nearly $4 million in grants for recreational boating

nearly $4 million in grants for recreational boating


Centennial banner

– DNR News –

June 29, 2021
Contact: Vicki McGhee, 517-388-5341

DNR approves nearly $4 million in grants for recreational boating improvements and development

boating access site featuring a dock into the waterThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that more than $4 million in grant funding will be awarded to 23 communities throughout the state to boost recreational boating.

The funding is made possible through the DNR Parks and Recreation Division’s waterways grant program, which began in 1949 with the goal of expanding the harbor system along the Great Lakes and boating access sites throughout the state. Today, the system includes more than 1,300 state-sponsored boating access sites, 19 state-managed harbors and 63 local state-sponsored harbors of refuge along the Great Lakes.

“Water and boating are at the heart of Michigan,” said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. “We have residents who live on the water, those who travel all over the state to boat and visitors who come here from around the world because it’s the Great Lakes State. Michigan offers outdoor recreational opportunities and picturesque views not found anywhere else, and so it’s of utmost importance that the DNR helps invest and fund Michigan’s harbors and boating access sites for the benefit of all.”

Local units of government and state colleges and universities are eligible to apply for grant assistance for recreational boating improvements and development at grant-in-aid harbors and public boating access sites. The grant-in-aid program provides matching funding to help support quality recreational boating infrastructure. Communities are asked to match 50% of required funds.

In 2020, when lake levels were at record highs, many facilities had emergency needs. As a result, the waterways grant program was strongly focused on assisting communities that had emergency infrastructure needs. Fortunately, this year with lake levels receding, the grants have been able to focus on more typical infrastructure improvements, such as engineering studies, design and infrastructure improvements.

This year, projects in Alger, Alpena, Baraga, Berrien, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Dickinson, Emmet, Houghton, Huron, Leelanau, Manistee, Marquette, Mason and Wayne counties were approved for projects that include emergency seawall replacement, skid pier replacement and overall marina improvements.

View a full list and descriptions of this year’s Waterways Program Grant awards.

The grants are funded through the Michigan State Waterways Fund, a restricted fund derived primarily from boat registration fees and a portion of Michigan’s gas tax that supports the construction, operation and maintenance of public recreational boating facilities.

The application period for the next round of Waterways grant funding are due Friday, April 1, 2022.

Learn more about the grant program and application materials at

/Note to editors: An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

BAS – Twenty-two communities in 15 counties were awarded nearly $4 million to help boost recreational boating in Michigan. The state is home to 1,300-plus state-sponsored boating access sites that provide access to recreational boating, fishing and more.

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

Showcasing the DNR: From grizzlies to grouse

Centennial banner

– Showcasing the DNR –

Al Stewart stands in front of a gate to the Goldmine GEMS in Iron County in 2015.

From grizzlies to grouse, tracking the steps of a DNR wildlife conservation pioneer

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.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Although he would spend much of his 50-year career with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources focusing on upland game birds like wild turkeys and grouse, it was grizzly bears that first sparked Al Stewart’s interest in working with wildlife.

As a boy, Stewart saw a popular 1960s National Geographic television special featuring the Craighead brothers, researchers known for their groundbreaking study of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park.

Al Stewart talks with a customer at the DNR office in Rose Lake.“That really caught my interest,” Stewart said. “I thought I wanted to be a wildlife veterinarian, and that’s what I thought the Craigheads were because they caught these big grizzly bears and used large culvert traps and gave a drug and put neck collars on them and followed them around, so that was pretty exciting and that’s what I thought I wanted to do.

“That was before Animal Planet.”


The DNR celebrates its centennial this year, and Stewart – who recently retired – was there for half of that 100 years. He shared some reflections on the department’s story and his role in it.

Stewart’s introduction to working with the DNR came while he was a student at Michigan State University in 1970, when the university provided some funding for him to help with wildlife research at the Rose Lake Wildlife Pathology Lab in Clinton County.

In 1972, after graduating from the MSU animal technology program, he was hired to work for the DNR as a student assistant at the Rose Lake Wildlife Pathology Lab. As he learned more about the field of wildlife biology, he realized that’s the career he wanted and continued his studies in that field, earning a degree in 1975.

This image shows Al Stewart putting a tracking band on a wild turkey before its release into the wild.Describing his time at Rose Lake, Stewart said, “While I was at the lab, I got to work on a lot of really outstanding projects that helped shape my interests.”

For example, he worked on a project to study attributes of turkey health that involved trapping wild turkeys in the northern Lower Peninsula and taking samples from them.

“I was there when the nets went over the turkeys and I said, ‘boy, that’s really cool, I’d really like to do this in the future.’ And so that was the starting of my very strong interest in wild turkeys. In those days there weren’t many wild turkeys really to speak of in Michigan, so that was a very unique experience.”

In his early days with the DNR, Stewart also was involved in activities to monitor and reintroduce giant Canada geese, which were close to extinction in the 1960s, to Michigan.

