Advisers get training on helping owners protect forests

Lansing — State experts will provide training for professional land managers in Michigan with a goal of helping private forestland owners avoid practices that cause soil erosion and degrade water quality.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday announced $1 million in funding for the five-year project.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will help train 450 foresters and wildlife biologists, who in turn will work with landowners. The workshops will show how to harvest timber and conduct other forest management activities in sustainable ways.

DNR forest stewardship coordinator Mike Smalligan said about 400,000 people own a combined 12 million acres of forest in Michigan.

“This project will allow us to reach and help landowners meet their goals to ensure their forest land is properly managed for current and future generations,” Smalligan said in a statement.

Under the project, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will expand financial assistance to forest owners, mostly by funding conservation practices on the land.

Problems with soil erosion, soil quality and water quality are more common on agricultural land used for growing crops, but they also have been identified as issues in Michigan forests, said Andy Henriksen the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s state forester.

“The primary cause of the concerns on forest land is recreational use or management activities that utilize poorly designed forest trails or inadequate stream crossings,” Henriksen said.

Forest landowners interested in obtaining funding to implement conservation practices on their forest land must have an approved forest management plan.