NRCS-Michigan Conservation Notes Newsletter May/June 2023

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USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

NRCS-Michigan Conservation Notes Newsletter - May/June 2023

State Conservationist's Message

NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee

Happy Independence Day to NRCS-Michigan and to our customers and partners. I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday.

It has been a busy summer at NRCS, additional conservation investments through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Organic Transition Initiative have kept us moving. There continues to be strong demand from Michigan agricultural producers and forest landowners for conservation assistance. We anticipate utilizing all of our EQIP funding, including IRA and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, totaling nearly $27 million.

The application deadline for our second Conservation Stewardship Program IRA ranking period is approaching on July 7. I strongly encourage producers who have already utilized EQIP funds to implement conservation practices on their farm to consider enrolling in CSP. CSP provides annual payments and additional financial assistance to implement further conservation enhancements on your farm or forest operation.

Finally, I bid a very fond farewell to someone who has played an important role for NRCS-Michigan.

State Conservationist Garry Lee and Administrative Assistance Lorrie Skinner

My administrative assistant, Lorrie Skinner, retired from NRCS, effective June 28.

Lorrie came to NRCS in October 2010. For more than 12 years she has coordinated my schedule and overseen my internal and external correspondence among many other responsibilities.

In the near future Lorrie plans to relocate from the Lansing area to her hometown of DeTour. Lorrie has been invaluable to me and NRCS-Michigan and her absence will be greatly missed. 

Dowagiac River "Re-Meandered"

A meander created on the Dowagiac River during phase one of the project by the Pokagon Band Potawatomi Indians.

A meander created on the Dowagiac River during the first phase of a project by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

For over 100 years the Dowagiac River in southwest Michigan followed a course that was not its own. Sometime around 1920 the once meandering river was straightened to improve drainage for agricultural land in Indiana. Through a project headed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, a portion of the river is being restored to a more natural meandering state.

Phase one of the project was mostly completed in 2022 on tribal land near the river’s namesake community in Cass County. The first phase created two large meanders, or curves, on the river and construction on the second phase is underway which will add three smaller meanders. The three new meanders are nearly completed and will be connected to the river in 2023.

Restoring the river is a high priority for the Pokagon Band, the tribe spent a decade planning and obtaining permits and funding for the project. NRCS contributed funding to the project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP funding for phase one of the project totaled $372,846 for conservation practices including channel bed stabilization, conservation cover, streambank and shoreline protection, and critical area planting.

Aiding the project was the removal of a dam downstream that will allow fish like steelhead to return to the area, said Jennifer Kanine, director of the Pokagon Band’s Natural Resources Department. The project not only restored bends in the river but it also widened it and raised the riverbed. The banks of the river in the project area now not as steep, making it easier for turtles and other aquatic animals to exit and enter. Tree stumps were placed in many locations along the banks for stability and to provide aquatic habitat.

The word Dowagiac in the Potawatomi language means a place to hunt, fish, and forage. One of the tribe’s goals for the project is to improve habitat for migratory fish as well as wetland species traditionally harvested by tribal members. When completed, the project will restore a 53-acre floodplain surrounding the river on tribal land. NRCS funding is helping the tribe plant a variety of trees and shrubs along the river that will provide additional wildlife habitat.

NRCS is among several agencies funding the project, other partners include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust.

The Pokagon Band’s Natural Resources staff posts frequent updates on the project including aerial drone photographs. The Public Broadcasting Service program, Great Lakes Now, produced a video describing the project titled “Seven Generation River.” Links to the video and updates are posted on the Pokagon Band’s website.

Stream bank in  restored meander to Dowagiac River, a fabric was installed to prevent erosion while vegetation is established .

Portion of a menader that will be connected to the Dowagiac River in phase two of the project.

Interlocking timbers are installed along the Dowagiac River to provide stability when meanders are restored to the river.

A wood tow is installed along the Dowagiac Rive as part of the second phase of the Pokagon Band's river restoration project.

NRCS Celebrates Diversity

Farmer Doug Ver Hoeven demonstrates adaptive equipment for farmers with disabilities.

- Michigan Civil Rights Advisory Committee

On Tuesday June 20th the Michigan Civil Rights Advisory Committee held their 2023 diversity day event in Holland and Grand Rapids Michigan. The day was focused on individuals with disabilities and had two parts: a farm tour featuring assistive technologies for farm equipment in the morning, and a presentation by local service dog group, Paws with a Cause, in the afternoon.

The farmer hosting the tour, Doug Ver Hoeven, worked with Michigan AgrAbility’s engineer, Ned Stoller, to design and engineer tools that allow traditional farm equipment to be adapted for wheelchair users.

NRCS Engineer Lexie Feutz with dog Zing  who demonstrated for a presentation by Paws for a Cause.

The second half of Diversity Day was held in the Grand Rapids area office. The purpose was to improve awareness about accessibility limitations of those that are disabled. Paws with a Cause (PAWS), a non-profit organization based out of Wayland that raises assistance dogs, spoke to a group of NRCS employees about services they provide to people with varying disabilities.

