UPDATE: DNR News: Hiring conservation officers, Free ORV Weekends, World Wetlands Day

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News Digest - Week of Feb. 1, 2021

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A version of this news digest issued earlier today included a beautiful photo from one of our state park photo ambassadors; however, the photo featured a location in a national forest. We've updated the photo with one from the same photographer featuring a state park. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Some of this week's stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers' needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

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.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Starry sky above Wilderness State Park

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Want to see more stunning pictures like this from Michigan state parks photo ambassadors? These Michigan photographers, like today's featured artist MaryBeth Kiczenski, find inspiration in nature throughout the state. Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and ambassador profiles. For more on the photo ambassador program, call Stephanie Yancer at

Off-road fun, and Free ORV Weekends, not too far off!


Snow is on the ground throughout most of Michigan and winter temps are plunging … is it really the right time to think about spring and summer off-roading? According to Jessica Holley, statewide motorized trails program analyst with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, the answer is “Absolutely!”

Two of the best opportunities to hit the trails yourself or introduce friends to the joys of riding are Michigan’s two Free ORV Weekends – June 12-13 and Aug. 21-22.

On both those weekends, residents and out-of-state visitors can ride nearly 3,800 miles of DNR-designated routes and trails and the state’s six scramble areas (St. Helen’s Motorsport Area, Black Lake Scramble Area, Holly Oaks ORV Park, Silver Lake State Park, Bull Gap and The Mounds) without buying an ORV license or trail permit (though there is an entrance fee at Holly Oaks ORV Park); all other ORV rules and laws still apply.

An added bonus: the June 12-13 weekend lines up with Summer Free Fishing Weekend, when fishing license fees are waived (but all regulations still apply) and the Recreation Passport isn't needed for regular vehicle entry at state parks and boating access sites. It's a great opportunity for everyone to fish for all species on inland and Great Lakes waters!

“No matter what time of year you want to ride, plan your trip early and make sure your gear, license and permits are all set,” Holley said.

All ORV license and trail permit fees go right back into the ORV system and help fund trail expansion, maintenance and infrastructure improvements – all part of keeping Michigan’s off-road riding trails a top-tier experience. Learn more about off-road opportunities at Michigan.gov/ORVInfo.

Questions? Contact Jessica Holley at 517-331-3790.

Why wetlands are worth the work


Wetlands are much more than the source of soggy shoes, they’re an integral part of Michigan’s natural ecosystem. The health and very existence of many natural resources – things like streams, groundwater, fisheries, aquatic and wildlife habitat, and inland lakes – are influenced by wetlands.

What’s a wetland? Put simply, it’s an area where land and water meet (think marshes, swamps and bogs), and where water saturates the soil or covers the land for some or all of the year. This variety of conditions can spawn certain plant and animal communities, control erosion, reduce pollution, provide floodwater capacity and offer other key benefits.

As communities, industries and people around the globe honor World Wetlands Day today, Feb. 2, it’s a good time to discover more about these valuable resources and how anyone – homeowners, business and community leaders, students and others – can help cultivate and protect them all year long.

Want to learn more? Check out:

  • This Showcasing the DNR story that digs into the history of Michigan’s wetlands, including their benefit to the environment, wildlife and residents, as well as legislative steps to protect them.
  • The landscape assessment (part of the DNR’s Forest Action Plan) that highlights wetlands facts and helps explain the critical need for conservation and maintenance of Michigan’s water resources.
  • The wetlands webpage managed by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy – a resource on wetlands law, permitting, Great Lakes shoreline management, wetlands mitigation and more.
  • The Wetland Wonders, the seven premier managed waterfowl hunt areas scattered across the southern Lower Peninsula. They provide exceptional waterfowl hunting, excellent habitat for nesting and migration, and opportunities for wildlife viewing and nature exploration.
  • This story from Friends of the Detroit River and Michigan Sea Grant about the efforts to restore habitat on the Detroit River, as well as other wetlands projects.

Apply now for 2021 DNR Conservation Officer Academy

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Good news for anyone who’s been dreaming about a career as a Michigan conservation officer: The DNR is accepting applications for its upcoming conservation officer academy, which starts this spring.

This year’s academy offers a shortened “hybrid” option for anyone currently certified or certifiable by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and meeting DNR hiring requirements. Applicants who do not meet the existing MCOLES license requirements will be eligible for a basic training academy.

F/Lt. Jason Wicklund, with the DNR Law Enforcement Division, said applicants don’t need previous law enforcement, fishing or hunting experience or a college degree, but these do help.

“We simply ask for a great attitude and willingness to learn,” Wicklund said. “Our instructors are the best at what they do, and we’ll provide recruits everything they need to succeed.”

Read the full hiring announcement and get details on the hiring process and eligibility requirements at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers or contact a local recruiter.

Questions? Contact: F/Lt. Jason Wicklund at WicklundJ@Michigan.gov.


Winter is a great time for stargazing, especially for spying constellations we can't see in the warmer months. Check out dark sky preserves and parks throughout the state for some amazing gazing opportunities. 


Already planning ahead for Free ORV Weekend? Make a camping reservation while you're at it! Sites can be booked six months in advance; don't miss out on a prime spot. Make sure you have a Recreation Passport!


Michigan has an abundance of forest enjoyed by hikers, campers, bird watchers and others. Adopt-a-Forest today and help keep these beautiful places clean and healthy for all.

Enjoy responsible recreation

Stay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response