He called the Canada goose reintroduction effort “a great success to the point that some may say they are a nuisance. But still, Michigan is ranked as one of the top in the nation for Canada goose harvest and continues to be a leader in Canada goose management.”

A Kirtland's warbler is shown in a jack pine tree.Another project entailed collecting loons that had died from botulism along the shores of Lake Michigan.

“I found out very rapidly that loons are pretty heavy,” said Stewart, who had to walk up dunes with plastic bags of loons weighing about 100 pounds. “It was a lot more work than I expected … I thought I was just a beachcomber … but I loved every minute of it.”

Conservation milestones

Stewart also was involved in the effort to recover the Kirtland’s warbler, a species that was on the brink of being extinct in the early 1970s. He helped Bill Shake, USFWS biologist, on trapping brown-headed cowbirds, which helped prevent these parasitic birds from laying eggs in Kirtland’s warbler nests and causing warbler parents to care for cowbird chicks instead of their own chicks. He got to participate in Kirtland’s warbler singing surveys to help monitor the species’ population.

Today, thanks to the work of many conservation partners including the DNR, Kirtland’s warblers have made a remarkable recovery and no longer need Endangered Species Act protection.

Other interesting assignments while Stewart was working out of the wildlife lab included collecting bats to test for rabies and testing foxes for rabies and taking part in elk surveys and research into winter deer nutrition.

“I had a hodgepodge of great experiences on the front end of my career,” he said. “I was real lucky to have been able to do that.”

Al Stewart among a crowd at an opening ceremony at Maple River.After leaving the wildlife lab, Stewart worked as a wildlife technician in the Thumb area of Michigan, where he worked on pheasant and grouse management. He then was a wildlife biologist in Pontiac, where he interacted with sportsmen’s clubs in the Detroit area, did waterfowl check station work at Harsen’s Island and “got to see the urban side of wildlife.” Here he helped to develop some of the early programs for managing nuisance Canada geese.

He then transferred back to the Rose Lake field office, where he was responsible for Maple River State Game Area and other game areas in Clinton and Gratiot counties.

At the time, the Maple River game area had become overgrown, the water pumps were malfunctioning, and there were holes in the dikes. Stewart helped redesign the area’s units, and now it features “the largest wetland complex in mid-Michigan, with a lot of waterfowl.”

While working out of the Rose Lake office, he applied for a grant to create the first barrier-free blind in Michigan, a duck hunting and waterfowl observation blind at Maple River. He enlisted a huge army of volunteers to help in that effort, including at-risk youth, students at local schools, Boy Scouts and duck hunting organizations.

The project and the outreach that went into it earned Stewart the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award, which was presented by President George H. Bush at the White House, in 1992.

“I got to have lunch with him – it was pretty cool,” Stewart said.

Nearly 30 years later, making Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities accessible to everyone is a key DNR priority.

Stewart also submitted one of the first proposals for funding from the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund, established in 1983 to help conserve and promote awareness and appreciation of Michigan’s endangered, threatened and nongame wildlife. That proposal, to build a wildlife observation tower at Maple River, became the first nongame fund project ever funded.

Al Stewart is shown among a group of workers releasing wild turkeys into the Michigan wilds.The nongame fund also led to another project he played a big role in – reintroducing the osprey, a once-threatened bird species that’s now thriving in urban areas, to southern Michigan.

“l wrote the original plan for that, and now we have ospreys throughout southern Michigan, so that was really a big plus,” Stewart said.

Another bird Stewart helped reintroduce to southern Michigan was the wild turkey.

Ever since his work with the birds at the wildlife lab early in his career, he was “enthralled by wild turkeys” and said he always had wanted to do something to reintroduce them to southern Michigan and expand their range in Michigan.

He got that chance in 1983, when he, along with many others, brought wild turkeys to Michigan from Iowa and Missouri and established some flocks in the southern part of the state.

Stewart was in charge of teaching DNR staff how to trap offspring of those birds to then move them to other locations in the state to help expand this restoration activity.

“So today, Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for wild turkey harvest … We’ve gone from extirpation of all wild turkeys in Michigan to today we have over 200,000 birds, and you can hunt turkeys in every county in the state,” he said. “That’s a pretty rewarding feeling to know that I was one small part of a project like this. It has brought so much pleasure and enjoyment to people either in viewing wild turkeys and knowing they were there or the ability to hunt in both the spring and fall.”

More accomplishments

After his time at the Rose Lake field office, Stewart transferred to Lansing to become the DNR’s upland game bird specialist and spent over 20 years in that role. He worked on projects like creating Michigan’s grouse enhanced management sites, known as GEMS, for premier bird hunting and Turkey Tracts, public hunting areas with habitat intensively managed for turkeys.

Al Stewart is pictured holding an American woodcock in his hands.“We created some of the highest-quality sustainable turkey hunting in the nation,” he said. “That says a lot when your competitors for that are places like Missouri, that is the best wild turkey habitat in the world and the highest population. They don’t have deep snow.”

