DNR News: Smokey Bear's b-day, free ORV fun, help for monarchs, NRC meets in Detroit

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News Digest - Week of Aug. 8, 2022

A close-up of purple milkweed.

Make pollinators and monarchs a priority by planting milkweed and other native flowers.

Here are just a few 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 others, are available in this folder.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Lovely light at Lake Hudson

A place lake reflects beautiful, gold and orange whispy clouds at sunset.

Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Carolly 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, contact Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Don't miss Free ORV Weekend Aug. 20-21

Three ORVs travel down a dirt path in a sparse forest.

Taking place twice a year, Free ORV Weekend is a great time to see, experience and test out Michigan’s off-road vehicle trails.

The final Free ORV Weekend of the year takes place Saturday, Aug. 20, and Sunday, Aug. 21. On these two days, Michigan residents and visitors can legally ride Michigan's 4,000 miles of designated routes and trails, and the state's six scramble areas, without purchasing an ORV license or trail permit. All other ORV rules and laws still apply.

“Our hope is that after experiencing a weekend of off-road fun, riders will consider purchasing an ORV license or trail permit for the remainder of the season,” said Jessica Holley-Roehrs, statewide motorized trails program analyst with the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “We always like to say that it’s the perfect time to introduce – or reintroduce – friends and family to the fun and beauty of a ride.”

The DNR directly reinvests ORV trail permit and license dollars back into the ORV trails system. The funds help pay for trail brushing, signage, maintenance, bridge and culvert construction, maintenance of trailhead amenities and other expenditures.

A Recreation Passport still is required where applicable, such as at trailheads and scramble areas. Typically, there's an entrance fee at the Holly Oaks ORV Park (although no Recreation Passport requirement), but the fee is waived for this special weekend.

Visit Michigan.gov/ORVInfo for the latest ORV trail, safety and closure information.

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

Natural Resources Commission to meet Thursday in Detroit

small group of dark brown turkeys walks away from the camera, trotting off into a green field amid a few tall trees

The next meeting of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission leads off with a Wildlife Committee agenda that includes an overview of turkey hunting regulations and a presentation about the antler point restrictions and chronic wasting disease study. 

The meeting also will include DNR Law Enforcement Division lifesaving awards, the 2021 Hunter Instructor of the Year Award, an update on the DNR licensing mobile app, upcoming fisheries orders, a legislative update and several land transactions.

It will start at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, in the Riverview Loft of the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, 1801 Atwater St., in downtown Detroit. See the draft meeting agenda at Michigan.gov/NRC.

Before the meeting, the public also is invited to "Coffee with the Commissioners" from 8 to 9 a.m. in the OAC Forest Room. 

For more information or to request time to speak at the meeting, contact Victoria Lischalk at 517-599-1067 or NRC@Michigan.gov.

Forestry’s favorite bear turns 78 this week

A costumed Smokey Bear impersonator leans forward while talking to smiling, young girls and boys near a fence

Winnie the Pooh, Yogi, Baloo and the Berenstain family are among the most popular bears in books or on TV. But in the natural resources world, the crown goes to none other than Smokey Bear. 

On his birthday, Aug. 9, the wildfire prevention icon is celebrating 78 years of protecting forests. 

Our furry friend’s message, “Only you can prevent wildfires,” still rings true today; nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans. 

“In 2021, escaped yard waste burns and campfires were the most common causes of wildfire in Michigan,” said DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers. 

DNR firefighters have responded to 172 fires burning 3,248 acres so far during this year’s fire season.

Do you know how to safely build a fire and fully put it out? Make Smokey proud by committing these safety tips to memory:

  • Always have a water source nearby.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, even for a minute.
  • Keep a metal shovel and bucket nearby.
  • Put out fires completely with water.
  • Don’t burn on windy days or during dry weather.

Find fun, Smokey-themed activities on his website SmokeyBear.com, or download the “Flat Smokey” coloring page inspired by Dale Hubert’s Flat Stanley Project.  

Learn more about wildfire prevention at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires

Make a pollinator-friendly space and help monarchs

A monarch butterfly sits on a flowering milkweed.

Eastern monarch butterflies are one of the most well-known butterflies in North America. These gorgeous orange, black and white butterflies are a staple of Michigan summers, and they need our help. 

The eastern monarch butterfly population has been declining over the last 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss in its summer range – including Michigan – and Mexico, where these beauties spend the winter.

Due to the declining population, monarch butterflies are listed as a candidate species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and their population status is under review annually. Learn more at FWS.gov/SaveTheMonarch.

You can help monarchs as you work in your backyard, garden or community garden this year by following these tips to make these spaces beneficial for pollinators. You can even help create and maintain a certified monarch waystation.

Monarchs rely on habitat with milkweed plants. Milkweeds are the only species of plant on which monarchs lay their eggs, are the only plants that monarch caterpillars eat, and provide nectar-producing flowers as food for adult butterflies.

“The monarch and other pollinators need both early- and late-blooming plants as well as plants that flower mid-summer, a diverse mix which can be found in grasslands, agricultural fields and urban backyard habitats,” said Mike Parker, conservation partners program specialist with the DNR. "These habitats can also support milkweeds, which are essential for the monarch’s reproductive cycle."

If you spot monarchs or their caterpillars this summer, be sure to report sightings to help inform conservation decisions here in Michigan! You can report monarch sightings and track their journey at Journey North.

Find out more about ways you can help monarchs by visiting Michigan.gov/Monarchs or contacting the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.


Michigan has thousands of miles of water trails to choose from for your next paddling adventure. Whether you're kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding, find the right trail for your trip.


Looking to sharpen your skills or learn some new ones? Check out upcoming classes from the DNR's Outdoor Skills Academy. Learn to identify wild mushrooms, garden for pollinators, start a trap line and more.


No matter where you are in Michigan, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved and give back to the natural resources you love. Check the DNR volunteer calendar for events near you.

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