ESCANABA - There are a lot of conservation projects that take place each year, many are sponsored through wildlife/conservation organizations in cooperation with government agencies.
Some of these projects involve private land and there is an exclusive program that has been seeing some good participation in dealing with wildlife habitat, and in particular, that which is related to the whitetailed deer.
The funding for these projects is derived from a source that was part of an amended law, Public Act 106 of 1971. It created the Deer Range Improvement (DRIP) Fund, and earmarks $1.50 from each deer hunting license sold in Michigan toward financing these varied projects.
Here in the Upper Peninsula, there is an additional program that targets projects on private land and utilizes $50,000 a year for a Deer Habitat Improvement Partnership Initiative (DHIPI).
DHIPI is not only in place to pay for projects, it includes exposure as an educational tool for private land owners who may have not paid close attention to the needs of wildlife on their respective lands.
According to DHIPI Coordinator, Biologist Bill Scullon, "it is a Grant program designed to foster productive relationships between the MDNR, sportsmen's organizations, concerned citizens and other partners that produce tangible deer habitat improvement benefits and educate the public on the importance of the work and the scientific principles involved in it."
There are three fundamental goals outlined in the DHIPI criteria:
* To produce tangible on-the-ground deer habitat (summer and/or winter range) improvement in the UP that address resource needs.
* To establish/improve partnerships with sportsmen's organizations and other partners, that will promote long-term cooperative relationships with the MDNR.
* To show these cooperative projects through coordinated public relations media outreach. This communication strategy must address two targeted goals - to educate the general public on specific importance and benefits of the particular habitat improvement project and to feature the cooperative relationship between the MDNR and various program partners.
The minimum project consideration is $2,000 and cannot exceed $10,000 each.
With only approximately 15 percent of the public being involved with hunting, it is an important testimonial to the non-participating public that we are good stewards of the resource and are deserving of their support.
The program also indicated that to be eligible to participate in this initiative, an application must be submitted from a conservation organization, sportsmen's group, non-governmental organization or some local Conservation District(s).
Here is where small individual land owners can collectively participate.
Along with general forest management practices, there are smaller efforts to enhance natural sustainability of wildlife that have shown success.
As an example, the Bay de Noc Gobblers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation started an initiative several years ago that utilized the planting of fruit bearing trees on private land. The type of tree used held its fruit on the branch longer, going into the winter months and assisted wildlife with another natural food source.
While it was mostly targeted for the wild turkey, the benefits overlap to other species, including whitetails. While putting several trees onto one parcel would not reach the minimal requirements for the grant, a cumulative score of those who decided to participate and signed up with the BDNG/NWTF made the total project eligible.
You may have a forest parcel in need of a wildlife opening. Again, considering that the cost may or may not meet the enough minimum requirements, partnering up with others through organizations like UP Whitetails Association Inc., may pull them all together as one and enhance the appeal of those who decide which applications are accepted.
There is no requirement to have a certified forest management plan in place, however, there does need to be a definitive strategy involved with the project.
There are local designated MDNR staff available to coach applicants considering participation. The basic application also addresses the basic criteria requirements.
The application period is now open with a final deadline of March 31.
Successful applicants will be notified of their respective selection on or about April 14, 2012.
All projects must be completed by the end of the MDNR fiscal year, October 1, 2012.
Complete application packages including: application forms, Initiative description and requirements, and related materials are available upon request from the Initiative Biologist Bill Scullon, at the MDNR Norway Field Office, 520 West US Hwy 2, Norway, MI 49870, telephone (906)563-9247 or fax (906)563-5802n or e-mail Scullonh@michigan.gov.
Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.