Formerly known as Ears for the Deaf, the organization was created in 1985 and originally focused on training dogs to assist folks who were deaf, by identifying and responding to common sounds. Since its creation, the organization has broadened its mission and changed its name to Paws with a Cause. Paws breeds, raises, and trains assistance dogs to help children with autism, people who experience seizures, are deaf, or have various physically limiting disabilities or mobility issues.

A complete overview of the 2023 Diversity Day event is available on the NRCS-Michigan website.

Employee Updates

New Employees

Andrew Mueller, Financial Resources Specialist - East Lansing

Andy Mueller - Financial Resource Specialist, East Lansing

Last Position: Forest Silviculturist, Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests- Columbia, S.C.
Hometown: Grand Rapids
Education: BS. Forestry (Forest Science), Michigan State University. Also studied at Virginia Tech towards a M.S. in Forest Soil Science
Family: Wife, Bethany; Daughter, Marianne (5)
Hobbies & Interests: Travel, hiking, camping, boating, home improvement

Alyssa Winters, Natural Resources Specialist - Kimball

Alyssa Winters - Natural Resources Specialist, Kimball

Last Position:  – Farm Bill Biologist, Blue Water Conservation District, Sandusky
Hometown: Columbus
Education: B.A. Biology, Oakland University - Rochester
Family: husband Riley, cat Benny
Hobbies & Interests: hiking, birding, vegetable gardening, rescuing cats, camping, travelling, looking at cool plants.

Staff Updates

Haley Dukes - District Conservationist, Lapeer (formerly soil conservationist, Flint)

Robert Fousek - Civil Engineer, Gaylord (formerly CTAI engineer Gaylord)

Darcy Lipskey - District Conservationist, Bad Axe (formerly soil conservationist, Sandusky)

Conservation Calendar

Upcoming Events


6 -  Grow the Trees, Not the Weeds, 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Wahmhoff Farms - Gobles, for more information go to

8 - Livingston Conservation District & Livingston County Farm BureauSmall Woodlot Management Seminar, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 9585 Roberts Road - Gregory, for more information and to register email or call 517/546-4838

10 - Pollinator Workshop, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Forest Hill Nature Area - Alma, for more information contact Logan Banning via email or phone 989/875-3900

10 & 11 - Conservation in Action Tour, Frankenmuth, for more information go to

11 - Heroes to Hives Workshop, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., MSU Pollinator Performance Center - Lansing,  for more information go to

11 - Beekeeping Workshop in Lansing, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., MSU Pollinator Performance Center - Lansing,  for more information go to

12 - Focus on Farm Safety, 9 a.m. to noon, Armstrong Farms - Marcellus, for more information go to

12 - What to Keep, Enhance and Create in a Agriculture Landscape, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Trevor Nichols Research Center - Fennville, for more information go to

12 - USDA Risk Management Agency Listening Session about possible changes to prevented planting crop insurance coverage, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Lenawee County Extension Office - Adrian, for more information go to

13 - Kalamazoo Conservation District Scrap Tire Collection, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Swan Park - Vicksburg, for more information go to 

17 - Biochar in Michigan Agriculture, 9 a.m. to noon, Kellogg Biological Station - Hickory Corners, for more information go to

25 - Grain Bin Rescue Training Program, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Michigan Agricultural Commodities - Brown City,  for more information go to


3 - Montcalm County Field Day, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Montcalm Research Center - Lakeview, for more information go to 

8 - MSUE Tillage Field Day, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mason Research Farm - Mason, for more information go to

8 - Kalamazoo Conservation District Scrap Tire Collection, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.., Perkins Tire Services - Scotts, for more information go to 

10 - Washtenaw Field Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Noble Organics Farm - Saline, for more information go to

10 - Hileman Farm Pasture Walk, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., 675 E Mannsiding Road - Harrison, for more information go to

15 & 16 - AgroExpo, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5605 Findlay Rd. - St. Johns, for more information go to

17 - Cultivating Resilience 2023, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Morren Crops & Cattle - Zeeland, for more information and to register go to

17 - Arenac Conservation District Farm Field Day, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Hagley Farms - Standish, for more information call 989/846-4565 ext. 5

23 - Heaven Sent Farm Pasture Walk, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Heaven Sent Farms - Webberville, for more information go to


8 - Perennial Farm Ecosystem Conference, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Leelanau Government Center - Suttons Bay, for more information go to

13 - ASGA White Oak Initiative, 10 a.m. to noon, Allegan State Game Area HQ - Allegan, for more information go to

15 - Anaerobic Digester Workshop, 1 p.m., Polkton Township Hall - Coopersville, hosted by the Michigan Chapter, Soil and Water Conservation Society. Agenda and registration details will be posted in early August at /


Michigan State Office

3001 Coolidge Road, Suite 250
East Lansing, MI 48823

Phone: 517-324-5270