|Steve Schneider, chair of
the Pheasants Forever Michigan State |
Council, DNR Director Rodney Stokes and DNR Wildlife Division
Chief Russ Mason hold native grass seed to be planted at Maple
River State Game Area.
Increasingly, the Wildlife Division has asked other organizations to partner on wildlife management projects. And, increasingly, those organizations are generously answering the call.
Here’s an example. For the last two years, the DNR’s Wildlife Division and the Michigan Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) have been raising crabapple trees to transplant across northern Michigan.
“Deep snow is tough on turkeys in Michigan, limiting access to food,” said Al Stewart, the upland game bird specialist with the Wildlife Division. “Over the years we’ve been involved with planting food plots with the NWTF – planting things like corn – particularly in areas of northern Michigan.”
Wild Turkey Federation volunteers work with DNR Wildlife |
Division staff at Rose Lake State Wildlife Area to pot bare root
crabapple trees for future transplanting.
“It’s a hands-on project starting with seedlings, allowing them to grow and mature, and then planting them in northern Michigan where there are concentrations of turkeys and additional food sources are important,” Stewart explained.
The program has been a hit, attracting numerous volunteers – including Natural Resources Commission (NRC) Chairman Tim Nichols – to help with the chores.
A similar cooperative effort has been operating in the Upper Peninsula since 2009, where members of the turkey federation have been planting fruit-bearing trees in areas that are used by turkeys over the winter.
|A volunteer uses a brush hog to help clear an area at the |
Augusta Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Buchholtz, who said the federation is splitting program costs with the DNR, has coordinated with Upper Peninsula timber companies to secure their help in preparing the land and transporting the trees.
“We’ve had a partnership going with the DNR for a long time,” he said. “It’s a real good partnership.”
Because the DNR’s Stewart deals with all upland game birds, he has, for years, helped to build partnerships with numerous conservation groups. He’s worked with the Michigan Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) on habitat improvement projects almost forever.
The RGS recently purchased a machine to help create early successional forest habitat as part of the federal Upper Great Lakes Young Forest and Woodcock Initiative. The machine is available for rent by landowners interested in setting back succession but, as part of its partnership with the DNR, RGS offers the machine for work on state-managed land at reduced rates.
|Getting the ground ready
for grass seed planting at Maple River State Game Area, |
part of habitat planning for the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative.
Waterfowl and wetlands specialist Barb Avers said her program is perfect for partnering on habitat projects with groups such as Ducks Unlimited and Waterfowl USA.
“In the big picture, the waterfowl and wetlands program has long used partnerships and it’s been very effective,” Avers said. “The key thing we do with DU now is work on getting grant money for wetland habitat projects. One of the big challenges the department faces is the lack of funds to maintain and restore wetlands. DU helps write grants, administers the grants for us, and then they advertise for bids, use their engineers and biologists to design the project, contract it out, oversee construction and deliver the project.
|Keeping the young
crabapple trees sufficiently watered is crucial to |
their future health and longevity at Rose Lake State Wildlife Area.
Avers said the DNR also partners with smaller, local groups that focus on individual waterfowl management areas.
“St. Clair Flats Waterfowlers buys equipment for Harsens Island and ponies up a lot of money for habitat management,” she said. “Shiawassee Flats Citizens and Hunters Association put money up for crop planting, wetland projects and they do a ton of volunteer labor – cutting brush and trees and maintaining the pull-over sites on the dikes. They put in a ton of hours.”
Joe Robison, a DNR wildlife biologist who works out of Pte. Mouillee State Game Area (in Monroe and Wayne counties), agreed.
“We use volunteers to band ducks and geese, to do shorebird counts, to watch the osprey nests for chicks and then band them, and to do annual cleanup,” he said. “We use volunteers to help out at the Pte. Mouillee Waterfowl Festival, and all the money we make in that two-day event goes right back into the game area – a lot of people don’t know that.
“We wouldn’t get as much done without our volunteer groups,” he said. “They definitely help us out.”
Sometimes partnerships develop when sportsmen see a budget cut they don’t like. In 2008, when the DNR discontinued its successful bear patch program – which gave a patch to hunters when they registered a bear – the Michigan Bear Hunters Association stepped up and took over the program, said DNR bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump. Anyone can now get a commemorative bear patch by sending $5 to the Bear Hunters Association.
“Anything above costs goes to the department for bear education and management programs,” Bump said. “It brings in $3,000 to $6,000 a year.”
The truth is, the DNR’s Wildlife Division has partnerships with too many groups to mention them all here – and department staff is grateful for every one.
With budgets getting tighter all the time, though, it’s likely that even more partnerships will soon be on the horizon. That’s good news for the DNR and for everyone who cares about Michigan wildlife and habitat.
Learn more about Michigan wildlife health, habitat and research at www.michigan.gov/wildlife. To find out more about volunteer opportunities throughout the Department of Natural Resources, visit www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers.