The forest products industry supports 150,000 jobs, and contributes $14.6 billion annually to Michigan's economy.
Here in the Upper Peninsula - and Michigan - trees are more than a job. They are a way of life.
Recognizing this truth, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is encouraging public input on intentions for state forest habitat.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking to update its network of high conservation value areas (HCVAs), areas of state-managed lands that, among other values, contain rare or sensitive natural areas that add to the character of state forest land.
This update is in response to findings from the 2013 annual DNR forest certification audit regarding DNR conformance to forest certification standards.
Specifically, the update is necessary to maintain certification of the 4-million-acre state forest and to better meet standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship Council.
Meeting these standards is important to the local forest products industry, and should be for local residents as well.
The DNR has completed an evaluation to identify areas for updating two high conservation value areas categories: ecological reference areas (ERAs) and dedicated habitat areas (DHAs).
The dedicated habitat areas being considered are specifically for plant and animal species on DNR-managed lands that need areas of habitat in the core of a forest (away from forest edges) in order to survive.
The ecological reference areas are recognized primarily on DNR-managed lands, but may also include some federal-administered lands (such as national parks, lakeshores and national forests), local government-administered lands and conservancy lands.
The DNR is conducting a stakeholder and public review period on the proposed ecological reference areas and dedicated habitat areas, their attributes and management options.
All proposed areas are posted on the DNR website at: www.michigan.gov/forestcertification. Areas of Dickinson County would be affected.
The DNR is still working with federal and local ownerships as potential partners, which will likely result in additional ecological reference areas on non-DNR lands being identified and added to this website in the future.
Bill O'Neill, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division, said the feedback the department receives from the initial public review period (until Aug. 22) is an important part of the designation process.
"Successful management of Michigan's state forest land requires discussions with a variety of stakeholders," said O'Neill, who also serves as state forester. "We hope to receive many thoughtful comments regarding the proposed areas, which will help to ensure that our certified state forests continue to meet Michigan's recreation, economic and conservation needs and help to ensure that the state's rich biological heritage is conserved for future generations."
A public webinar is set for Aug. 13, to provide information and answer questions regarding the ERAs and DHAs.
For more information about the webinar or the proposed ERAs and DHAs, contact David Price, DNR forest planning and inventory unit supervisor, (email@example.com or 517-284-5891) or visit www.michigan.gov/forestcertification and click on Proposed Update of Ecological Reference Areas and Dedicated Habitat Areas.
People who have further comments or ideas regarding the proposed areas are encouraged to submit them via email to DNR-ForestCertificationComments@michigan.gov, or by mail to DNR Forest Resources Division, Forest Planning and Operations Section, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909-7952.
Comments will be accepted through Aug. 22.
After the initial public review period closes, the DNR will seek final approval of the plans by the DNR director at the September and October 2014 Natural Resources Commission meetings.
We urge area residents to make their feelings on these proposed areas known.