Showcasing the DNR: Exploring the path less traveled

Showcasing the DNR: Exploring the path less traveled

State forests have a great deal to offer

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– Showcasing the DNR –

A tranquil scene shows a quiet lake from the Jordan River Valley in Antrim County.

Exploring the path less traveled

By RACHEL COALE
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Deep in the forest, streams are rushing with snowmelt and tips of green are emerging from gaps between fallen leaves. Blooming time for northern Michigan’s three-petaled wild orchid, the trillium, is just around the corner. Colorful songbirds are making the long trip back to their summer homes with a season of abundance before them.

With this natural beauty in store, now is the time to start planning a getaway to the forest. Make lifetime memories while hunting for mushrooms, casting a line into a trout stream or catching sight of a free-roaming elk.

Horseback riders are pictured on a trail ride through a wooded area on a sunny day.Want to get out there? Check out our online state forest tour to inspire your trip. State forests can be found in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, although there are plenty of forested areas to see in parks and recreation areas across the state as well.

The wild character of forests comes with seclusion, so get a hard copy map or download your route before you arrive as cell service can be spotty. Once there, it’s time to unplug – the only reason you’ll need to take out your phone is to use the camera to capture memories.

State forest pathways, part of the state’s trails system, and state forest roads open to ORVs and snowmobiles are two ways to navigate state forests. Some forest roads are maintained seasonally, so do your research in advance before heading out during the winter. Road maps are updated April 1 each year.

Only a small fraction of state forest land is harvested annually, but if you come across an active timber job or planting operation, there are a few things you should know for safety.

First, stay on the trail. Logging companies must keep trails passable and post signage about upcoming activities. Let on-the-ground staff know you’re passing through if you’ll be close to the action, and don’t approach logging or cultivation equipment.

A peaceful trail from the Sands Lake Quiet Area is shown from Grand Traverse County.“A machinery operator may not be able to see or hear you while working,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Resources Division Acting Assistant Chief Dave Lemmien. “Splinters and wood debris from cutting can sometimes fly through the air and could accidentally hit a passerby if they get too close.”

Timber harvesters can accommodate equestrian groups if notified in advance. Ride organizers should work with the Michigan Trail Riders Association and the local forest resources unit office in the area you plan to ride.

Ready to call it a day? A state forest campground is where a day hike turns into an overnight adventure, complete with starry skies, a crackling campfire and a true wilderness experience.

“Rustic” is the best way to describe these unique campgrounds. Many of these secluded sites are hike-in or paddle-in only and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Facilities available include basic vault toilets, fire rings and picnic tables. Drinking water comes from a hand pump, a novelty that often delights young adventurers and many adults, too.

Many state forest campgrounds are associated with bodies of water and state pathways for cool hiking opportunities right at the campgrounds.

Here are a few state forest destinations to visit, suggested by DNR staff:

A bull elk is shown from the Pigeon River Country in the northern Lower Peninsula.Pigeon River Country State Forest

A must-see is the famed Pigeon River Country State Forest – “the Big Wild,” which at 109,000 acres is the largest block of undeveloped land in the northern Lower Peninsula. This forest land is home to Michigan’s elk herd and offers opportunities to camp, hike, fish and ride on horseback. Flowing trout streams, cool sinkhole lakes and a network of trails offer scenic views.

For a challenging adventure in this storied landscape, plan a hike on the High Country Pathway, a rugged, weeklong backpacking trail. Shorter trails are perfect for day hikes and picnics. An interpretive center is a great place to learn about the area’s history and stage your hike.

Jordan River Valley

It’s worth a drive off the beaten path to visit two scenic overlooks perched over the Jordan River Valley in Antrim County. Landslide Hill Scenic Overlook and Dead Man’s Hill Overlook provide spectacular views of the forest and river floodplain below, especially when autumn colors begin to turn.

An inviting scene from the Jordan River Valley is shown.“The Jordan River Pathway is a great area to visit with many points of interest along the trail,” said DNR forest management specialist Jason Stephens. “Maybe it’s my local bias, but this area is really special.”

The Dead Man’s Hill Overlook, whose name recalls a tragic lumbering accident a century ago, is the trailhead for 3- and 18-mile hiking loops on the Jordan River Pathway. The 18-mile loop, part of the 4,600-mile North Country National Scenic Trail, is popular among backpackers who camp at the Pinney Bridge State Forest Campground.

In addition to excellent hiking in the valley, the Jordan River is a popular water trail for intermediate paddlers. If you don’t own a kayak or canoe, local outfitters can help plan a trip.

A walking bridge is shown over the Two-hearted River in northern Luce County.Mouth of the Two-Hearted River

The mighty Two-Hearted River meets Lake Superior’s icy waters along the coastline in Luce County. In this setting perfect for exploration, a walking bridge leads visitors to a rocky beach strewn with a rainbow of stones. Rockhounds can attempt to get lucky and find an agate as they catch a lakeside sunset before retiring next to the fire at a 39-campsite state forest campground. A nearby boat launch is an access point on the Lake Superior East Water Trail, and a short trip inland takes visitors to the spectacular Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls.

A pretty marl lake is shown from the Sands River Quiet Area.Sands Lake Quiet Area

In contrast to the nearby bustle of Traverse City, the Sand Lakes Quiet Area in Grand Traverse County is a serene forest designated in 1973 exclusively for nonmotorized uses including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing and birdwatching. Five small, distinctive “marl lakes” can be found along hiking trails that ramble over 2,800 acres of rolling hills. These glacial lakes have an ethereal teal hue due to calcium carbonate content in the water. A few of the lakes are stocked with trout. Trails and lakes can be accessed starting at the Guernsey Lake State Forest Campground.