Later in his career, Stewart saw a project he started while working as a biologist at Rose Lake – where one of his responsibilities was the game area’s rifle range – come to fruition. The range started as an old gravel pit where people shot rifles and pistols, and over time, the DNR helped improve it.

“I got responsibility for the range at a time when shooting ranges were first starting to gain more interest from people,” Stewart said. “I applied for some grants and helped to update the range. We completely redid the whole range, moved a lot of earth around, helped make it barrier-free.”

The range improvement was supported with Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars, and the first marker for Trust Fund projects was placed at Rose Lake.

He had plans to build a grant-funded shooting education building at the range, but the plans got waylaid as responsibility for shooting ranges moved between DNR divisions.

Later, through Stewart’s association with the Glassen Foundation, the DNR was able to build the state-of-the-art Hal and Jean Glassen Shooting Education Center, with accessible classroom and meeting space for up to 80 people, adjacent to the Rose Lake shooting range.

“And now I can sleep at night,” he said.

Part of Stewart’s role as the DNR’s upland game bird specialist was studying the American woodcock, and he saw advances in woodcock research methods over the years.

Al Stewart is shown giving a presentation on American woodcock.Michigan has a long-running woodcock banding program pioneered by his predecessor, Andy Ammann.

“We’ve been able to expand on that, and Michigan bands more woodcock chicks than anywhere else in the world and has the longest-running database on banded woodcock in the world, with over 34,000 birds having been banded. And there’s no other program even close,” he said.

“Michigan is No. 1 in the world for American woodcock harvest. We’re a leading production state, thanks to the work our biologists and forest management do as far as managing aspen and young forests and working with private landowners to manage their properties. Michigan is a real focal point for woodcock nationally.”

But, as Stewart explained, banding alone doesn’t provide any data between when a bird is banded and when it is recovered.  As technological developments allowed solar satellite transmitters to be made small enough to put on a small bird like a woodcock, Michigan became one of the first places to be involved in satellite telemetry for monitoring the species.

Stewart was invited to work with biologists in England and brought their knowledge of woodcock satellite telemetry back to Michigan and helped other research partners get that project going here.

“It helped us move our knowledge about American woodcock from a lower level to a whole other plateau of knowledge about movement of the birds,” he said.

Michigan hosted international woodcock symposia that brought people together to talk about the status of the birds now and where they want to be into the future and, from that, helped write best management practices for woodcock.

Because of Stewart’s activities with woodcock, he was invited to speak at an international woodcock symposium in Italy and, more recently, at Highgrove House in the U.K., the private residence of Prince Charles.

Throughout his career, Stewart has been known for his leadership, innovative ideas and mentoring skill. He has mentored many prospective and current natural resource employees while they were students and throughout their career. He’s quick to point out how fortunate he feels to have worked with so many devoted resource professionals in his job.

Al Stewart’s journey with the DNR took him not only around the world, but through five decades of changes and advancements in wildlife management.

His dedication help shaped who the DNR is as it heads into the next century of caring for Michigan’s natural resources.

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

/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 – Showcasing – Stewart

GEMS: Al Stewart talks to elementary school students who participated in a habitat project at the first Grouse Enhancement Management Site (GEMS) on Drummond Island.

Maple River: A ribbon-cutting dedication for the barrier-free hunting/wildlife observation blind at Maple River State Game Area is pictured. Al Stewart (second from left) earned the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award in 1992 for his work on the project.

Net: Al Stewart sets a mist net to trap woodcock as part of a solar satellite transmitter project.

Presentation: Al Stewart talks about woodcock management during an international presentation he gave in the United Kingdom in 2014.

Release: Wild turkeys from Iowa are released in Clinton County as part of the southern Michigan wild turkey restoration program in the 1980s. Pictured are Al Stewart (in green) and some of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ partners involved in the project.

Rose Lake: At the Rose Lake State Wildlife Area in 1985, Al Stewart (right) answers a deer hunter’s question.

Stewart: Al Stewart stands at a gate to the Goldmine GEMS in Iron County in 2015.

Tracts: Al Stewart (second from left) and other DNR staff members and partners at the launch of the Turkey Tracts program – which has created unique turkey hunting areas across the Lower Peninsula, providing excellent opportunities for a variety of hunters, including youth, adults new to the sport and seniors – at Allegan State Game Area in 2016.

Turkey: As part of a national Gould’s turkey restoration program to trap turkeys in Mexico and relocate them in Arizona, Al Stewart (left) – widely known for his expertise during his career as the DNR’s upland game bird specialist – mentors a Mexican biologist in trapping the birds.

Warbler: A photo of a Kirtland’s warbler is shown perched in a jack pine tree in the Lower Peninsula.

Woodcock: Al Stewart holds an American woodcock during a banding effort in Gladwin County in 2010./

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to

DNR News Digest – Week of June 21, 2021

Centennial banner

News Digest – Week of June 21, 2021

bee and butterfly on coneflower

It’s Pollinator Week! Check out the resources below and learn how to get involved.

