Under an agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recently awarded grants to Conservation Districts across the state to provide education and one-on-one technical assistance to private land owners and to communities regarding local forest health issues.
In the Upper Peninsula, professional foresters working out of five district offices are providing coverage for 11 counties, including Iron, Dickinson and Menominee.
The purpose of the program is to assist Conservation Districts in their efforts to help Michigan citizens better understand, plan, manage, protect and utilize their forest resources.
"The way that we do this is to increase the active management on non-industrial private forests by providing outreach to the landowners," said Tyler Wood, the Forestry Assistance Program (FAP) forester serving Iron and Baraga counties.
A survey conducted by Michigan State University of non-industrial private forest landowners in Michigan concluded that only 20 percent of the 11-million acre resource is actively managed.
"We are trying to increase the number of landowners and acres that are managed under a sustainable forestry management plan across the state," Wood explained. "We are an information resource for landowners. We are here to help landowners better understand forestry programs available."
Workshops and free on-site or in-office visits with forest landowners are offered to talk about the management opportunities and programs available. During the site visit, the landowner will get a brief assessment of their property, an aerial photo, and information about various programs available to them.
FAP also offers a referral service to connect landowners with private consultants to help them reach their goals. FAP foresters will not write plans or charge the landowners any fee.
"We will work to get them in contact with the appropriate natural resource professional to accomplish work on their property to reach the goals of the landowner," Wood said. That might include getting in contact with a consulting forester, tree planter, tax professional or others.
"The reason this program exists is to help increase non-industrial private forest management to enhance wildlife habitat, make a healthier forest, and encourage the economic growth associated with forests in Michigan," Wood said. "This service is meant to lend a helping hand to the landowner to follow them through the processes of getting sustainable management on their land."
Forest management can include many different activities, said Bradley Sauve, the FAP forester serving Dickinson and Menominee counties. "These activities are based on your goals and objectives for the your forest," Sauve said. "We can also provide information about various programs that offer cost share or tax incentive programs for activities on your forest land, such as Farm Bill Forest practices, DNR Forest Stewardship Plans, Qualified Forest Program, Commercial Forest Program and Tree Farm Certification."
Wood's office is located in the Iron County Courthouse-Conservation District Office in Crystal Falls. He can be contacted by phone at (906) 875-3765 or email at email@example.com.
Sauve can be contacted at the Dickinson Conservation District, 102 N Hooper Street, Kingsford, or by phone at (906) 774-8441 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.