Spring steelhead fishermen are trying their luck at the Huron River at Big Eric's Bridge in Baraga County.Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest Campground

In the Upper Peninsula, Big Eric’s Bridge State Forest Campground, along the banks of the Huron River in Baraga County, is a secluded destination. Visitors will enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, ORV riding and viewing nearby waterfalls, including Big Eric’s Falls, flowing over the rocky riverbed.

“It’s just a really peaceful, beautiful place,” said DNR training coordinator Jan Hebekeuser.

With a campground, road, bridge and falls named after him, who was Big Eric? Eric Erickson, a well-known local figure of an imposing stature, was Henry Ford’s lumber camp foreman more than a century ago.

Before you head out, pack the following information with you.

In the outdoors, Leave No Trace principles are the gold standard for responsible recreation, encouraging people to leave the places they love wild and in better shape than they found them.

That means packing out trash of all kinds and leaving wildflowers alone. Occasionally, you may run into something worse than a few candy wrappers – a dump site. In addition to being unsightly, piles of trash in the woods are a danger to people and wildlife. If you encounter one, report it to the Report All Poaching hotline at 1-800-292-7800 or log it with the Adopt-a-Forest Program so a team can take care of it.

Learn more about Michigan’s wonderful state forest campgrounds.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNR.


/Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, at 906-250-7260. Accompanying photos and a text-only version of this story are available below for download and media use. Suggested captions follow. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unless otherwise noted.

Text-only version of this story.

Bridge: A bridge at the mouth of the Two-Hearted River is shown in northern Luce County.

Elk: A bull elk is photographed running at the famed Pigeon River Country in the northern Lower Peninsula.

Horseback: Horseback riders out for a nice outing.

Huron: Springtime steelhead anglers are trying their luck on the Huron River at Big Eric’s Bridge in Baraga County.

Jordan: An inviting scene from the Jordan River Valley in Antrim County is shown.

Marl: A marl lake is shown from the Sand Lakes Quiet Area in Grand Traverse County.

Sand: A peaceful trail is shown from the Sand Lakes Quiet Area in Grand Traverse County.

Trilliums: Springtime brings elegant trilliums to bloom across Michigan.

Valley: A beautiful and tranquil scene from the Jordan River Valley in Antrim County is shown./

 

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.
News Digest – Week of March 22, 2021

News Digest – Week of March 22, 2021

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News Digest – Week of March 22, 2021

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Beautify your backgrounds with stunning virtual backdrops like this.

Some of this week’s stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers’ needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state’s natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here’s a look at some of this week’s stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used in this digest are available below at the end of the email.


Photo ambassador snapshot: A spectacular sunset

johnson dunes spWant to see more stunning pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Brandon Johnson at Muskegon State Park in Muskegon County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.


Catch up on fisheries info at ‘Conversations & Coffee’ meetings

c&c graphicHave questions about fishing in Michigan and 2021 fishing regulations? Check out these upcoming virtual “Conversations & Coffee” events, focusing on fisheries management areas around the state, to get answers and talk with DNR Fisheries Division staff.

These events cover local and statewide regulation changes affecting anglers and are a great opportunity to meet fisheries managers and biologists, discuss local issues and management activities, and get specific questions answered.

Enjoy your preferred coffee (and learn about specific fisheries management units) from the comfort of home at one of the following “Conversations & Coffee” virtual meetings:

  • Northern Lake Michigan
    • 7 to 8:30 p.m. EST/6 to 7:30 p.m. CT Tuesday, April 6
  • Western Lake Superior 
    • 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 6
  • Eastern Lake Superior
    • 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 8 (in partnership with the Michigan Sea Grant workshop)
  • Lake Erie
    • 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 12
  • Central and Southern Lake Michigan
    • 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 15
  • Northern and Southern Lake Huron
    • 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 6 (in partnership with the Michigan Sea Grant workshop)

For detailed meeting and contact information, visit the Conversations & Coffee webpage.


NotMiSpecies webinar series returns this week

notmispecies graphicWant to learn more about what Michigan is doing to prevent and control invasive plants, pests and animals? The Michigan Invasive Species Program’s NotMISpecies webinar series explores how agencies, universities and locally led organizations are working together to protect Michigan’s natural resources. The series examines species-specific actions, innovations in research and technology, and programs designed to help communities prevent and manage harmful invasive species.

Coming up 9 a.m. Thursday, March 25, is “Why Spotted Lanternfly?” focusing on the threat posed by one of the newest invasive pests on Michigan’s watch list. Learn about how Michigan is working with other states and the federal government to determine which species are real threats and to prepare for their potential arrival.

Tuesday, April 20, at 9 a.m., “Not in MI Waters” dives into the world of technicians and biologists responding to new aquatic invasive plant detections. Find out how they’re using the science of early detection to control European frog-bit, parrot feather and other recently introduced species.

Recordings of previous NotMISpecies webinars, including grass carp management, hemlock woolly adelgid field operations and technological advancements in managing red swamp crayfish, are available for viewing at Michigan.gov/EGLEEvents.

For an extra helping of invasive species news, tune in to the latest edition of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Fresh from the Field podcast. Plant industry specialist Mike Bryan and invasive species specialist Rob Miller talk about mountain pine beetle, an invasive tree pest moving eastward from the West Coast and Rocky Mountains, and Japanese knotweed, an invasive shrub found in many parts of the state. Listen at Anchor.fm/MDARD.

Questions? Contact Joanne Foreman at 517-284-5814.


The first ‘zooms’ of spring

marigoldsThe sun is out, and so are new virtual backgrounds from the DNR!

Merry marigolds, relaxing rivers, Great Lakes gulls and more – these scenes, found in the DNR’s collection of virtual videoconferencing backgrounds for Zoom and other applications, can brighten the backdrop of your next virtual call. They’ll add some charm and beauty next time you’re meeting by screen with friends, family or colleagues.

With these new additions, you can enjoy the sights of spring from your home office – or get inspired to go out and enjoy the sunshine at a state park, on a hike or on a water trail. Browse the gallery, available at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom in the Photos and Videos section.

In addition to their visual appeal, virtual backgrounds serve a practical purpose. When you’re meeting online with people outside your immediate contacts, security experts recommend using virtual backgrounds to obscure details of your home and surroundings.

The high-resolution images should be compatible with most virtual meeting platforms, too, and can be used as computer backgrounds.

Questions? Contact Beth Fults at 517-284-6071.


THINGS TO DO

The maple syrup is running, and so are the participants of the Outdoor Adventure Center Lumberjack Run Virtual 5K Saturday, March 27. Get your flannel and get moving!

BUY & APPLY

Now’s a great time to check out spring fishing opportunities. Before you head out, make sure to have your most important gear: a 2021 fishing license, required beginning April 1.

GET INVOLVED

It’s officially spring! You can help protect Michigan’s trails by avoiding them when muddy. Learn more about trail etiquette and do your part to protect these natural spaces.


/Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Suggested captions and photo credit information follow:

Conversations & Coffee graphic: Enjoy your preferred coffee (and learn about specific fisheries management units) from the comfort of home at one of the “Conversations & Coffee” virtual meetings. For detailed meeting and contact information, visit the Conversations & Coffee webpage.

Marigolds: The DNR’s collection of virtual videoconferencing backgrounds can brighten the backdrop of your next virtual call. Browse the gallery, available at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom in the Photos and Videos section./


Enjoy responsible recreationStay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response

Showcasing the DNR:    Park rangers on the job

Showcasing the DNR: Park rangers on the job

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– Showcasing the DNR –

Sierra Lopez, a seasonal park worker at Van Riper State Park, checks a camper in at the park entrance.

Park rangers on the job

Editor’s note: This story is an extra release in our weekly Showcasing the DNR series, which is issued on Thursdays throughout the year.

By LISA HOBAUGH
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Park rangers are responsible for protecting, preserving and enhancing Michigan’s state parks and natural resources, while ensuring the safety and welfare of park visitors.

These hard-working employees can be found in state parks, recreation areas, boating access sites and harbors managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They perform a multitude of tasks, ranging from customer service and maintenance of lands and facilities, to public safety, law enforcement and emergency response.

All rangers participate in the day-to-day work activities of the unit and are responsible for performing various duties needed to operate and maintain the facilities the DNR oversees. They are also responsible for leading, training and directing teams of state workers during the height of Michigan’s busy summer season of camping and recreation.

Two types

The DNR hires more than 1,300 seasonal staffers at state parks, state forest campgrounds, boating access sites, trails and harbors. More than 50 seasonal park rangers are hired to help carry out day-to-day operations and maintenance and other essential duties.

Rangers are categorized as either commissioned or noncommissioned.

In addition to operation and maintenance duties, commissioned rangers also have responsibilities as a parks and recreation officer.

These officers are responsible for the enforcement of DNR Parks and Recreation Division rules and regulations, land use orders of the DNR director and state laws that apply on DNR Parks and Recreation Division-administered lands. This may require commissioned rangers to make physical arrests, write tickets, evict visitors and assist with other law enforcement actions.

As new employees, all rangers complete a four-week Operations Academy provided by the Parks and Recreation Division. This training provides a robust learning experience on the duties concerning maintenance and operations of the state’s parks and recreation system.

In addition to the Operations Academy, commissioned rangers must also complete the DNR Park’s and Recreation Division’s seven-week Law Enforcement Academy. This is an immersive training experience that prepares employees to perform the law enforcement, public safety and emergency response requirements of their jobs.

Finding the right stuff

There is no set formula for finding the perfect park ranger. Each of Michigan’s 103 state parks and other facilities around the state have unique features and opportunities. Park rangers often have a great appreciation for the outdoors and fond lifelong memories that draw them into this field of work. They often excel in providing customer service, enjoy providing recreational opportunities for others and getting hands-on experience with the maintenance and management of lands and facilities, and much more.

When asked why they chose this career path, the top DNR park ranger responses often include a love for being outdoors, the variety of work experiences and interaction in the experiences of visitors.

Doing the job

The following are just a few profiles of DNR park rangers – commissioned and noncommissioned – from across the state who have diverse backgrounds, experiences and job responsibilities.

Mitch Babcock – noncommissioned ranger, Clare Field Office, Clare County

Babcock has been with the DNR since 2009, starting as a seasonal park worker and moving quickly up to the rank of ranger. Babcock has had the opportunity to work at many state parks as both a commissioned and noncommissioned ranger. He works on the major maintenance crew at the Clare Field Office, where he and the crew tend to boat launches and assist with construction projects in the region. Throughout his tenure, his diverse talents have been put to work.

“After my first summer as a seasonal park worker, I knew that this was the career path that I wanted,” said Babcock. “Growing up on a farm, having working knowledge in several trades, and working a few years as a seasonal park worker, best prepared me for the core duties of a park ranger.”

Babcock has been found building docks, cleaning campsites, plowing snow and responding to emergencies – including putting Band-Aids on little kids who have taken a spill off their scooters. His blend of kindness, commitment and willingness to take on any task assigned is what makes him a great example of a park ranger.

His favorite part of the job?

“I am now working out of an office that takes care of sites I grew up using. I feel like I am giving back to my community while doing something I love,” he said. “Being an avid outdoorsman, I spend a lot of time at places I help maintain and that helps me bring new ideas to the table.”

Jacquelyn Culberson – noncommissioned ranger, Bay City State Park, Bay County

Culberson has several decades of parks and recreation experience in her background, beginning with Saginaw Parks and Recreation. It was here she realized her love for people and the greatness of the outdoors. She is known for her big personality and contagious enthusiasm, making her the perfect person to be a ranger who focuses on outreach.

“My favorite part of my job as an outreach ranger is that I have the privilege to provide presentations on introducing non-traditional groups to state parks to increase diversity in park attendance,” Culberson said. “It is a great honor to be a woman of color working for the state parks and preaching the gospel on the many state parks and what Michigan has to offer.”

Dan Young – commissioned lead ranger, Ludington State Park, Mason County

Young started at Ludington State Park right out of high school, employed as a seasonal park worker and with a Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps during the winters. Meanwhile, he pursued a degree in criminal justice. After graduation, he landed a job as a police officer in his hometown of Ludington, but it wasn’t quite the calling he had hoped for. A few years later, Young applied for a ranger position at his former stomping grounds of Ludington State Park. After getting the job, it didn’t take long for him to discover it was where he was supposed to be.

“I enjoy and appreciate the law enforcement aspects of the ranger position but also enjoy the variety that a ranger job provides,” Young said. “I love the maintenance tasks and enjoy being a training instructor and helping in various ways at the Law Enforcement Academy. Mostly, I enjoy working hard and putting effort into things that directly benefit our customers by providing an outdoor experience that people come back for year after year.”

Young was able to combine his criminal justice education with his love of the park –home to his family’s annual camping tradition during his formative years – as well as the customer service and maintenance skills he learned as a seasonal park worker and Civilian Conservation Corps member.

“Training and education as a police officer was a tremendous help to me to be able to hit the ground running as a ranger. I had relationships with my local police agencies and dispatch that most rangers typically do not have starting out, as well as an understanding of what the court system was like in my county.”

Young has contributed to the development of his fellow ranger staff by lending his experience in the development of employee training, not only at his park but also as a law academy instructor.

“I have been beyond blessed to be a part of this team and given the freedom to grow in the positions I have had,” he said. “Like any job it has its challenges, but the benefits heavily outweigh those challenges.”

Michelle Trowbridge – commissioned ranger, Sleepy Hollow State Park, Clinton County

On any Friday or Saturday summer night, you’ll find Trowbridge walking the campground welcoming campers and talking to people. She prides herself on bringing positivity to her work environment, and that’s probably from her background as an educator.

“I know people might not think my degree in education would be particularly helpful in this setting, but I use a lot of my teacher skills in training new seasonal park workers, problem-solving to help with unhappy campers, and being in front of a class readied me to work with groups of students when classrooms visit the park,” she said.

Trowbridge started with the DNR as a seasonal park worker while working as a paraprofessional at her local school district. What started as wanting a little extra summer income turned into five summers, then seven more seasons as an outreach coordinator, before she became a ranger in late 2018.

While you can take the teacher out of the classroom, you can’t always take the classroom out of the teacher, which is exactly why she is beloved by her peers.

“I give out personalized written thank-you’s to each staff member and monthly treats with cheesy sayings on them to keep things positive,” she said.

Mike Signorello, commissioned lead ranger, Sign Shop, Hartwick Pines State Park, Crawford County

Most people don’t realize that the brown wooden signs marking the entrance to state parks are made by one person who works an old routing machine. That’s Mike Signorello, who oversees the sign shop inside Hartwick Pines State Park.

That’s a pretty big leap from his degree in biology and conservation. However, the “leap of faith” he said he took to leave a higher-paying job to join a Michigan Civilian Conservation Corps camp to learn a new trade has paid off.

Today, Signorello oversees a team of AmeriCorps service members who help create many of the DNR signs visitors see in parks, on trails and along waterways. Like many authentic craftspeople, he is modest and sees himself as a lifelong learner, as well as a teacher.

“I really enjoy building on the functions of the sign shop and training program,” he said. “I can’t pass up the opportunity to improve what we do and how we do it, and I get to do that through innovation and creativity.”

That worker spirit of innovation is prevalent throughout state parks and harbors and is an unspoken requirement for any of the jobs within the agency.

Andrew Lundborg – commissioned park supervisor, Grand Haven State Park, Ottawa County

As a child, Andrew Lundborg had the unique experience of growing up in Silver Lake State Park. His father, Pete, was the manager there for more than four decades. Hearing late-night calls from campground visitors and seeing the work that goes into managing a wide swath of unique natural resources didn’t dissuade him from following in his father’s footsteps.

“My favorite part is the overall variety of opportunities that are available within the DNR,” Lundborg said. “As a park supervisor, I enjoy the daily operations of the park as well as planning for what comes next. I also play an active role in training academies to help prepare our new rangers for their career in the outdoors, and I assist with wildland fire suppression and prescribed burns in my region.”

This diversity of roles is common within the DNR, as the agency provides several opportunities to cross-train with other divisions, such as wildlife, forest resources or fisheries, to help grow an employee’s passion and resume.

Considering applying for a park ranger position?

When asked what she would say to anyone thinking about becoming a seasonal park worker or ranger at a Michigan state park or harbor, Trowbridge said, “I would say do it! It is one of the most fun and rewarding jobs you may ever have. How many other jobs give you the chance to help people create fond, lifelong memories?”

For more information on how to become a park ranger or seasonal park worker, visit Michigan.gov/DNRJobs. To view park ranger positions, click on the “View DNR Job Openings” link and search for “park ranger,” or click on the “Seasonal Park Workers” link.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNR.


/Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, 906-226-1352. An accompanying photo and a text-only version of this story are available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unless otherwise noted.

Text-only version – Showcasing Story – Extra – Park rangers on the job

Check-in: Sierra Lopez, a seasonal park worker at Van Riper State Park, checks a visitor in at the park entrance in Marquette County./

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.
News Digest – Week of March 22, 2021

Showcasing the DNR: Making History

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– Showcasing the DNR –

Michigan Conservation Officer Amanda McCurdy meets two people and their dog who were walking a trail.

Making history – today’s modern, female conservation officers

Editor’s note: In celebration of the department’s centennial anniversary, the Showcasing the DNR feature series will highlight one story each month during 2021 that recalls various accomplishments of the department over the past century. This story also highlights Women’s History Month.

By KATIE GERVASI
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, caregiver and friend.

The women who serve in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division are recognized by more than one of these terms, in addition to “officer.”

In 1897, Huldah Neal became the first state game warden, paving the career path forward for women. Neal, from Grand Traverse County, was the first female conservation officer in the United States, according to media reports.

Today, there are 21 women who serve at all ranks of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. Like their male counterparts, they have sworn under oath to protect the state’s natural resources, environment and the health and safety of the public through effective law enforcement and education.

Michigan Conservation Officer Andrea Erratt is pictured with a dead trumpeter swan confiscated by officers.Andrea Erratt, a 24-year veteran conservation officer, has followed in Neal’s footsteps, as the first Michigan DNR female to independently earn the prestigious Shikar Safari Officer of the Year Award in 2019.

Shikar-Safari Club International is a conservation-based organization that presents awards to wildlife law enforcement officers in all states, provinces and territories in the U.S. and Canada. The annual award honors a state officer whose efforts show outstanding performance and achievement among sworn conservation law enforcement personnel.

Beyond national and regional awards given by the club, the DNR Law Enforcement Division selects an officer each year to be presented with the honor on behalf of the organization, as was the case with Erratt.

“It’s almost like everything in my life led and prepared me to be a conservation officer,” said Erratt, who patrols Antrim County. “I grew up in a family that loved recreating outside and with parents and grandparents who taught me the importance of conservation.

“My parents raised me to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to, as long as I worked hard. I know it’s a unique job for a woman, but I love it and work extra hard, so nobody has any reason to question my ability.”

Also serving Antrim County is Erratt’s law enforcement partner Andrea Albert, who joined the DNR as a conservation officer in 1997. Antrim County is one of two counties in the state patrolled entirely by female conservation officers.

Sgt. Bobbi Lively is pictured with dead deer confiscated by officers.“Before I became a conservation officer, I taught and coached at a community college,” Albert said. “After that, I earned my master’s degree at Eastern Kentucky University, where I interned with the DNR Parks Division for my master’s program.

“I was interested in law enforcement and later became a volunteer conservation officer in Bay City – the physical aspect of the job and the ability to help people in Michigan was a natural fit.”

Sgt. Bobbi Lively joined the DNR conservation officer ranks with a passion to deescalate problems and to hold wrongdoers accountable.

“After graduate school, I focused my career on wildlife biology and wetland ecology,” said Lively, who supervises officers in four northern Michigan counties. “I didn’t like that I couldn’t hold people accountable for their wrongdoings, and I saw the positive, direct impact that conservation officers have.”

As the only female to graduate from Michigan’s 2003 Conservation Officer Recruit School Academy, Conservation Officer Angela Greenway, who patrols Mecosta County, was expected to do everything – mentally and physically – that her male classmates had to accomplish.

“The other female in my class dropped out of the academy around halfway,” Greenway said. “At this point, you’re in the thick of the academy. I didn’t have a roommate to talk to. I was on the women’s floor alone, but I got to know my classmates better.

Michigan Conservation Officer Angela Greenway is pictured at the scene of a wildland fire.“There were a couple of physical challenges that I had to overcome, like running and the rope climb. To work on the running, I would run at night with a couple of my classmates to get some extra miles in. As for the rope climb, I just worked on strength and technique and by the end I was able to climb the rope as well as my male classmates. It was about finding your limits and pushing past them, and to never give up.”

Conservation Officer Shannon Kritz, who patrols Menominee County, was one of two women hired in 2015.

“In the 90s, my mom was bird hunting when two men approached her and told her hunting wasn’t for females and to go home,” Kritz said. “This stereotype isn’t the case anymore. Women are breaking barriers in all types of ways.

“People are surprised when they see a female conservation officer, so all eyes will be on her when she is in the field. A long line of female conservation officers paved the way for the rest of us in the department. Michigan has top-notch training for its conservation officers. I wanted to be a part of a department that valued its officers and made sure they were successful in the field.”

Amanda McCurdy was one of six women to graduate from Conservation Officer Recruit School No. 8 in 2017. She recently led a successful multi-agency search and rescue operation for a missing North Carolina hunter near Sleeping Bear Dunes.

“We joined this profession to protect society, enforce the law and hopefully leave this world a little better than we found it,” McCurdy said. “That is accomplished regardless of your demographic.”

Conservation Officer Jenni Hanson, who works in Gogebic County, graduated from recruit school with McCurdy.

Michigan Conservation Officer Jennifer Hanson is pictured with recovered firearms.“Females can offer different perspectives and approaches, and I believe this benefits the department and communities we work for,” Hanson said.

Assigned to Montmorency County, Conservation Officer Sidney Collins also graduated in 2017 and shares a similar perspective about the unique approach females bring to law enforcement.