As our state works to re-open to the public, some of this week’s stories may reflect how the Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customer needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to discover and enjoy Michigan’s natural and heritage resources!

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

Here’s a look at some of this week’s stories:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and others, are available in this folder. The photo of the mining bee used in the third story courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Blossoms at Belle Isle Park

blossomsWant to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Ashish Phansalkar at Belle Isle Park in Wayne County? Visit to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Plant trees for bees this pollinator week

catalpa blossomsWant to give bees and butterflies a boost in honor of Pollinator Week, June 21-27? Adding native plants to your landscaping will help – but if you want to go big, why not plant a whole flowering tree?

Pollinator species include more than just honeybees – native bees, butterflies and moths, and some kinds of birds, bats, flies and wasps also provide the essential service of transferring the pollen that fertilizes plants and flowers.

We’re losing pollinators for a variety of reasons, including pests and diseases, habitat loss and exposure to chemicals. This is concerning because without pollinators, we can’t have healthy forests, thriving food crops or vibrant landscapes.

Providing pollinators with the nectar, pollen and habitat they need can help them survive. Pick the right trees for your landscape and watch them buzz, flap and flit to your yard.

Need a tall tree? Plant a stately basswood, whose starry, cream-colored flowers and heart-shaped leaves are adored by butterflies, bees and moths.

How about a low-maintenance tree? The hardy black tupelo, a honeybee favorite with scarlet autumn leaves, grows slowly and tolerates sun or partial shade.

Classic eastern redbuds and crabapples provide lots of pink flowers that pollinators and people alike will admire. The unusual tulip tree and northern catalpa, both sporting unique looks for landscaping, are beautiful nectar sources that attract hummingbirds.

Visit our webpage on fantastic flowering trees for more info.

In addition to planting trees and flowering plants to feed pollinators, you can support them by providing fresh, shallow water sources, applying fewer herbicides and pesticides, and using fallen leaves as mulch instead of burning them.

Learn more about helping pollinators from the Michigan Pollinator Initiative, and get tree-planting tips from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Questions? Contact Rachel Coale, DNR communications representative, at 517-930-1283.

Help the monarch with milkweed, monitoring and more

monarch butterfly on milkweedOne of the most well-known and beloved butterfly species in North America, eastern monarch butterflies have become a less common sight in recent decades.

The butterfly population has been declining over the last 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss in their summer range – including Michigan – and in Mexico, where they spend the winter.

Monarchs rely on grassland habitats that provide milkweed plants where monarchs lay their eggs, and nectar-producing flowering plants that provide food for the adult butterflies.

“Grasslands provide a diverse mix of plant species that pollinators, like the monarch, need – with both early- and late-blooming plants as well as plants that flower mid-summer,” said Dan Kennedy, endangered species specialist with the DNR. “Grasslands also support milkweeds, which are especially important for the monarch’s reproductive cycle – they are the only species of plants that monarch caterpillars eat.”

While monarch butterflies pollinate many flowering plants, they need milkweed plants to survive. Milkweeds are the host plants for monarch butterfly caterpillars, which feed on the plants as they grow.

invasive swallowwort plantInvasive black (left) and pale swallowwort vines, members of the milkweed family imported from Europe, can have a devastating effect on monarch reproduction. The butterflies seem to recognize these invasive vines as suitable hosts, but hatched caterpillars can’t successfully feed on swallowworts, so the caterpillars die.

Pale swallowwort has been detected across southern Michigan, while black swallowwort has been found across Lower Michigan and at one location in the Upper Peninsula. Swallowworts are perennial vines that have opposite, oval leaves with pointed tips. Small, star-shaped flowers grow in clusters, creating narrow, milkweed-like seed pods. Make sure to report any observations of this invasive species and don’t plant it by mistake.

As you work in your backyard, garden or community garden this year, consider these tips to make it beneficial for pollinators. You can even become a certified monarch waystation.

If you spot monarchs or their larva (caterpillars) this summer, be sure to report sightings to help inform conservation decisions here in Michigan! You can report monarch sightings and track their journey at Journey North.

Due to the declining population, monarch butterflies are listed as a candidate species under the federal Endangered Species Act and their population status is under review annually. Learn more at

Information on identifying, reporting and managing invasive swallowworts, including a best control practices guide, is available at

Find out more about ways you can help monarchs by visiting or contacting the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Questions? Contact Dan Kennedy at 517-896-2602.

Helping students understand the importance of pollinators

Mining bee on yellow flower“Save the bees” has become the mantra behind many pollinator restoration efforts, but these programs can be viewed with unease by those who feel anxious when they hear a buzzing bee nearby. A project by the Gladwin DNR field office, Pheasants Forever and Huron Pines AmeriCorps is working to familiarize students with how gentle and important pollinators are, through a program designed to benefit area pollinators and engage the community.

Part of the Pollinator Project program is a Pollinator Project virtual kit, which helps formal and informal educators enhance in-person or virtual learning. The kit includes pollinator presentations for elementary and secondary students, videos and guides that share pollinator-themed activities, resources, plants, bee houses and how to support pollinators at home.

