MARQUETTE - State governmental agencies and local conservation districts recently began partnering on a new initiative aimed at increasing active management of private forest land owned by individuals.
The conservation districts are working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on the Forestry Assistance Program.
Organizers said the goal of the collaboration - bringing together landowners, conservation districts and private forestry consultants - is to boost the sustainable management of Michigan's private forests.
"Michigan is rich in forest resources managed by private ownership," said Jamie Clover Adams, DARD director. "This partnership will further cultivate the relationships between state government, conservation districts, private landowners and private consulting foresters in the management of these untapped lands to increase the growth of timber products."
Conservation district officials said there are 11 million acres of non-industrial private forest land in Michigan. A survey conducted by Michigan State University of those private forest landowners concluded that only 20 percent of that resource is being actively managed for specific forestry outcomes.
There are 13 local conservation district foresters in 31 counties, including Marquette and Alger counties, who will provide on-site technical assistance to assess forest land quality and potential. The foresters will then work with landowners to identify their forest objectives for their land. Working through an established local network of private consultants, agency staff, industry representatives, timber buyers and conservation organizations, the conservation district foresters and landowners will plan a course of action to best meet those objectives.
"This program is different because it encourages landowners to first work with their local conservation district foresters to discuss and map out goals, and then bring in the private forest consultants for planning and work on the land," DNR Director Keith Creagh said. "It's an approach that addresses the information needs of the private landowners, supports the consulting forestry industry, and brings more product to market for the timber industry."
Conservation districts will host workshops and field days to showcase forest management opportunities throughout Michigan.
"Conservation districts stand ready to deliver this initiative," said Art Pelon, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts President. "Districts are the trusted local resource for natural resource assistance and we are pleased to be partnering with MDARD and the DNR on this program to address the significant forest resource held by non-industrial private landowners in Michigan."
For more information on other assistance and stewardship programs that private landowners can consider in managing their forests, visit the DNR website at www.www.michigan.gov/mdard/0,4610,7-125-1566_2311-286087-,00.html. In Marquette County, contact Matt Watkeys at the Marquette County Conservation District at 226-2461 ext 128, in Alger County at the Alger Conservation District 387-2222 or visit the forestry pages at www.marquettecd.org.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.