DNR News: Conservation Officer Appreciation Day, 2020 base license reminder, school forest guide

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News Digest - Week of March 15, 2021

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Nomination applications are open now for the Forest Legacy Program.

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 DNR:

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

Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used in this digest are available below at the end of the email.

Photo ambassador snapshot: A winding winter path

winter trail

Want to see more stunning pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Aubry Healy at Ludington State Park in Mason County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Two more weeks to use your 2020 base license


Take advantage of the warming weather to pursue gray and fox squirrel, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare through March 31 with your 2020 base license.   

A Michigan base license allows you to hunt for small game species including squirrel, rabbit and hare. Hunting seasons for squirrel (fox and gray), cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare are open statewide. Fox and gray squirrels in combination have a daily bag limit of five and a possession limit of 10. Cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares in combination also have a daily bag limit of five and a possession limit of 10.

For more info on small game hunting regulations, season dates and bag limits, check out the 2020 Hunting Digest at Michigan.gov/SmallGame

Looking for public hunting land? Visit Michigan.gov/MiHunt for the interactive Mi-HUNT map to find hunting land near you. Mi-HUNT shows land open to public hunting, cover types, nearby amenities like wildlife offices and boat launches, and other features.

2021 base licenses, available for purchase since March 1, are valid through March 31, 2022. Get your Michigan hunting and fishing licenses for the 2021 seasons online at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses or anywhere DNR licenses are sold.

Questions about small game hunting? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Today is Conservation Officer Appreciation Day

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More than 200 men and women serve as Michigan conservation officers – a demanding career that continues to evolve since first being established here in 1887. Today is Conservation Officer Appreciation Day in Michigan, a good time to recognize these officers’ contributions.

As sworn law enforcement officers who live in the counties they patrol, conservation officers are embedded members of their communities, equipped with the tools they need to respond to life-threatening, general criminal, and search and rescue events where time is of the essence. 

In 2020, conservation officers contacted more than 452,000 people, delivering education and safety tips and general law enforcement services to ensure people responsibly enjoyed Michigan’s natural resources.

“Many people don’t think of conservation officers as the first emergency responder to arrive at a highway accident, school shooting or a search and rescue scene, but these officers do more than patrol fish and game,” said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. “As fully commissioned law enforcement officers tasked to patrol the state’s natural resources, they are trained and equipped to respond to emergency situations from Belle Isle Park in Detroit to the Keweenaw Peninsula in the northern Upper Peninsula.”

In this short video, meet a Grand Rapids man and his family, who were helped by a conservation officer after a life-threatening chainsaw accident in Oceana County. 

Questions? Contact Katie Gervasi at GervasiK@Michigan.gov.

DNR staff produces award-winning guide to school forests

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Whether they consist of a couple acres in a suburb or hundreds of acres in a rural area, school forests are a perfect setting for hands-on learning about plants, trees, wildlife and how ecosystems work.

The Michigan School Forest Guide offers plenty of advice on school forests, from how to set one up, how to make the most of an existing school forest and even how to introduce students to public forests if a school forest isn’t available. It has been awarded the Thomas Say Award for Outstanding Publication by the National Association for Interpretation.

Who was Thomas Say, by the way? He was an early 19th-century naturalist who identified more than 1,500 insects and wildlife species native to North America. The awards program honors naturalists whose work inspires greater understanding, awareness and stewardship of natural resources.

“Once, there were more than 600 school forests in Michigan,” said Ada Takacs, DNR department specialist, who created the guide along with DNR staffer Mike Smalligan, AmeriCorps volunteers Rachel Straughen and Angel Squalls, and naturalist Maureen Stine. “If your school has a forest, that’s a plus. If your school doesn’t have a forest, there are still ways to get kids into this rich learning environment.”

Want a forest for your own school? A PDF copy of the guide is available at the Project Learning Tree website. The guide includes tools needed to “grow” a school forest, from the legal aspects of creating one to learning to manage the forest. Creation of the guide was funded by a U.S. Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration Grant.

Questions? Contact Ada Takacs at 231-534-5569 or Mike Smalligan at 517-449-5666.