“We are designing a boxed, take-home wildflower garden kit for nearly 50 4-H youth to explore pollinators,” said Alex Schunk, Clare County 4-H coordinator, who is planning to use the kit for a June activity. “They’ll be making ‘pollinator seed balls’ with wildflower seeds donated by the Clare Conservation District.”

In past years, students have participated in the creation of new pollinator habitats, supported by the Gladwin chapter of Pheasants Forever. The program extends to both classroom and community to demonstrate how pollinators are unique and important and explains the challenges they face. Gladwin’s Pollinator Project helps connect the community to the wild world around them and encourages people of all ages to get involved.

Questions? Contact Kate King at

Michigan’s endangered pollinators: how you can help

karner blueWhen we say “pollinator,” the image of a honeybee probably pops into your head. But many other species are essential pollinators, too. Plus, the honeybee is not a native bee! They were brought to America by European colonists in the 17th century. There are more than 450 species of native wild bee in Michigan and around 4,000 in the U.S. – so, while honeybees may be the face of the “save the bees” movement and our first idea of a “pollinator,” they’re not the only ones in trouble.

The rusty patched bumblebee, the first wild bee to be listed, in 2017, as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is of particular concern for conservationists. Bumblebees are a keystone species in most ecosystems, meaning that they are necessary for native wildflower reproduction, creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife and pollinating many different crops. Because of their ability to “buzz pollinate,” these bees are very effective pollinators. They rely on hydrangea, locust trees, goldenrod, blueberry bushes, spotted Joe-pye weed and bee balm for food and shelter.

The yellow-banded bumble bee is a USFWS species of concern, and, while not listed as endangered, is relatively rare. They rely on goldenrod, which can be found in abundance in Michigan. Sometimes considered a weed, this plant provides much-needed nutrients to many different species. Instead of mowing over goldenrods or cutting them back, let them grow.

Epeoloides pilosulus, a kind of cuckoo bee – so named for laying their eggs in other species’ nest to offload rearing their young – which was once found throughout the northern and eastern U.S. and southern Canada, was believed extinct until a specimen was found in Nova Scotia in 2002. Michigan State University researchers found a single specimen in 2018, after a 74-year absence in the state. This species relies entirely on fringed loosestrife – a sprawling perennial with yellow flowers that is not related to the invasive purple loosestrife.

The Poweshiek skipperling and Karner blue butterfly are two endangered butterflies found in Michigan. The skipperling, a small orange, brown and cream butterfly, has declined rapidly in the past 50 years due to habitat loss. Once common on native prairies of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, this species is thought to now be concentrated in only six populations on earth, two of which are in Michigan. It relies on the grass species prairie dropseed and mat muhly to lay its eggs and black-eyed Susan flowers for food.

The Karner blue butterfly is entirely dependent on the wild lupine. Because of habitat loss, it now only is found in remnant oak savannas. The thumbnail-sized butterfly lays its eggs on or near lupine plants, and its caterpillars feed only on lupine leaves and flowers. This butterfly benefits from DNR prescribed burns, which help wild lupine thrive.

All these rare pollinators would greatly benefit by passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

There are many other endangered and rare pollinators in Michigan. All are important for our local ecosystems, and their decline has troubling consequences. Losing these species also means losing natural biodiversity and disrupting local environments. Many of the factors driving their decline are human-caused, like intensive farming, climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss.

So, how can you help these important, endangered or rare species? Get involved. Community science is one of the best ways to help revitalize these populations.

Questions? Contact Dan Kennedy at 517-896-2602.

Showcasing the DNR: Reeling in the years

Showcasing the DNR: Reeling in the years

Centennial banner

– Showcasing the DNR –

A close-up view of a fishing scene etched into the side of a vintage bait-casting fishing reel.

Showcasing the DNR

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

When I was a young kid growing up, I remember my dad had two fishing rods and reels he prized that I wasn’t allowed to touch.

One was for plunking worms into streams and creeks for brook, brown and rainbow trout. It was an old baitcasting rod that was shiny white, with yellow, black and red windings that held the silver guides in place.

The reel was silver and bore black, thick line that felt like a shoelace. The chrome on both sides of the reel was etched with a cool scene depicting two anglers in a boat, one with a fish on his line and the other moving a net into place.

The handles of the reel had a swirly design of deep brown set over a reddish-brown background. I was fascinated with this reel, and I still am. I have spent more than a few times studying the craftsmanship of the reel, turning it over, from side to side, in my hand.

When the line is pulled out, with the drag set, the reel makes a clicking sound I must have heard hundreds of times, if not more. I find the sound very comforting. I think it must be deep-seated in my being.

Some of my earliest memories of fishing include these types of reels that my dad and mom both used. My mom used to fish and hunt partridge with my dad, back in the days when we had an old 1960’s, white Chevrolet Impala.

