Protect Michigan’s outdoors with New Year’s resolutions
By SARAH LAPSHAN
of Natural Resources
LANSING — Spending more time with family and friends, exercising more, learning a new skill or hobby, saving money, living life to the fullest — according to GoSkills.com, these are among the top 10 most common resolutions people make as the calendar flips to a brand new year.
All are perfectly respectable goals, but why not shake things up a bit and resolve to take action that’s good for both you and the world around you? We’ve got some ideas to get you started.
Choose native plants,
trees and shrubs
It’s not too early to start thinking about spring tree planting. An easy way to ensure you’re planting native, regional trees and shrubs that are most likely to thrive where you live is to work with your local conservation district or nature center, according to Ed Shaw, Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center interpreter and coordinator of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Outdoor Skills Academy.
“Genetic diversity in trees is just as important as it is among fish and wildlife species,” Shaw said. “Now is when you want to get your orders in, too, because it gives the conservation districts and nature centers time to place their orders.”
Visit MACD.org to find your district, learn about programs, place an order and get on the mailing list. When spring comes around and you do plant new trees, drop a pin in our interactive map to add your trees to our statewide count that’s part of the Trillion Trees Campaign.
Support forests of all ages
Say the word “forest” and most people think of thick stands of mature trees that stretch to the sky. If you’ve been to the Porkies in the western Upper Peninsula’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park or Hartwick Pines in Grayling, you’ve seen true gems — some Michigan trees are hundreds of years old. But these old-growth forests alone aren’t enough to support the fish and wildlife that depend on them for food and shelter.
Craig Kasmer is the interpreter at Hartwick Pines State Park. Over the years he has talked with tens of thousands of visitors about the value of different tree types and ages.
“Some 65 percent of the 20 million acres of forest land in Michigan is privately owned,” he said. “Most private forest landowners don’t like to cut trees, and I get that, but we have to have forests of different ages to provide the different habitat that different species need to survive.”
Kasmer said that if all private landowners do nothing to create young, successional forest types, there is a whole slew of species that are going to be lost — and we’ll wind up with only birds and animals that like to live in old-growth forests. The Kirtland’s warbler, for example, nests only in jack pine forests that are 5 to 20 years old.
If you or someone you know owns private forest land, consider working with a forester to develop a plan for your forest. Explore the DNR’s resources for private forest landowners to learn more about the Forest Stewardship and Forest Legacy programs.
Spending a day outdoors is a treat, and sometimes you want to take home a little something you find there. In most cases that’s OK, but when foraging for wild foods, make sure you know ahead of time what you can take and what needs to stay.
Wild berries and mushrooms? Enjoy! Wildflowers? Leave them there, said Shaw, especially if a bloom is on the protected, endangered or threatened list; check out the Michigan Natural Features Inventory rare plants list for more information.
“We want everyone to enjoy the wildflowers,” Shaw said, “but leaving them where they are is the best choice. It also supports critical pollination processes that so many species rely on.”
No matter what you’re looking for — morels, sap for maple syrup, berries or something else — visit the DNR’s foraging webpage. It has the facts on what is permitted for harvest (and where), what to leave in the wild to protect sensitive and rare species, and how to safely prepare anything you plan to eat.
During any visit to state-managed lands, including shorelines and bottomlands, please respect historic structures and sites and leave in place any artifacts you may find.
While recreational metal detecting for modern objects is allowed on some state-managed lands, historic artifacts are protected. It’s always illegal to remove them without the proper permissions. Disturbing or moving artifacts can quickly damage or destroy our archaeological heritage. If you think you’ve found something old and possibly historic, leave it in place, don’t disturb the area, and report the find to local staff and DNR archaeologists at MHCinfo@Michigan.gov.
“Say you find an old crosscut saw on the ground or buried just below the surface, keep it right there, because next to that could be a button or bottle — something not picked up by the detector, but together those artifacts could tell the story of a camp here that we didn’t even know about,” said Stacy Tchorzynski, archaeologist and historian with the DNR’s Michigan History Center.
Many people who visit Hartwick Pines have some understanding of the role played by the Civilian Conservation Corps in building our state’s infrastructure and structures, including within state parks. If one of your relatives was among the 100,000-plus young Michigan men enrolled in the federal Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, head to Roscommon.
“Hillary Pine, who manages the Higgins Lake Nursery and CCC Museum and Nursery, not too far south of Hartwick Pines, said that every year many folks come in and say, ‘You know, my great-grandfather was in the CCC …,'” said Kasmer. “If you know what camp your relatives were at, you can go to the museum in Roscommon and look through the panels of pictures to find them. It’s great to see those connections happen.”
If you want to explore even more Michigan history, add other museums and historic sites to your list of “must see” destinations for 2023. Start at Michigan.gov/MHC/Museums.
Know your invasives
Kasmer, while recently visiting the metro Detroit area, noticed that both sides of the road he was on were full of phragmites — that tall, grayish-green, invasive reed that seems to crop up everywhere — but he remembered knowing it by another name.
“As I kid, I was told that was bullrush,” he said. “I bet a lot of people learned it the same way, and there wasn’t much discussion then about what an invasive species even was, or why it posed a problem.
Now, though, we see how invasive species can cause deforestation, reduce fish populations and alter valuable habitat. We see all too clearly the problems they cause.”
Invasive species are plants, animals and other organisms that aren’t native to Michigan and whose introduction harms, or is likely to harm, the state’s economy, environment or human health.
The good news is that anyone, anywhere in the state can make a difference in the fight against these land and water invaders, just by knowing what to look for and reporting what you see.