attract wildlife.

Bird feeders can attract a variety of wildlife, not just birds. Other species, including squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, opossums and bears, will take advantage of the easy access. Mice, chipmunks and other small animals visiting your feeders could draw larger predators like hawks, coyotes and foxes.

If you live in the Lower Peninsula or parts of the western U.P., make sure deer can’t get to your bird feeders. Feeding deer is prohibited in these areas to limit the spread of wildlife diseases. Follow these tips for feeding the birds in areas where deer feeding bans are in place.

More tips on handling conflicts with wildlife are available at Michigan.gov/Wildlife.
Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Forest Legacy Program nomination applications now available

An autumn view of the Pigeon River County State Forest

The value of thriving green spaces where people can spread out and enjoy nature perhaps has never been more apparent than now, as the world adapts to life with COVID-19. In Michigan, some of our most beautiful public land is made possible through the Forest Legacy Program, a nationally competitive program administered by the U.S. Forest Service that uses federal and matching funds to protect environmentally important forest lands. 

Projects include lands that are home to threatened or endangered species, wildlife corridors, or rivers and streams. The most recent example is the nearly 600 acres of prime elk habitat added to the Pigeon River Country State Forest earlier this year, thanks to Forest Legacy Program funding. The federal program provides money to help purchase land or land rights for the public to use and enjoy for generations to come. Michigan’s program also requires that land remains open to the public, at least for nonmotorized access. 

Projects nominated by June 19 will be considered to potentially compete for funding during fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1, 2021. Find nomination application forms and get more information at Michigan.gov/PrivateForestLand or contact Kerry Wieber at 517-643-1256. 

Get your recreational safety certificates from home

state of Michigan boater safety education course screen shot

You can earn your boating, snowmobile or ORV safety certificate from home with the DNR’s self-paced, online courses available at Michigan.gov/RecreationalSafety. To protect the health of Michigan residents, all traditional classroom setting courses for these program areas have been canceled until further notice, including hunter education field days. The online portion of the hunter safety course is still available. If you have questions about a recreational safety class you were signed up for, please contact the instructor.

With online learning, you can stay home, stay safe and help keep yourself and fellow Michiganders healthy.

Catch 'Wardens' TV show during Outdoor Channel free April preview

Outdoor Channel free preview graphic

For a few years now, the DNR has partnered with the Outdoor Channel on the television show “Wardens” to tell the story of the department’s dedicated staff and the work we do to conserve the state’s natural resources, weaving important conservation messages into every episode. Now through April 30, the Outdoor Channel is making its programming free to viewers. Check with your TV provider for details.

“Wardens” airs every Monday at 8:30 and 11:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 2:30 a.m. (all times Eastern), with repeats Saturday and Sunday. In the Upper Peninsula, WLUC-Fox UP broadcasts “Wardens” at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern). Coming up on this week’s episode: inland lake patrols find safety issues, DNR fisheries researchers conduct a trawling survey on Saginaw Bay, and an ORV rider learns you can’t cheat the system.

To get the Outdoor Channel, check your TV or cable provider or streaming service, or go to OutdoorChannel.com or MyOutdoorTV.com.

Fuelwood season delayed to May 1; apply for permits by mail

A man wearing winter clothes and protective earwear uses a chainsaw to cut firewood

Anyone interested in cutting and collecting dead and downed trees for fuelwood this year will need to wait until May 1. Because many residents normally turn in their fuelwood applications at DNR forest management unit offices – which now are closed to the public due to COVID-19 precautions – the DNR has delayed the fuelwood season start date for a month.

Fuelwood permits are valid for designated state forest lands in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula. The quality and quantity of dead wood varies by location; we recommend reviewing online maps showing where cutting is allowed before applying for a permit. Up to five standard cords of wood can be collected per household. Wood is for personal use only and cannot be resold or traded.

Apply for fuelwood permits by mail, using the application form available at Michigan.gov/Fuelwood. Print, complete and return it, along with the $20 fee to the local DNR office that manages the area of forest where you want to cut wood. Management unit maps are available online.

Local DNR customer service center staff is available by phone. For additional questions, contact Doug Heym at 517-284-5867.

Updated forest road maps available online April 1

Two ORVs riding on trail

As part of PA 288, the DNR is required to notify the public of changes to state forest road maps. New maps will be available online April 1, in both an interactive web format and printable map. The maps – updated each year based on data of changing road conditions – show which state forest roads are open to off-road vehicle use. Staying on these roads prevents damage to the environment and wildlife habitat.

After the recent road inventory and review, these changes are in effect for 2020:

  • In the Upper Peninsula, nearly 6,182 miles will be open to ORVs.
  • In the northern Lower Peninsula, about 6,130 miles of the overall 7,360 miles of forest roads will be open. That’s 84 percent of all state forest roads in the region, the same as 2019.
  • In the southern Lower Peninsula, just under 9 miles of 365 total miles will be open to ORVs.

Find updated maps and other information at Michigan.gov/ForestRoads. Questions? Contact Kerry Wieber at 517-643-1256.


If you want to try your hand at spring turkey hunting, leftover turkey licenses are on sale this week. They're available to anyone interested in the hunt, even those hunters who didn't apply for a license the first time around.


Local government and state colleges and universities can apply by April 1 for Waterways Program grants. The deadline is April 1, except for projects addressing high-water emergency repairs; those are due May 15.


When you're outside enjoying some solitude in nature, be our Eyes in the Field and let us know what you see! Your observations and photos can help biologists learn important details about Michigan's fish and wildlife.

Census 2020 - Be Counted