All posts by Kelcie Sweeney

Conservation Reserve Program & Hunting Access Program

Katie Hafner, NFWF Soil Conservationist

The national Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP-general sign up deadline has currently been extended without a cut-off date. Landowners who are interested in enrolling should contact the Farm Service Agency office in their county. The long-time goal of CRP is to convert crop ground into permanent vegetation letting the ground rest, the soil recover, and create wildlife habitat. The program provides annual rental payments per acre as well as 50% cost share to establish the cover. Currently for 2021 sign ups, there is no cost share available for the 2026 mid-contract activity that is meant to restore diversity to the planting. Contracts are generally 10 years.

While this program is competitive, offers are ranked based on different factors. Planting a variety of native grasses and wildflowers or adding a permanent component like trees can score higher points and better the chances of getting accepted.

While there is some cost share to help participants establish the grass, there is another opportunity to get seed and planting costs paid for.

The Hunting Access Program, or HAP, is a statewide program run by the Michigan DNR and managed through the local conservation district offices. HAP provides financial incentives to private landowners who allow hunters access to their lands. Landowners can choose the game species, seasons, and number or hunters who are able to enter the property. The DNR is currently accepting new land offers in Clinton County; interested landowners interested should contact the Clinton Conservation District. Contracts generally are annually renewed.

Did you know that CRP land can also be enrolled in HAP? Crop ground that is converted to grasses through CRP and is receiving an annual rental payment from USDA can also receive an additional annual payment if it is in the HAP program. CRP contracts allow for 50% cost share reimbursement for establishment. But, if that field also allows for some public hunting, the DNR can also reimburse some leftover expenses. Also, HAP ground can also receive reimbursement for the mid-contract activity that would normally be up to the landowner to complete.

This opportunity is not only for new CRP ground or applications, current and long time contracts are also eligible to participate in both programs.

Want to help farmers with conservation? Join our team!

Kelcie Sweeney, Executive Director

CONSERVATION TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE INITIATIVE (CTAI) SOIL CONSERVATIONIST POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT

The Clinton Conservation District and Conservation Technical Assistance Initiative (CTAI) Program is seeking interested applicants to serve as a CTAI Soil Conservationist serving Clinton, Eaton and Ionia counties. The position will be located in St. Johns, Michigan.  The individual will be employed by the Clinton Conservation District and the workstation will be located with the St Johns Michigan field office of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  The work will be performed under the technical guidance of the NRCS District Conservationist. The applicant must possess a Bachelor of Science Degree in a natural resource or agriculture related field. Coursework MUST include at least 12 semester hours in soils and plant or crop science (must have at least 3 hours of a soils course and 3 hours of a plant or crop science course).

The CTAI Soil Conservationist will focus on practice implementation and construction inspection.  The position will have responsibility to work with individuals in the agricultural community to implement a variety of agricultural practices that are funded under the 2018 Farm Bill.  These practices may include, but are not limited to, pest management, nutrient management, prescribed grazing, irrigation water management, and tree/shrub establishment.  The position will also work with landowners on risk reduction assessment and implementation for environmental stewardship.

Starting pay rate will be dependent on experience $19-21/hr.  Benefit package includes paid holidays, sick leave, and a flex plan.  A valid Michigan driver’s license is required.  Please see full position description below.

Interested applicants should submit a resume, transcripts, references, and a cover letter electronically no later than 4:30 p.m. on April 30, 2021 to Kelcie Sweeney, Executive Director: kelcie.sweeney@macd.org . Applications will be reviewed as they are received; applications received by the deadline will receive priority.

Trimming Oak Trees- A Chore That Can Wait

Katie Hafner, NFWF Soil Conservationist

The presence of oak wilt (OW) had been confirmed in 61 counties in Michigan alone. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that affects oak trees not only in Michigan, but all around the US. It is a fatal disease that affects mainly oaks in the red oak family: red oak, black oak, pin oak (the oaks with the pointy leaves). White oaks can also contract the fungus but are more likely to live. In the last 50 years, oak wilt has spread greatly in Michigan counties- including those in mid-Michigan. OW is present and spreading in Clinton County. Suspect trees should be located and reported to the MDNR using this online tool. While always fatal, the spread of this disease can be slowed by following a few guidelines.