The second fishing pole my dad had was a yellow Eagle Claw rod of more significant strength, used for fishing Lake Superior from shore. In the fall, the rod would be used angling for spawning coho and chinook salmon in local tributaries to the big lake.

My dad and his fishing buddy, a co-worker friend from his job at the post office, would also catch lake trout and the occasional coaster brook trout casting Little Cleos from the rocky ledges along those famously deep, cold waters.

They would often go fishing, but I was never allowed to come along. Most of the time, it was because I was in school when they would go out on Thursdays, my dad’s weekday off.

I remember often getting my hopes up. I used to think I should have been given a reprieve from school for the obviously important and hallowed activity of trout and salmon fishing.

No dice, kid.

Beyond school, I think my dad needed to have some quiet time fishing away from his job and the pressures of a household with a wife and four kids. I can see that easier now than I did back then.

The reel he used for this more substantial, though still considered intermediate, fishing rod was a Garcia Mitchell 306, open-faced spinning reel. This was a reel first issued in 1958, along with a similar 307 left-handed version for southpaws – like me.

I remember thinking that this reel looked massive to my young kid eyes – like it could haul in a shark.

I was used to the basic simplicity of a Zebco 202 rod and reel combo. These rods were inexpensive and available from the Coast-to-Coast hardware store a few blocks from home, downtown.

The rods were anything but kid-proof, prone to snapping easily, or having their tip-top guide broken off when encountering even the most basic kid calamities, like getting the pole stuck in the spokes of your bicycle wheel, or accidentally dragging the rod tip on blacktop when riding to the creek.

Thirteen years ago, this month, my dad died.

I have had his Eagle Claw rod and reel tucked away in storage since then, never using it once. I still have his baitcasting reel too, but I don’t know what happened to the rod that went with it. He didn’t have it during those latter years of his life.

I would never think of using the baitcasting reel. It’s too precious to me. It’s like a fine old pocket watch or compass, something possessing the mechanical secrets and craftsmanship of a bygone age.

It still bears the thick black line, and the etched fishing scene still glimmers.

Recently, after a good deal of agonizing, I decided that my dad would probably have wanted me to use his fishing rod now that he wasn’t needing it any longer.

I took it out for some Lake Superior casting, with a former co-worker friend of my own.

I removed the old, brittle line and replaced it. I fastened the reel to a different rod, leaving the Eagle Claw at home on the fishing rack. I would be crushed if I somehow damaged it.

Everything was working fabulously. The reel was performing well, launching my lure far out into the lake, then dragging it back smoothly and deeply on the retrieve.

All afternoon, I never got a bite, but it had been a long winter, already a long quarantine and a glorious afternoon out in the sunshine.

Before going home, my friend and I worked the mouth and far reaches of one of the tributaries, looking for an early and hungry spring steelhead.

Again, things were going swimmingly.

And then, unexpectedly, the line got caught underneath the spool and wrapped around the shaft of the reel. I hate when this happens.

I had to unscrew the cap shaft to lift out the spool to unwrap the line. When I did, the cap slipped between my fingers and fell to the ground. Like a camera lens cap I remember well from a bridge in Ontonagon County, it rolled a long, slow roll before plopping into the river.

The cap sunk out of sight, along with the brilliance of the idea to have used my dad’s fishing reel. I felt like an idiot. I also felt sorry.

At home, I decided to search Ebay for a replacement part for the reel. I found not only a spool, with an attached drive cap, but it also came with an original manual for the reel. The cost was only $12.

I got to thinking that the reel probably hadn’t been greased properly or oiled since who knows when. I didn’t know the manual would show me exactly how to do this, with pictures and everything.

So, while I waited for the mailman, I found a great tutorial on YouTube showing me the steps involved. I found pride in taking apart this reel, learning about it and digging out the old grease, which looked like Bit-O-Honey candy more than reel gear lubricant.

I employed the assistance of the Mool and the Tater – those tenacious twin stepdaughter teens of mine – to help me clean and dry the parts after I had taken the reel apart.

I was able to reassemble the reel with the help of the video, except for one tiny step that was missing because the man in the video moved his hand out of view of the camera, just at the precisely wrong time.

So, I waited a couple more days for the spool and manual to arrive. I was so excited to get that box in the mail. However, the excitement was short-lived when I realized the seller had forgotten to include the manual. One email and a few more days later, it arrived as splendidly as the Queen Mary.

The Mool and I pieced the reel back together. I think this was a nice time spent for both of us. Now, cleaned and restored, the reel is spinning freely and is ready for the next adventure.

Though I felt so embarrassed to have dropped the reel top, the experience that followed showed me things I wouldn’t have expected.

In a very tangible way, I realized the respect I still possess for my dad and his old fishing reel. I still felt responsible to fix something that wasn’t mine to break.

I felt my love for my dad as I took time and care to disassemble, grease and repair the fishing reel. I sensed that I was still honoring him, while passing on that example to my young stepdaughter.

It’s strange how life has lessons to teach even after you’re gone.

