Owning property is such a blessing… Resources for being a great steward of your land

Katie Hafner, Soil Conservationist

Owning property is such a blessing! But it comes with responsibilities.

Growing up in town, I spent most of my youth walking down to the creek and fishing under the bridge, asking for permission on nearby woodlots, or stomping around public land (an almost 30-minute drive!). I just bought a house on 70 wooded acres. I finally have hunting, fishing, and exploring land all to myself, and although I know a fair deal about wildlife biology and habitat management, I have been overwhelmed with all there is to do to “maintain” my land. I have drawn maps, read books, and sought advice anywhere I can find it. 

There are several things I have found to be helpful in my quest to be a better steward of my land:

Get a forest management plan.

Walking your forest is a great start.

A forest management plan, or FMP, is an inventory and management guide that can be written specifically for your property by a qualified forester. They can help you identify the key features of your forest/land, point out any invasive species or potential threats, develop a plan towards your specific goals, and point you to any potential grants or funding that may be available to get all this done. There is cost share to get one of these plans! The Natural Resource Conservation Service (located with FSA and the Conservation District) can help you apply for funds cover the cost of one of these plans. Contact your local USDA service center for more details. Clinton County– 989-224-3720 

Join a local group or co-op.

I am involved in the Maple River Wildlife Association. This group is a Michigan United Conservation Clubs member and we work on local habitat projects, help educate youth and veterans about natural resources, and swap hunting and habitat successes and failures once a month at our meetings. There I have gained knowledge and tips on how to better manage my own property. There are several other groups in the area that have the same goals!

Look around on the MSU Extension website.

Every week, MSU Extension experts publish a variety of articles online that pertain to forests. Some articles apply to my property more than others, but they are always worth the read. All the information can be found here.

Fruiting bodies of a fungus that feeds on decaying wood

Buy some field guides.

What better way to get to know your property than to try and figure it out yourself? It is worth the money to buy Michigan-specific guides. Sometimes generic publications don’t identify plants or animals to the species. For beginners, the “Peterson Field Guides” are a great start.

Talk to your neighbors.

There are wonderful people in my community that have lived in my township all their lives. It is amazing to find out what they know about your land, and what it looked like 50 years ago!

Actually get out and explore!

Take the time to turn off the TV and get to know your land. Go out with your guides and a camera. Try new hunting spots, dig some holes, go out before dawn, take notes. 

I guarantee the more you know about your land, the more you will fall in love with it.