MIchigan website’s focus: forest habitat projects
Lansing — A new state website soon will allow residents and outdoorsmen to review habitat improvement work through a point-and-click map, with markers for fisheries, wildlife, and forest management programs.
State DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason said officials hope to unveil a new website this spring that will give residents easy access to information on a variety of projects on Michigan’s public lands, such as plantings, managed forest clearings, and wildlife management programs on state game areas.
The site is an effort to increase transparency in DNR operations, Mason said, and to provide the public with more access to important programs and volunteer opportunities.
“A lot of what goes on is not known by the people of the state,” Mason said.
Officials plan to launch the website with basic details of each habitat project, such as the cost, type, and location, but officials hope to eventually offer a wider variety of information and more in-depth descriptions, Mason said.
“One thing people want us to put up is an explanation for why” the work is important, Mason said. “We’re trying to figure out how we do that … without building something that is too cumbersome.”
Bob Doepker, DNR special project biologist, is developing the website, which he said is expected to be presented to the Natural Resources Commission at its March 8 meeting in Lansing. Officials want to go live with the website this spring, Mason said.
Currently, information on the site includes primarily data on wildlife management work, timber sales, dam removals, and fish-passage projects on public lands only, Doepker said. Visitors to the website will be able to review data organized by region, county, or DNR administrative unit, he said.
“This is kind of a new concept, because we’re trying to make information much more available on what we do and why we do it,” Doepker said. “In the future, we will probably be putting projects on the site for private lands as well.”
Officials plan to eventually incorporate photos and narrative-type descriptions of habitat improvement sites to better explain the reasoning behind each project, including the species of plants or animals that benefit from the work, according to Doepker.
The DNR’s acting Lake Michigan basin coordinator, Jay Wesley, said fisheries data on the website initially will include dam-removal projects done directly by DNR officials and with partner agencies and other construction-type work like culvert replacements, fish ladders, and rock ramps installed for fish passage.
Feedback from DNR and conservation officials on the test website has been encouraging, Wesley said.
“I would imagine we can expand it to any type of management we’re doing … so you could look at things like fish stocking the same way,” he said.