DNR News: Dark Sky Week, Tree City USA sesquicentennial, new Michigan History Center exhibit and more

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News Digest - Week of April 25, 2022

The silhouette of a man standing on a lakeshore points up at the starry sky and the Milky Way.

It's Dark Sky Week! Turn your gaze to the skies and check out Michigan's stellar stargazing opportunities.

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 others, are available in this folder.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Looking up at Lake Hudson

The dark, star-speckled sky stretches above the silhouette of treetops. The Milky Way galaxy can be seen through the stars.

Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador KC Maiyo at Lake Hudson Recreation Area in Lenawee County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the photo ambassador program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

This Dark Sky Week, turn your gaze to the stars

A stand of pine trees is sillhouetted by the starry night sky.

Humans have always looked up, curiosity sparked by a night sky full of wonder, beauty and awe. But while we’ve made advances in understanding what lies beyond our own planet, we still have a lot to learn.

Dark Sky Week is April 22-30. Whether you want to learn to identify constellations, see the northern lights or catch a meteor shower, you have plenty of opportunities at one of Michigan’s dark sky preserves.

Michigan is lucky to have several dedicated dark sky preserves, internationally designated dark sky parks and numerous stargazing opportunities at different state parks. These areas have minimized light pollution, allowing for a better experience of the star-studded sky above us.

For more information on these stellar activities, visit Michigan.gov/DarkSky.

Questions? Contact Stephanie Yancer at YancerS@Michigan.gov.

New special exhibition open at Michigan History Museum in Lansing

The Gulls of Leland, an impressionist painting of a man standing with a flock of seagulls flying into the air over his right shoulder.

The DNR's Michigan History Center has partnered with Grand Valley State University to present "Mathias J. Alten: An American artist at the turn of the century." The special exhibition highlights the life and work of noted artist Mathias J. Alten. It opened April 15 at the Michigan History Museum, located in downtown Lansing, and will run through Aug. 15.

The exhibition features more than 45 works and artifacts, ranging from Alten's naturalization papers as a U.S. citizen to his impressionist oil paintings – some that celebrate Michigan’s compelling natural landscapes, such as the “Gulls of Leland.”

Alten was born in 1871 in what is now Germany. At the age of 17, he immigrated to the United States and settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan – a major furniture-manufacturing center and popular destination for immigrants in the late 19th century.

The Alten exhibition at the Michigan History Museum is made possible with support of the George and Barbara Gordon Endowment for the Gordon Gallery and the Mathias J. Alten Endowment. The exhibition is free with regular museum admission; audio and text-based versions are available at the museum and online.

Questions? Contact Jillian Reese at 517-335-2588.

Burn permit refresher: What is it, and when do I need one?

A pile of dry autumn leaves with a rake to the side.

Yard cleanup season has begun, and so has wildfire season. Before lighting a fire, remember you need to check for permission to burn, or a burn permit, for activities categorized as “open burning.” Open burning includes the burning of yard debris like brush, garden clippings and leaves. A burn permit is needed any time the ground is not snow-covered.

A modern burn permit isn’t a piece of paper saying you can burn, and there’s no cost to “getting the permit.” It’s really about checking burning conditions with the DNR or with local authorities.

The online burn permit system indicates by location whether burning is allowed. In most of the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, permission to burn is provided through the DNR’s online system at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit, or by calling 866-922-2876. In southern Michigan, burn permits are issued by local authorities. In all cases, know your local ordinances, which may be stricter than state or county rules.

Permits are issued based on weather conditions, so an “okay to burn” in the morning does not guarantee that burning will be allowed later that day if wind comes up or temperatures rise. If burning is not permitted, composting and chipping brush are ways to dispose of yard debris that don’t involve the use of fire.

Burning trash, plastic or electronics is always illegal, even when open burning is permitted. Responsibly dispose of these items by recycling or through municipal trash.

Contained campfires, burn barrels with screens and cooking fires are exempt from burn permit requirements, but always follow safe burning rules. Never burn on a windy day, always have a water source nearby and never leave a fire unattended, even for a minute. An individual can be held legally liable for setting a wildfire. The daily fire danger map can be used to check weather conditions in your area.

For more information, visit Michigan.gov/BurnPermit. Direct media inquiries to DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers at 616-260-8406.

Tree City and Tree Campus awardees recognized for community tree care

A green web graphic with dark pine trees and white text reading "celebrating 150th anniversary of arbor day"

On the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day week, four new communities – Harbor Springs, Montrose, Romeo and the Charter Township of Plymouth – have entered the ranks of 125 Michigan towns and cities certified as a “Tree City USA” for 2021 work to promote and care for public trees. 

They are joined by nine college campuses, including newly certified Oakland University in Rochester, as part of the Tree Campus Higher Education program. Michigan also now has two healthcare institutions certified through the Tree Campus Healthcare program with newcomer Butterworth Hospital joining Blodgett Hospital, both part of Spectrum Healthcare in Grand Rapids.