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

/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 – Reeling in the years

Reel: An old bait-casting reel with a fishing scene etched into the side from Dad’s old collection of fishing tackle./

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to
DNR announces Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman events

DNR announces Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman events

Centennial banner

– DNR News –

June 15, 2021

Contact: Michelle Zellar (BOW), 906-293-5131, Ext 4004, John Pepin (Media), 906-250-7260

DNR announces Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman events

One-day workshops help women experience outdoor recreation and education

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Becoming an Outdoors Woman program will offer a half-dozen Beyond BOW events this summer at various locations across Michigan.

The BOW program gives women, 18 and older, an opportunity to improve their outdoors skills in a relaxed, noncompetitive atmosphere. In addition to being fun to participate in, many of the BOW and Beyond BOW classes offer important outdoor skills, including knot-tying and finding your way with a compass and map.

Please take the BOW Participation Survey to provide important information that will help shape future BOW gatherings.

Here is a list of the upcoming Beyond BOW events:

  • July 24, 8 a.m. EDT. Women’s Hunter/Firearm Safety Workshop, Washtenaw Sportsman’s Club, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 This hunter education field-day course is an alternative to the traditional course. The hunter education information presented is the same as in the traditional course. However, the classroom portion is instead completed online. Students must present a copy of their certificate of completion (voucher) of the online course at the start of the field day. The online course is fee-based and can be taken at
  • July 24, Beginner Knot Tying and Map and Compass Workshops, Presque Isle Senior Pavilion, Presque Isle Park, Marquette, MI 49855 (Two separate courses) Participants will meet at the pavilion 15 minutes before class starts. PARTICIPANTS MAY ATTEND ONE OR BOTH CLASSES.
    • Beginner Knot Tying: 10 a.m. to noon EDT. In beginner knot tying, the instructor will demonstrate and teach how to tie various knots that are useful in the outdoors. This is a hands-on class, and you will be provided with rope for practice. Some of the knots demonstrated may include the overhand, square, half-hitch, trailer-hitch, bowline and figure eight. The focus of the workshop will be on foundational knots and knots with frequent usage in the outdoors, as well as others requested by participants.
    • Beginner Map and Compass: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT. There will be three components to the Map and Compass Class. First, we will learn the basics on how to successfully read a map, as well as learn the differences in types of maps and their appropriate usage. Second, we will learn the basics of compass usage and terminology. Lastly, we will put our new skills to practice in a hands-on compass course.
  • July 31, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. Belle Isle State Park pop-up event, Detroit. BOW Committee Members and Volunteer Instructors will have various demo classes available throughout the State Park for visitors on-site. There will be a welcome booth with program information, staff available for questions and a program suggestion boxThis event is free and does not require registration.
  • August 27-29, 2 p.m. EDT (registration). Independent Rustic Camping Workshop, Rivermouth Campground, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise. Participants will set up camp at the Group Camping Area at the Rivermouth Campground, located off M-123 in Chippewa County. All participants will camp and cook independently in our happy tent neighborhood. This is an opportunity to learn how to set up your own tent, start a fire, cook your food on a camp stove and filter your water in a supportive learning environment. Time to take the lead and become comfortable with all the various tasks required for a backcountry camping trip. Mentors will be available for assistance and will run mini clinics throughout the weekend to teach a specific skill or share an experience. This is a very hands-on trip. 

Registration materials for the Beyond BOW workshops are available at

The traditional June summer BOW workshop has been moved for this year to Sept. 10-12 at the Upper Peninsula Bible Camp on Farmer Lake in Little Lake, near Gwinn, rather than at the Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay.

Registration materials for the fall event are expected to be available in early July. Those signed-up for BOW email notifications will receive an email when event details and registration materials are available on the DNR website.

To keep up with the latest on BOW, sign-up for email notifications at You can also follow BOW on Facebook or Instagram.

For questions, contact BOW coordinator Michelle Zellar at or 906-293-5131 ext. 4004.

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to
DNR News: Great Lakes beach safety is key to state park visits

DNR News: Great Lakes beach safety is key to state park visits


Centennial banner

– DNR News –

June 15, 2021
Contact: Ron Olson, 517-243-1477

Great Lakes beach safety is key to great state park visits

red flagAs the summer heats up and people begin flocking to Great Lakes beaches, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urges everyone to keep water and pier safety in mind.

Holding more than 20% of the world’s fresh water, the Great Lakes are large, powerful water systems. These lakes reign supreme for many during warmer months, but they also are prone to dangerous currents that can threaten even the most experienced swimmer. Adverse weather patterns can create dangerous rip and structural currents along piers and breakwalls, too. Crashing waves can create slippery surfaces and conditions strong enough to knock a person into the water.

“The DNR eagerly welcomes millions of visitors to Michigan state parks each summer,” said Sean Mulligan, Holland State Park manager. “Visitors should keep in mind that winds can come up quickly, changing conditions without warning, so always pay attention to the weather. The Great Lakes can become very dangerous, especially when waves get higher than 4 feet.”