“Being a woman in law enforcement can be a very useful tool, for example, sometimes women are able to deescalate situations easier,” Collins said. “I use my position to engage and improve community-police relationships through communication and education.”

Conservation Officer Jessica Curtis, Alpena County, also from the 2017 recruit school, attributes the communication skills she now uses as an officer to her experience managing her family’s business.

“I managed my family’s pawn shop,” Curtis said. “It was interesting, and I gained many life skills that I use in my career now, such as communicating and deescalating situations with emotional customers.”

In 2018, six women graduated as a part of Recruit School No. 9, including Conservation Officer Anna Cullen of Muskegon County.

“Being a woman in law enforcement can be challenging,” Cullen said. “I only say this because society is more accustomed to seeing men in uniform. It’s gratifying when a woman in uniform demonstrates that she is just as successful as a man and earns a good reputation from her peers and the public.”

Muskegon County is the other county in Michigan patrolled entirely by female conservation officers.

Michigan Conservation Officer Jessica Curtis is shown during a winter a bear den check.“There are times where we are challenged about our knowledge of the activity an individual is participating in,” said Conservation Officer Jackie Miskovich, a 2018 recruit school graduate who patrols Muskegon County.

“When working with male officers, often the person we’re speaking to looks at the male officer to answer a question that was asked, instead of to the female officer. We’re challenged, and we make it through each time as a better person and officer, demonstrating that we are knowledgeable and capable.”

Conservation Officer Danielle Zubek has been with the DNR since 2017 and patrols Oakland County. Many people do not consider the vast waterfowl, fishing and recreational opportunities southeast Michigan offers.

“Most people will stop me and ask what I do, not knowing the job of a conservation officer,” Zubek said. “Others will ask, ‘Why are you down here? The woods are up north!’

“Being a part of the metro-Detroit area gives us as conservation officers the ability to connect with the public, educating them about the opportunities, laws and regulations, particularly at Belle Isle State Park.”

In May 2020, more than 40 Michigan DNR conservation officers patrolled the Belle Isle Freedom March, which had more than 1,000 attendees. The mission of the officers was to ensure the public’s safety, control traffic and protect the island’s cultural treasures.

Michigan Conservation Officers Anna Cullen and Jackie Miskovich shop with a child during the 2019 Shop with a Cop effort “Our department was fortunate to be able to connect and walk with members of the Detroit community during the Belle Isle Peace March last summer,” Zubek said. “It was a great way to show the community that as a department, we are there for them and that we are here to protect and serve the people of Michigan.”

All the women serving as Michigan conservation officers agree that DNR law enforcement is a rewarding, equal opportunity for females.

“I quickly recognized a level of camaraderie within the DNR Law Enforcement Division that I didn’t see in other agencies,” McCurdy said.

Conservation Officer Breanna Reed, who has worked in the job since 2018 and patrols in Missaukee County, offered some advice to females new to the job.

“Be an asset to your agency by continuously striving to be the best officer you can be, and surpassing goals set by yourself and those around you,” Reed said. “This will help you build your own confidence and prepare you to be able to handle anything the job throws at you.”

Conservation Officer Anna Viau, who graduated as the Recruit School No. 9 class orator and patrols Iron County, also offered supportive suggestions.

Michigan Conservation Officer Danielle Zubek after graduating from Recruit School No. 8 Conservation Officer Academy in December 2017.“My best advice for women interested in a career in law enforcement would be to have faith in yourself and always work hard toward your goals,” Viau said. “I recommend finding a female officer who can mentor you and help you work through challenges and offer encouragement as you work toward your goals. There will always be challenges, but believe me, the results of your effort are more than worth it.”

For more information on Michigan’s conservation officers, visit Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNR.


/Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, 906-226-1352. Accompanying photos and a text-only version of this story are available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unless otherwise noted.

Text-only version – Women in DNR law enforcement

Albert: Michigan Conservation Officer Andrea Albert was presented with a Lifesaving Award at the July 2018 Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting, as a result of her efforts to save a snowmobiler. Also pictured: DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler, left, and retired Assistant Chief Dean Molnar.

Collins: Michigan Conservation Officer Sidney Collins conducts marine patrol on the Straits of Mackinaw. Conservation officers patrol the Great Lakes for marine safety and to monitor the commercial fishing industry.

Curtis: Michigan Conservation Officer Jessica Curtis inspects a bear during a 2019 bear den check.

Erratt: Michigan Conservation Officer Andrea Erratt holds a trumpeter swan that was illegally shot on Patricia Lake during the 2012 duck hunting season opener.

Greenway: Michigan Conservation Officer Angela Greenway stands in front of smoke from an extinguished wildfire along US-131 that she responded to in 2019.

Hanson: Michigan Conservation Officer Jennifer Hanson confiscates two firearms after observing a hunter attempt to shoot a grouse with a handgun from inside a vehicle. When Hanson talked with the hunter, she located another uncased firearm in the vehicle.

Lively: Sgt. Bobbi Lively is photographed with three antlered deer that were shot illegally during a deer hunting season in Alpena County.

McCurdy: While conducting fish patrol in the Traverse City area of Grand Traverse County, Michigan Conservation Officer Amanda McCurdy meets two people and their dog who were walking a trail in September 2019.

Shop: Michigan Conservation Officers Anna Cullen, left, and Jackie Miskovich who patrol Muskegon County, shop with a child at the Muskegon Meijer during the December 2019 Shop with a Cop effort to help youth in the community.