“Michigan ranks eighth nationally in the number of communities with Arbor Day Foundation ‘Tree City’ designations,” said Kevin Sayers, DNR Urban and Community Forestry program manager. “Today, more than ever, we recognize the importance of healthy trees and forests in communities and campuses.”

Communities of any size can participate in the Tree City program by meeting four standards:

  • Having a city department or tree board.
  • Maintaining a public tree care ordinance.
  • Creating an annual work plan and a budget of at least $2 per capita for tree care.
  • Proclaiming and celebrating Arbor Day (April 29 this year).

“Trees provide important human and societal health benefits, protect the environment, increase property values and simply add natural beauty,” said Sayers. “This recognition is a visible indication that a community cares for public trees along streets and in parks, ensuring a healthier environment and quality of life.”

To find out more about the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree USA programs, visit ArborDay.org/Programs.

To learn more about urban forestry in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/UCF or contact program manager Kevin Sayers, 517-582-3209.

Bird nests in every nook

A clutch of yellow ducklings sits in grass.

Bird nests can be found in all kinds of places, so don't be surprised if you find one in a hanging flowerpot, wreath or elsewhere in your backyard. 

In addition to songbirds, mallard ducks seem to set up spring nests just about everywhere. Female mallards, called hens, often build them in landscaping, gardens or other locations that people may find inconvenient. If you spot one, be a good neighbor and leave the nest alone and keep pets away from it, too. The hen will lead her young to water soon after they hatch.

"Even if a duck's nest seems quite a way from water, the hen knows how to get her ducklings there," said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator with the DNR. 

Schauer also noted that a mallard will lay her eggs over several days. 

“You might see eggs show up in a nest but no mother duck sitting on them. The hen will start to incubate the eggs once they all have been laid,” she said. “They’ll take about a month to hatch.” 

Canada geese sometimes build nests near houses or in parks. Adult geese are very protective and may hiss and run or fly toward perceived intruders. Try to avoid nesting areas, but if that isn’t possible, carry an umbrella that you can open and close to gently scare birds away.

Bird nests and the eggs they may contain are protected under federal law. It is illegal to touch, move or possess any part of the nest or eggs without the proper permit.

Get additional tips and information on handling conflicts with wildlife and what to do if you find a baby animal at Michigan.gov/Wildlife.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Troublesome turkeys? Try these tips.

A tom turkey walks through a sprintime meadow with a forest in the background.

Turkeys live in Michigan year-round, and while wild turkeys hang around through the winter, you might see more activity this spring as they enter breeding season.

If turkeys in your neighborhood are becoming bothersome, try hazing – or scaring – them, as well as removing any wildlife feeders.  

"While many people might feed turkeys because they enjoy seeing them in their yard, fed turkeys can become comfortable around people and may start to be unwelcome," said Holly Vaughn, manager of the DNR Public Outreach and Engagement Unit. "With the current avian influenza outbreak, you may want to remove your feeders altogether to keep the disease from spreading, which will also keep turkeys at bay."  

Establish your dominance by using hazing techniques, like making loud noises and waving your arms, to scare them when they come around. Don’t be shy – you want to maintain turkeys' natural fear of humans. It’s important for the animals’ safety and helps keep them from becoming a nuisance to people.

Male turkeys, especially during breeding season, become territorial toward other male turkeys – including their own reflection. Songbirds such as robins or cardinals also peck at their own reflection in a window. Cover or disguise your windows to help keep the birds from hurting themselves. You may also want to park vehicles inside or cover them to prevent damage if a turkey finds its reflection in the paint or shiny hubcaps. 

"If you are in an area where hunting is allowed, you can take advantage of turkey hunting opportunities," said Vaughn. "Hunting plays an important role in managing turkeys by regulating their numbers." 

Spring turkey season is open through June 7. Learn about turkey hunting opportunities at Michigan.gov/Turkey.

More turkey tips and information on how to handle conflicts with wildlife can be found at Michigan.gov/Wildlife

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

ICYMI: 50th anniversary deer patch design contest due Friday

The 2021 deer coordinator patch

Sharpen your pencils and prepare your paints – in case you missed it, we want to see your designs for the 50th anniversary Michigan deer management cooperator patch!

The patch has been a popular collector’s item for hunters since the early 1970s. The patch design is different every year, but always portrays the designer’s interpretation of white-tailed deer or deer hunting in Michigan.

The 2022 patch contest is open to everyone. Patch designs may be created in any medium and shape, but with no more than five colors used. The work must be original and submitted by the artist. Design submissions are due Friday, April 29. The DNR will contact the winner in early June.

Full contest guidelines are available on the DNR website.

Questions? Contact Emilie O’Grady at 517-284-9453.


Spring is a great time to get some wildlife viewing in, especially with so many migratory species returning and activity ramping up. Check out the incredible opportunities to peep some wildlife.


Warm weather is on the way, and boating season with it. Michigan has incredible opportunities to boat the Great Lakes, and you can stay overnight at one of the state's public harbors!


Want to learn more about the wide world around you and help out some species that need it? There are many opportunities for community science throughout the state and beyond.

We recently launched a new website, and we’d love to hear what you think via this brief survey. Thanks for helping us improve our site for all users!