Unfortunately, several emergencies and drownings have occurred along the beach and breakwall areas. Many of these incidents happened during red flag days when the wind and waves are strong with greater potential for dangerous rip currents.

Of Michigan’s 100-plus state parks, 42 offer access to Great Lakes shoreline.

Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, said the increase in accidents and drownings on the Great Lakes in recent years is especially troubling and clear evidence that greater public awareness is needed. In particular, Grand Haven, Holland, Ludington and Mears state parks are situated in locations where rip currents tend to build and recurring safety hazards are present.

“When it comes to protecting Michigan residents and visitors on the water, especially the Great Lakes, we cannot talk enough about safety, preparation and vigilant awareness,” Olson said.

New safety measures at Holland State Park

Holland State Park, situated along Lake Michigan, is one of Michigan’s most-visited sites and provides the main access to a popular pier that is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. More recently, the DNR and the local community have collaborated on additional ways to alert visitors to changing Great Lakes and pier conditions.

This past fall, Holland State Park staff collaborated with Park Township and The King Company to fund the installation of a gate on the pier adjacent to Holland State Park. The goal is to help save lives by restricting access during harsh weather and to reduce the number of people jumping off the pier, while still allowing people to fish from the pier when feasible. Generally speaking, the gate will be closed during the winter, when the red flags are flying and during night hours when the park is closed.

In addition, an electronic messaging board conveying beach conditions is located where visitors enter Holland State Park, and a new public address system will be used to update beachgoers as the beach warning flags are changed in response to weather conditions. Visitors also can view live beach conditions at via livestream video courtesy of the City of Holland and Biggby Coffee. Conditions are posted on the park’s Facebook page at

River outlets and breakwalls

Dangerous currents can occur near the outlets of rivers and breakwalls, especially during times that water levels are higher.

For example, the mouth of the Big Sable River is located in Ludington State Park, but outside the designated swim area. In the past, swimmers have been swept out into Lake Michigan. This park also has installed an electronic bulletin messaging board at the entrance to the designated beach area to help alert visitors of current conditions.

In addition, swimmers should be aware of particularly dangerous structural currents that form along shoreline structures near breakwalls, such as in Mears State Park.

“When northwest winds appear, water is pushed to the shore causing dangerous currents along the north side of the pier,” said Chris Bush, lead ranger at Mears State Park. “People are often surprised that structures located in the Great Lakes can cause such powerful, and sometimes dangerous, currents.”

Using state park designated swim areas on the Great Lakes

Many, but not all, state parks on the Great Lakes offer designated swimming areas that are identified by buoys or buoys and markers, a beach flag warning system and water depth less than 5 feet at the time of installation. Water depth will be inspected approximately every 14 days and underwater obstacles will be posted or marked. You may also find other designated swim areas in areas other than state parks.

Check the flag upon arrival and be sure to monitor it throughout the day because conditions can change rapidly.

  • Green flag = Go. Enter the water but stay aware of changing conditions.
  • Yellow flag = Caution. Watch for dangerous currents and high waves.
  • Red flag = Stop. Stay on the beach; do not enter the water and do not swim.

There are no beach guards at state parks , so please never swim alone and keep close watch of children. Stay within arm’s reach and make sure all kids wear life jackets.

If there is an emergency, immediately call 911. At Holland and Grand Haven state parks, use the nearest red zone number boards (located on the beach) to help relay your location as accurately as possible.

State park designated swim areas have lifesaving flotation device and equipment. Remember the safety equipment on the beach or pier is for emergency use only; using this equipment for anything else is against the law.

Keep these additional cautions in mind when enjoying time in and around the Great Lakes:

  • Currents near piers can be extremely hazardous. Pay attention to the buoys marking the designated swim areas; swimming outside of the marked swim zones can be dangerous and should be avoided.
  • During certain weather conditions, the force of water and waves crashing over the surface can easily wash someone off a structure; always monitor the beach flag warning system.
  • Before leaving home, learn about the types of Great Lakes currents and how to escape them.
  • Check local weather reports and lake conditions before and during your beach trip.

Nondesignated swim areas on the Great Lakes

Visitors in areas without designated swim beaches should use extreme caution because they will not have the benefit of the beach flag warning system or the visual cautions of buoys that mark water depth and other obstacles.

More smart safety water tips

When swimming or boating in any body of water – whether the Great Lakes, inland lakes or slow-moving rivers and streams – make safety your first priority. Never swim alone, always keep close watch of children and bring U.S. Coast-Guard-approved life jackets, especially for new and inexperienced swimmers.

When boating, have life jackets available for everyone on the vessel, leave a float plan with someone on shore, stay alert and carry a cell phone or marine radio. Such planning goes for those on personal watercraft like Jet Skis and paddle boards, too. Learn boating safety.

More info

Visit to learn about the beach flag warning system, how to escape rip currents and more.

For more on overall beach and water safety at state parks throughout Michigan, contact Ron Olson at 517-243-1477 or For more information on Holland State Park, contact Sean Mulligan at 616-399-9390 or

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download.

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