Zubek: Michigan Conservation Officer Danielle Zubek stands with her new DNR patrol truck after graduating from Recruit School No. 8 Conservation Officer Academy in December 2017./

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.
DNR News

DNR News

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– DNR News –

Paved trail with Iron Belle Trail sign
March 10, 2021

Contact: Kristin Phillips, 517-284-6065

DNR partnerships, sponsorships offer chance to connect with outdoor enthusiasts

The Department of Natural Resources, this year celebrating 100 years of caring for Michigan’s outdoors and history, invites businesses and organizations to get involved as sponsors and partners in conserving natural and cultural resources, while connecting with the millions of people who enjoy these resources.

With less than 15% of the DNR’s annual budget coming from general tax dollars, new and creative revenue sources are vital to fulfilling the department’s mission.

“We are open to a wide variety of sponsorships and partnerships to help people enjoy and appreciate Michigan’s natural and cultural resources and, at the same time, highlight the many businesses that are growing the outdoor recreation industry and the state’s economy,” said Kristin Phillips, DNR Marketing and Outreach Division chief. “It’s also the DNR’s centennial year, which brings additional opportunities.”

Examples of sponsorship/partnership opportunities include:

girl goes down Big Tree slide at Outdoor Adventure Center with arms raised

  • Advertising in the annual Michigan Hunting Digest or Michigan Fishing Guide, reaching hundreds of thousands of Michigan hunters or over 1 million anglers. Find more information about advertising opportunities at Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.
  • Joining the “These Goods are Good for Michigan” program. This collection of partners works with the DNR to raise awareness and support through revenue sharing – on products or services of interest to outdoor enthusiasts – for state parks, trails and waterways, and fish and wildlife species restoration. If you’re interested in becoming a partner, please contact Maia Turek at 989-225-8573.
  • Expanding visitor services and experiences throughout the DNR parks and recreation system by becoming a concessionaire. “Outdoorpreneur” partners include concessions, restaurants, gift shops, rental outfitters, water park operators, guide services and many others. Find current concession opportunities at Michigan.gov/StateParkConcessions or contact Lori Green at 989-275-5151, ext. 2722006, for more information.
  • Bringing “up north” to downtown Detroit with sponsorship opportunities at the Outdoor Adventure Center, from exhibit and display sponsors to naming rights on the building. Those interested in promoting stewardship and enjoyment of Michigan’s natural resources have the chance to inspire millions annually through this hands-on, urban educational facility.
  • Helping thousands of school-age children in the Bay City, Flint and surrounding areas experience the natural world by contributing to the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center – building and science lab naming rights and exhibit sponsorships will be available soon. For more information, contact Jon Spieles at 906-293-5131, ext. 4023.
  • Sponsoring habitat projects on state-managed public lands through the Adopt-a-Game-Area program and helping grassland wildlife thrive. Support of this program provides valuable habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, cottontail rabbits, songbirds and pollinators.
  • Becoming a partner in the Iron Belle Trail Fund Campaign, which aims to create a seamless, 2,000-mile trail – with two distinct routes, one for bicycling and one for hiking – that connects Michigan from Belle Isle in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.
  • Helping tell the story of the DNR over the past 100 years – with co-messaging, social media partnerships and more – as the department commemorates its centennial anniversary throughout 2021. Contact Dustin Isenhoff at 517-284-6248 to discuss how your business or organization can get involved in the DNR centennial celebration.

Businesses and organizations interested in these or other opportunities can contact Kristin Phillips at 517-284-6065 to discuss.

For a complete list of ongoing sponsorship and partnership options, bookmark the DNR Get Involved webpage, where new opportunities will be added as they become available.


/Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows.

Outdoor Adventure Center: The Department of Natural Resources offers a variety of ways for sponsors and partners to  get involved in conserving natural and cultural resources, while connecting with the millions of people who enjoy Michigan’s outdoors and history. Pictured here, a visitor at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit, a hands-on, urban educational facility with sponsorship opportunities available.

Trail: The Department of Natural Resources is seeking businesses and organizations interested in helping people enjoy and appreciate Michigan’s natural and cultural resources through sponsorship and partnership opportunities – one example is supporting the Iron Belle Trail, pictured here./

Enjoy responsible recreationStay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response
DNR: News Digest – Week of March 8, 2021

DNR: News Digest – Week of March 8, 2021

Centennial banner

News Digest – Week of March 8, 2021

lily pads

Check out how you can help survey “secretive” marsh bird populations.

Some of this week’s stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers’ needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state’s natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here’s a look at some of this week’s stories from the 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 additional ones, are available in this folder.


Photo ambassador snapshot: Waning winter at Warren Dunes

warren dunesWant to see more stunning pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Danielle Grandholm at Warren Dunes State Park in Berrien County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.


Peek at peregrines with these falcon webcams

peregrine falconSince the 1980s, when the DNR started a program to restore Michigan’s peregrine numbers, dedicated nest watchers have played a vital role in understanding this species. These tireless volunteers help us better understand the timing of peregrine falcon reproduction, breeding and chick-rearing behaviors and sources of mortality. Up until a few years ago, this meant long hours with binoculars or a spotting scope watching an urban nest box or a remote cliffside ledge.

Today, technology makes the job a lot easier. With multiple webcams across the state, from the northern U.P. to the Detroit suburbs, anyone can become an amateur naturalist from the comfort of home. With this convenience and close-up views, we get valuable insight into falcons’ conservation needs and ways to help peregrine landlords in cities provide the best possible nesting habitat.

Want to discover this species for yourself? Check out some of the webcams provided by our conservation partners and find answers to some of the questions they’ve helped us solve, like these:

  • Do all of Michigan’s peregrines start breeding at the same time? If they don’t, is there a pattern to when they start?
  • How long does it take a peregrine to lay all of her eggs?
  • How much time does a peregrine spend incubating eggs?
  • Do the parents share incubation, hunting and feeding duties?
  • How soon will a chick start growing flight feathers and losing its down?