Photo provided by: Michigan Oak Wilt Coalition

Do not prune/cut/trim live oak trees from April 15-July 15 as this is the high-risk period to for the fungus to spread.

During the spring and summer months, when oaks are damaged, sap beetles are attracted to the sweetness of the open wound on the tree. If those beetles are carrying the OW fungus, that tree will most likely be infected. From that point on, the tree is terminally ill and death is almost certain. Leaves will begin to “wilt” turning brown and falling as early as 2 weeks after infection. Death can occur as soon as 5-6 weeks.

In addition to spread by the sap beetles, infected trees that touch roots with healthy trees underground, spreading the fungus.

The easiest and cheapest way to control oak wilt is to prevent it.

The Michigan Oak Wilt Coalition has some great articles, photos, and guides. Their website also has contact information for OW certified foresters who can assist in determining whether or not trees are infected. In addition, MSU offers many articles on OW. The Clinton Conservation District is also here to help.

Stay tuned! The Clinton Conservation District is planning a fall workshop focusing on oak wilt. This field-based event will feature industry educators that can help you diagnose OW and give options for treatment, as well as the current extent of spread in the county and surrounding areas. Please email info@clintonconservation.org with interest in this event so we can keep you informed.

Mid-Michigan CISMA is hiring Field Crew members

Also known as: MM-CISMA

The Clinton Conservation District is a founding member of the Mid-Michigan Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA, pronounced sizz-mah).

The Mid-Michigan CISMA provides education and outreach, surveying, and treatment of invasive species in Ingham, Clinton, Eaton, and Ionia counties. These field crew positions will help support those efforts this summer locally. You’ve been stuck inside too long, spend your summer outdoors!

Please see Announcement below for application instructions.

Visit www.inghamconservation.com for more information about the Mid-Michigan CISMA.

Mid-Michigan CISMA 2021 Municipal Training

Thursday February 25th 10-2:30pm, virtually held via ZOOM, RUP credits available

These trainings are great opportunities for staff from parks departments, drain and road commissions, public works, utilities, city garden volunteers, county and township boards, and anyone interested in invasive species and their management! Anyone is welcome to attend.

Register Here! 

 This session will have two separate tracks following an introduction from the CISMA Coordinator. The in-the-field track will focus on identification of priority species, best management practices, and decontamination of field equipment. The manager track will focus on the public health and economic concerns of invasive species as well as take a look at how local ordinances are being used to fight invasive plants on the municipal level. 

Each course will also offer an MDARD pesticide applicator re-certification credit! Registrants in one of the four CISMA counties will also be eligible to pick up a “swag bag” of accompanying materials at their local Conservation District office.*

*Register before February 12th to reserve a bag.

To diversify or not: red cedar & crabapple trees

Eric Bak, MAEAP Technician

It’s still the middle of winter, but not very far off, spring will be sneaking around the corner.  We will have had enough of the snow and cold.  We will be looking forward to the warming air and emergence of different plants and flowers.  Now is a good time to think about Spring and planning some conservation practices on your property.  Maybe you would like to plant a wind break, a plot for wildlife or a space for a pollinator planting.  Depending on the size of land available there are many options to consider.  Sometimes it is nice to have a native planting for the value of different beneficial insects.  Many times, homeowners will want to establish some ornamental plants and trees to sharpen up the look of their property.  Planting conifer trees are always nice as they hold their color year around.  They also provide harborage for birds and wildlife.