Nominations for Forest Legacy Program due May 14


Michigan has more than 160,000 acres of environmentally sensitive forests that are protected and managed through the federal Forest Legacy Program. These range from the trout-fishing haven of the Keweenaw Peninsula’s Pilgrim River to the prime elk habitat added to the Pigeon River Country State Forest in 2020.  

Administered by the U.S. Forest Service, the program uses federal and matching funds to protect environmentally important forests by purchasing property outright or acquiring development rights through a conservation easement. 

“In addition to securing property rights to ensure that forests are managed sustainably, the Forest Legacy Program supports healthy forest benefits such as wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, clean water and clean air,” said Kerry Wieber, forest land administrator for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. 

The program provides an opportunity for landowners to keep forests as forests, encourages sustainable management and supports strong markets for forest products. 

Nomination applications are open for the nationally competitive program; make sure to get yours in by May 14.

All interests in land acquired by the Forest Legacy Program last forever, and agreements must contain language to ensure that perpetuity. Michigan’s program also requires that enrolled land stays open to the public, at least for nonmotorized access. Landowners who don’t have an existing management plan will need to create one before a project can be completed. 

The DNR will review and prioritize eligible projects and may submit the top three to compete nationally for funding. Projects nominated by May 14 will compete for funding in the fiscal year 2023 federal budget, which begins Oct. 1, 2022. The state can request up to $20 million for projects. 

Find an application or learn more at Michigan.gov/PrivateForestLand. Additional information is also contained in the Landscape Assessment associated with Michigan’s Forest Action Plan.  

Questions? Contact Kerry Wieber at 517-643-1256.

This week on ‘Wardens’ – Dog sled races, moose survey and more

front view of a parked, black DNR conservation officer patrol truck, with a nearby holiday donations sign, while snow is falling

Ever wonder about the workday of a Michigan conservation officer? Check out the latest “Wardens” episode, covering ice patrols on Houghton Lake, the DNR moose survey, the Copper Dog 150 dog sled race and the expanded “Stuff a Truck” holiday giving promotion. It’s all part of the DNR/Outdoor Channel partnership to tell stories of dedicated staff across the department and an unbreakable commitment to conservation.

Episodes air on the Outdoor Channel every Monday (8:30 p.m.), Tuesday (2:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.), Friday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2:30 p.m.) – all times Eastern standard. To get the Outdoor Channel, ask your local TV service provider, go to OutdoorChannel.com or MyOutdoorTV.com or call 855-44-OUTDOOR.

WLUC FOX UP airs past episodes every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. More than 39 episodes have featured the state of Michigan and had 28 million-plus viewers!

Questions? Contact David Haupt at 989-426-9205, ext. 2267614.

ICYMI: Centennial celebrations and an interview with DNR Director Dan Eichinger

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This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the DNR. Originally the Department of Conservation, the DNR has evolved to meet many different challenges in the past century.

Last week, DNR Director Dan Eichinger spoke with WGVU Morning Show host Shelley Irwin about the history of the department.

In case you missed it, you can catch up on the interview. Want to explore 100 things to do in Michigan to celebrate 100 years of the DNR? Find your favorite DNR centennial-inspired activities and join in on the celebration!


Looking for some time near the water with family? Check out the Family Friendly Fishing Waters Map, which shows places across the state that are easy to access and have a high likelihood of catching fish.


Spring is coming – and that means cleaning up your yard. But before you burn that brush, make sure conditions are right for burning, and unless there's snow on the ground, make sure you have your free burn permit.


Right now the DNR is weighing decisions about public land ownership in 10 Michigan counties, and we want to hear from you! Review the map and share your comments by March 19. 

/Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Suggested captions and photo credit information follow:

Conservation officer: Today is Conservation Officer Appreciation Day in Michigan. In this short video, meet a Grand Rapids man and his family, who were helped by a conservation officer after a life-threatening chainsaw accident in Oceana County.

Pigeon River Country: The Forest Legacy Program uses federal and matching funds to protect environmentally important forests. Find an application or learn more at Michigan.gov/PrivateForestLand.

School group: Students from Kalamazoo's Lincoln International Studies School visit the forest at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Want a forest for your own school? A PDF copy of the guide is available at the Project Learning Tree website./

Enjoy responsible recreation

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