Peregrine webcam list:

To learn more about the peregrine falcon, see the All About Birds: Peregrine Falcon page and Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas Peregrine Falcon species account. You can also check out the Midwest Peregrine Society and The Peregrine Fund.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.


Volunteer to monitor Michigan’s secretive marsh birds

pied-billed grebeBy Stephanie Beilke, conservation science manager at Audubon Great Lakes

Under cover of grasses, reeds and rushes, “secretive” marsh birds go about their lives, often unbeknownst to us. Marshes can be mysterious places, but countless birds and other wildlife need them to thrive. Unfortunately, many marsh bird populations across the Great Lakes region have declined with the disappearance of the wetlands they need.

“Marsh birds such as sora, Virginia rail and least bittern are all regularly found in marshes during the spring, summer and fall, but their stealthy behaviors often prevent them from being detected by people,” said Erin Rowan, senior conservation associate with Audubon Great Lakes and Michigan DNR. “Because marsh birds are hard to spot, it can be difficult to know how numerous they are.”

To better understand marsh bird population trends, MI Birds is looking for marsh bird survey volunteers to search for these birds in locations across Michigan.

wetlandCommunity scientist volunteers visit designated wetlands, play recordings of marsh bird calls and monitor marsh bird responses to the calls. These efforts help identify where marsh birds are located and roughly how many individuals are present at a given wetland site. Participants must conduct three morning surveys between May 1 and June 30. Volunteer training, including bird identification by sight and sound, and supplies will be provided. Sign up to learn more!

“Marsh bird surveys also tell us about the health and condition of the region’s remaining marshes, and how marsh birds are responding to restoration efforts like ours,” said Rowan. “For example, marsh birds like the pied-billed grebe depend on marshes for large areas of open water to dive for prey, sufficient cover for hiding its nest and young, and wetland vegetation to construct their nests. When the level of vegetation and water does not meet their needs, birds like the pied-billed grebe must move elsewhere.”

Want to do even more to help marsh birds? Learn the calls of these focal species: American bitternleast bitterncommon gallinulepied-billed grebeVirginia railsora and king rail. Then report them to eBird when you encounter them at marshes like Pointe Mouillee State Game Area or Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, both of which double as Important Bird Areas.

MI Birds is a public outreach and engagement program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, aimed at increasing Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and sign up for email updates.

Questions? Contact Emily Osborne at 414-841-5273.


Get your yard ready for wildfire season

pruningAs you enjoy the first rays of spring sunshine and begin to dust off garden tools, take a fresh look at your yard through the eyes of a firefighter. Whether you live in a forest or in a neighborhood, a few key actions can reduce wildfire risk to your home.

“The first thing a firefighter will look for is how easy it is to find a home in a wildfire situation,” said DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers. “Stand at the end of your driveway and check to see that your house numbers are clearly visible. They should be mounted on a reflective background so they can be seen in dark or smoky conditions.”

While standing in that spot, take a look at the driveway itself. To accommodate a fire engine, driveways should be 15 feet across, with overhanging branches trimmed 15 feet up for clearance.

“Trees should be pruned of limbs 6 feet from the ground or higher,” said Rogers. “This helps prevent grass fires from climbing up into the canopy. Canopy fires are dangerous because airborne embers and sparks from the crowns of trees can land on the roofs of homes and ignite.”

gutterTree limbs should not hang over the roof of a home. If trees are packed tightly together and branches are touching, consider thinning them out to put distance between them.

Around a home is a critical 30-foot zone where landscaping influences fire risk. When pruning and raking, dispose of brush beyond this zone to prevent buildup of flammable fuels.

Closer to the house, keep an eye out for potential fuel sources. Never stack firewood or tires directly next to your home. If ignited, these fuel piles burn hot and fast and can be a danger to your house. Gutters should be cleaned out in the fall and spring. Most exterior home fires are started by embers floating on the wind, and a gutter full of dry leaves and pine needles can easily ignite.

Long-term investments in fire safety can include removing conifer trees in the 30-foot zone, replacing an older roof with a metal one and separating areas of the yard with hard paths to act as fuel breaks. A fuel break is an area that will not burn, such as a sidewalk or driveway, which can bring a scorching ground fire to a halt. These actions are highly recommended in fire-prone areas such as jack pine forests.

Find more fire prevention information at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires or the National Fire Protection Association.

Questions? Contact Paul Rogers at 616-260-8406.


ICYMI: Celebrate #WomensHistoryMonth with the Mann sisters

mann sistersSisters Jessie Ellen Mann (left) and Mary Ida Mann Cady (right), namesakes of the historic Mann House in Concord, Michigan, were pioneering women for their time. Active participants in their community, they supported local agriculture, participated in community cultural events and institutions and advocated for the right of women to vote.

In 1970, they donated their family home and all its contents to the State of Michigan to become a museum and a learning tool for school children. The Mann House museum is now part of the Michigan History Center museum system.

In case you missed it, you can learn more about the Mann sisters and their home by watching this virtual tour created for the home’s 50th anniversary as a museum.


THINGS TO DO

As snow melts and spring arrives, remember that using muddy trails can cause erosion and safety issues. Review trail etiquette tips and help protect these natural landscapes for all to enjoy.

BUY & APPLY

Looking ahead to warmer weather? Make sure you have a boater safety certificate in time for the season. Also remember boat registrations expire March 31 the third year of issuance, so renew soon.

GET INVOLVED

There are tons of ways to help shape the future of your favorite natural or cultural resources. Check out the upcoming public meetings and make your voice heard. Public input is invaluable for these resources.

Enjoy responsible recreationStay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response