Apple spots

Diversity in planting trees is a good consideration due to the potential of disease or invasive insects.  If all of your planting is of one species and an outbreak occurs, they all could be infected in a few years.  Many times, different conifer and deciduous trees are mixed together to have a nice aesthetic appearance.  However, there are some species of trees that should not be planted in the same vicinity of each other.  One combination of trees that do not belong near each other is the Red Cedar and the Crabapple or Apple. 

When these trees are near each other they are susceptible to cedar apple rust.  This is a fungal disease that needs both the juniper and apple tree to exist.  This is somewhat of a complex disease that requires a two year life-cycle.  Spores overwinter as a reddish-brown gall on the twigs of juniper species.  In early spring during wet weather, these galls swell, and bright orange masses of spores are blown by the wind.  They then infect susceptible apple and crabapple trees.  The spores that develop on these apple trees will only infect junipers the following year.  From year to year, the disease must pass from junipers to apples to junipers again.  It will not and can not spread between apple trees alone.

Cedar gall

On crab-apple and apple trees, look for the pale-yellow pinhead sized spots on the upper surface of the leaves shortly after bloom.  These gradually enlarge to bright orange yellow spots which make the disease easy to identify.  Orange spots may develop on the fruit as well.  Heavily infected leaves may drop prematurely.  On juniper trees, look for orange fungal fruiting bodies that have a sticky rubbery texture.

For more information:

Cedar-apple rust:  A tale of a fungal disease with two hosts

https://www.canr.msu.edu/ipm/diseases/cedar_apple_rust

Keep in touch with nature this winter

Adelyn Geissel, Conservation Program Assistant

You may be wondering, “How do I do that when it’s cold out and there is snow on the ground?” Option one: just get outside! There is a Scandinavian saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. So, if you dress appropriately for the weather, it is easy to enjoy a walk in the snowy woods or through town. Temperature-dependent combinations of layers, a good coat, hat/gloves/scarf, and well-fitting boots or shoes with good traction are all it takes to enjoy being outside this winter. You’ll only be cold for the first couple minutes, so if you push past that, you’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air and see how winter changes the landscape!

Source: https://www.weather.gov/grb/winter0

Option Two: Garden!

If the outdoors in wintertime is not for you, why not start planning a garden for the spring? January and February are perfect times to start going through seed catalogs and writing up a garden plan. If you buy seeds through a catalog, you’ll need to plan in time for them to ship and arrive to you before you need to plant them (and let’s be honest, after this recent holiday season, I’m sure most of us have run into some shipping delays!).

My current favorite seed catalogs

You don’t need to have a lot of space for a garden either. Have a small apartment balcony? Use containers! No available outdoor space? Maybe a window herb garden is right for you! If you have space outside, raised garden beds, containers, or something more large-scale could fit in perfectly. There is also the option of getting a plot at a community garden. The options are wide open enough for any budget, skill, or time demands!

You don’t even have to wait for spring to plant some seeds. I am currently growing a variety of lettuce in my Aerogarden and have plans to grow some microgreens in the next couple weeks to add to salads or smoothies. Watching something green growing can also help get you through the grey days of winter and can be very relaxing to take care of and water.

My Aerogarden with the current batch of lettuce growing

Whatever you decide to do, a daily dose of nature can help to get you through the long Michigan winter. I love being outside in the winter – not only is it a great workout, but I get to see how much the landscape changes with snow on the ground. Some days, the snow sparkles brightly, falls quietly, crunches loudly, or turns into slush. No two days are the same in the winter and it is exciting to see those changes when you take a good look around. And on the days when it is just too cold to get outside, it is fun to start planning what I will be planting in my garden once the weather warms up. So, get out (or stay inside) and enjoy some nature this winter!

Bonus note: if you hoard seed packets like I do, organization is key. I recently found out about using 4×6 photo boxes (easily found at most craft stores) to store seed packets. They work like a charm and should help keep water off the packets as I take the container out to the garden in the spring!

Great storage solution for multiple seed packets

Preparing for Beekeeping 2021- Now is the time!

