DNR News: Great Backyard Bird Count, Eagle Scout's cleanup project, fun February events

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News Digest - Week of Jan. 30, 2023

An angler drills a hole into the ice of a frozen lake as the sun illuminates the windswept pattern of snow across the ice.

Free Fishing Weekend is Feb. 18! Need the basics of ice fishing? Check out the Hard Water Clinic Feb. 4-5.

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: Song of the scarlet tanager

A scarlet tanager, an orange-red birf with black wings, sings in a pine tree.

Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Sheen Watkins at Tawas Point State Park in Iosco 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.

Youth cleans up 72 tires, trash to earn Eagle Scout achievement

A young boy with dark eyes and a charming smile poses in front of a woodland area wearing his full boy scount uniform.

A truckload of 72 tires and other trash had lingered for years in a forested area near Big Long Lake in Osceola County. It was finally cleared in October due to the efforts of one person. 

The project leader? Cole Sherman, a 13-year-old boy on a mission to clean up around the lake where his family vacations and earn his Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement in the Scouts BSA organization.

To prepare, Cole wrote a project plan, submitted a proposal to his scout leaders and raised $900 in supplies through a sponsored Hike-a-Thon, walking 58 miles. His fundraising effort earned more than his goal – he was able to donate $245 to the DNR’s Adopt-a-Forest program. The program organizes volunteers to clean up dump sites and trash in forests across the state. 

On Oct. 1, Cole's team of volunteer Scouts, friends and family members moved the tires up a steep embankment to the road, cleaned them, loaded them into a trailer, hauled them out of the woods in several loads and finally put them into the back of a moving truck to take to a recycling facility. 

“Some of the tires had trees growing through them; others were so large and heavy that the team had to strap them to a car and tow them up the hill,” said Cole’s mom, Leah Sherman. “Now this section of the woods is as pristine and beautiful as it should always have been.”

After removing the tires, Cole went the extra mile and cleaned up the remaining trash from the dump site. 

“Dump sites threaten wildlife and the environment,” said DNR Adopt-a-Forest program manager Andrea Stay. “This was an ambitious clean-up project and we are grateful to Cole for his efforts.”

Want to get involved? Find a dump site to clean up on the DNR’s tracking map and learn more about forest cleanups at Michigan.gov/AdoptAForest

Winter Free Fishing Weekend begins Feb. 18

Two people bundled in winter gear pull a fish from a hole drilled into lake ice.

Get outdoors and enjoy time with family and friends during winter Free Fishing Weekend, Feb. 18-19. On those two days, everyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

During this weekend, the DNR will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that grants vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and nearly 1,100 DNR-managed boating access sites.

Michigan has been celebrating Free Fishing Weekend every year since 1986 to promote awareness of the finest fishing Michigan has to offer and the state's vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a perfect match.

Before heading out to fish, make sure you and your fishing buddies are prepared for winter weather and review our ice safety tips at Michigan.gov/IceSafety

If you already have a fishing license, take someone new with you in 2023 and introduce them to this wonderful activity during the winter Free Fishing Weekend. More information on Free Fishing Weekend can be found online at Michigan.gov/FreeFishing.

For the most current fishing regulations please visit Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.

Questions? Contact Sierra Williams at WilliamS100@Michigan.gov.

Volunteer to help restore natural areas, join the world in connecting to birds

A dark-eyed junco sits on a thin branch

Want to get involved in taking care of Michigan’s natural and cultural resources? Here are some opportunities coming up in February.

Several state parks in southern Michigan will host stewardship workdays, where volunteers are needed to help restore natural areas by removing invasive plants that threaten high-quality ecosystems. Workdays will take place at:

  • Bald Mountain Recreation Area (Oakland County), Feb. 4.
  • Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo County), Feb. 4.
  • Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County), Feb. 5.
  • Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County), Feb. 5 and Feb. 26.
  • Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), Feb. 8.
  • Waterloo Recreation Area (Jackson County), Feb. 12.
  • Highland Recreation Area (Oakland County), Feb. 18.
  • Belle Isle Park (Wayne County), Feb. 25.
  • Pinckney Recreation Area (Washtenaw County), Feb. 25.
  • Warren Dunes State Park (Berrien County), Feb. 25.

More details about each workday and how to register can be found on the DNR volunteer events calendar.

You can help scientists better understand and protect birds around the world – while spending time birdwatching in your favorite places – by taking part in the global Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 17-20. Count birds in your backyard, a local park or wherever you spot them, and submit your observations.

For more opportunities to volunteer, contribute and provide input, visit Michigan.gov/DNRVolunteers.

Make the most of winter with fun February events

A group of people in flapper dresses and historically-styled trousers, suspenders and bow-ties smile at the camera.

This February is filled with ways to get out and enjoy Michigan’s natural and cultural resources.

Several state parks will host guided hikes – many with snowshoes, some by lantern light – and cross-country skiing events this month. See the DNR events calendar for dates, locations and other details.

Find some relaxation in Michigan’s northern woods with the Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoe Getaway at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon Feb. 10-12. Explore over 8 miles of evergreen-lined trails with provided snowshoes or bring your cross-country skis for a different trail experience.

Learn to ice fish from the pros with Hard Water School at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center in Cadillac, part of the DNR Outdoor Skills Academy. The Feb. 4-5 class will cover everything you need to know to get started, with a focus on techniques for panfish, walleye and pike. The advanced class, Feb. 17-19, will dive deeper into specific ice fishing topics.

If you’re in the Detroit area, check out the Outdoor Adventure Center event calendar for a variety of fun and educational programs for all ages, from kids to seniors, both indoors and outdoors. Don’t miss Grown-Up Gatherings: Rum-Running Stories Feb. 24, a chance to step back in time to the Prohibition era, when the Detroit River was a pretty busy place with tremendous amounts of illegal liquor entering the United States from Canada.

For a full list of DNR events, see Michigan.gov/DNRCalendar


Keep up with conservation officers around the state with the newest episode of Outdoor Channel's "Wardens."


Want to hunt a turkey this spring? Get your application in before Feb. 1.


Applications are still open to be a volunteer campground or harbor host! Help connect new people to a place you know and love.

Download the new Michigan DNR Hunt Fish app