Katie Hafner, District Soil Conservationist

For some, beekeeping is a fun and rewarding hobby. For others, it can become a successful and profitable business. Anyone thinking of starting with a hive, or two, can agree that it can be overwhelming. The books, videos, stories, gear, expense… there are so many aspects of it. Where to begin?

Before getting bees, the first thing to do is research. Beekeeping can be simple, but there are a lot of components to be health, social interactions, timing, and habitat. It takes months to prepare for bees. Being unprepared for your first season can be disastrous. Now is the time to start; bee ordering for 2021 has already begun!

Reading books is a great way to start. Here are a few books worth checking out that are highly rated and recommended:

Use the internet. YouTube is a great way to learn from others and to see how things are physically done. Seeing how other handle hives and move bees is important and can give you tips and confidence for when you do it for the first time. Videos can help you learn the names of tools and equipment that the books are referencing. Also, joining a Facebook groups are a great way to get involved with the beekeeping community. Beekeeping Basics and Beekeepers in Michigan are two good ones. Michigan State University Beekeeping on Facebook offers tips and free webinars.

Get a mentor. Michigan has many beekeeping clubs around the state that always welcome newcomers or observers. Additionally, most experienced beekeepers will never turn down a chance to teach a skill to someone new. The Michigan Bees website is a helpful source in locating a bee club to reach out to.

After a winter of researching, it’s time to get some hives and buy some bees. Good luck, beeK!

Here are some pictures from my first year.

One of the coolest things about having hives is running into your bees around the yard.

Depending on how the spring and summer go, extraction in year one is possible! The bees may not always produce enough honey in the first year. As a beekeeper, it’s important to only take the bee’s extra honey to make sure the bees have produced enough honey to get them through the winter months. For boxes my size, the bottom two big boxes should be their honey. The smaller honey supers on the top are extras so they can be extracted and be bottled. I decided to extract because my supers were full and my dad couldn’t build me more in time. If the bee boxes stay completely full, you run the risk of them swarming and leaving to find a bigger home to expand. I extracted once in August and once at the end of the season and got around 100lbs total!

Thinking of starting yourself? Feel free to contact me at the office. I am happy to offer advice or point you towards someone who can!

Little Brown Bat - WNS

Bats on the decline, but why?

Cheyanne Boucher, Conservation Technician

As winter approaches many animals start to look for a comfy home to hibernate in, bats being one of them. Bats are known for being a great pollinator species, but most of all they are known to eat millions of insects each year, mosquitos being a large majority of them. Michigan is home to nine species of bats, two threatened, one endangered, and one of special concern. Unfortunately, many more bat species are on their way to becoming a threated species due to a deadly disease called white-nose syndrome.

In 2007 white-nose syndrome (WNS) was first discovered in caves near Albany, New York. It was then discovered in Northern Michigan in 2014. Currently, four of the nine Michigan species are affected by it, one of them being the endangered Indiana bat. In the US alone it has killed over 5 million bats to date, with some sites having anywhere from 90-100 percent die offs.

Little Brown Bat; close up of nose with fungus, New York, Oct. 2008. Credit: Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that grows in cold, dark, and damp places, like caves. Infected bats look like they have white fuzzies all over their nose, hence the name. It primarily affects bats during hibernation causing frequent wake ups, thus using up the bats fat reserves faster which in return cause starvation.

There is currently no definitive treatment for bats infected with WNS, so the best thing humans can do is try to prevent the spread of it. Bats are infected by coming in contact with the fungus. This could be just bat-to-bat contact, or the fungus being on the walls in mines and caves. To help stop the spread, anyone entering a mine or a cave should clean their equipment, clothing, and shoes before and after entering. Hopefully with our help, and a little bit of science, we can help save bats from this devastating disease.

For more information on White-nose syndrome visit:

https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/static-page/bats-affected-by-wns

https://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/0,4579,7-186-76711_78213—,00.html

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79135_79218_79619_84901—,00.html