Category Archives: Uncategorized

Burnin’ for Spring

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

Like most jobs in the field of conservation, my day to day work is largely dependent on the weather and therefore the season.  Spring means it’s time to start habitat work and the tree sale is in full swing. Most of our habitat work revolves around out priority species, which are pheasants, pollinators such as bees and monarchs, and rabbits. It also means spending time refreshing myself on what different ecological elements make ideal habitat for our priority species and species our customers are commonly asking about. This entails learning about the characteristic of the trees and grass varieties involved in our various projects. Habitat management, however, extends far beyond just ensuring the right vegetation is in place and sometimes calls for unique approaches to enhancing the habitat. One of these tools for enhancing prairie habitat happens to be fire.

While typically thought of as a threat to our environment, fire is a naturally occurring part of Michigan’s ecosystem that has been phased out due to human involvement. Nowadays we induce the favorable effects of fire through what is referred to as a controlled or prescribed burn.  Unlike the wildfires that historically thrashed their way across the unsettled Michigan landscape, fires today are completed by trained professionals and move slowly across the ground leaving most small trees and shrubs. Specially trained crews wait until weather conditions are perfect in terms of things like humidity and wind direction, then they burn the intended area that is surrounded by “burn breaks” or barriers that the fire cannot cross.

Fire (prescribed burns) can have different benefits depending on the ecosystem and time of year. For example, in a prairie ecosystem, a fall burn will favor the regeneration of wildflower species while a spring burn will favor the regeneration of grasses. In addition, fire is an effective way to treat invasive species since many of them come from areas where fire is not common. The fires burn slow enough and with a low intensity which allows most animals adequate time to escape the fire. In most cases, the fires give birds and other wildlife access to the insects underneath. This is especially true with species such as pheasant and woodcock.

Currently, we’re in the process of prepping sites for this year’s habitat work. On three of our sites, including the prairie at Clinton Lakes Park, this means prepping for burns which will take place sometime in the next two weeks (weather permitting). Completing the burns in the spring minimizes the potential negative impacts on wildlife while maximizing the benefits to plants. Pheasants have not yet began nesting during this time of year and won’t start nesting until after the vegetation has already regrown. The purpose of these burns is to help promote native diversity and get rid of non-native species. Plants are also just starting to awaken from their winter dormancy and flourish after burns due to warmer soil temperatures and lack competition for light and other resources. Watch for habitat management activities at the Clinton Lakes Park during the next few weeks!

Contact Seth Gibson by email at or by calling 989-534-3106

Keeping a Long-Distance Relationship With Wildlife

Keeping a Long-Distance Relationship With Wildlife

Katie Hafner, NFWF Soil Conservationist,

Spring is the time for new life. But, what should you do when you see a fawn all alone in your backyard or forest? It may seem surprising, but the best thing to do is leave it alone. Every spring the DNR receives numerous calls on “abandoned” fawns that need rescuing. It is easy for us as humans to sympathize with a newborn animal that is all alone. But try not to think anthropomorphically. The white-tailed deer is equipped with adaptations that will help them survive, even while laying solo in the woods.

White-tailed deer fawns are born without scent; this keeps them from being detected while alone without their mother there to protect them. Fawns are also born with spots that provide camouflage. These adaptations tuck them into the forest perfectly so predators don’t spot them. Mothers remember their location and come back frequently to nurse.

“But what if I have watched it for over 24 hours and the mother seemed to have abandoned it?”

Often, after humans hang around an area for too long, the mother distances herself for her own safety. So, you may be the cause of your own dilemma! A doe can smell very well and are apprehensive to return to their young if human scent in the area.

Another factor to consider that since May 2015, Chronic Wasting Disease has been confirmed in this area. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects cervids (deer, elk, moose) by misfolded proteins called prions attacking the central nervous system of the animal creating lesions in the body, eventually resulting in death. It is spread by animal-to-animal contact through saliva, urine, feces, and blood.

For this reason, rehabilitation of sick deer and “abandoned” fawns is prohibited in the CWD zones. Taking an unhealthy deer out of its environment and introducing it into a population of captive or otherwise healthy deer is a potential for disaster. Much is still to be learned about this disease, but it is known to spread fast and is fatal.

Saving a stranded fawn can be done with the best intentions, but these restrictions are put in place to ensure the safety of the white-tailed deer population as a whole. Local rehabilitation rescues, as well as the DNR, can’t take fawns that have been rescued for any reason in our county, and are put down when brought in.

White-tailed deer have adapted to grow and thrive in Michigan- trust their survival skills! They evolved to be equipped with the right biological tools to survive on their own. Wild animals get along just fine in most cases without human intervention. The best help comes from keeping that long-distance relationship to “keep wildlife WILD.”

For more information on this topic, visit

2018 Annual Report

2018 Annual Report

The Clinton Conservation District is a local unit of government run by an elected Board of Directors. The District puts out a yearly report on all financials, projects and achievements to increase transparency and inform residents. Please let us know if you have any questions!   — Kelcie Sweeney, Executive Director

Maple River RCPP Cost Share Funding Available

A new 5-year conservation program is coming to the Maple River Watershed. The Maple River Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is bringing nearly $600,000 in conservation funding to farmers in the watershed to improve fish habitat and water quality.

Increasing water infiltration on agricultural lands reduces surface runoff of sediment and nutrients from fields and provides more stable temperatures for fish in rivers and streams. Cost-share funding supports agricultural practices that increase groundwater replenishment such as irrigation water management, drainage water management and water control structures, residue and tillage management practices, grassed waterways, and filter strips.

Conservation financial assistance for the project is provided through the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Targeted funding is allocated for applicants in the Maple RCPP as opposed to competing with producers statewide. The first sign-up will be announced this spring. Contact our office to learn more or visit This program is administered by the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in collaboration with 12 other conservation and agricultural partners.

2019 Spring Newsletter & Tree Sale Order Forms Now Available

There’s lots happening this spring at the Clinton Conservation District — we have NEW habitat projects, workshops and technicians!  Learn more in our newsletter: Spring 2019 Newsletter 

The District’s 2019 Spring Tree Sale order form and information are linked below.  Try our online ordering at

2019 Tree Sale Information

2019 Spring Tree Order Form

As always, feel free to give our office a call with any questions or to place your order over the phone 989-224-3720 x5

Board Member Nominations

We are currently accepting petitions for nominations for a one-year term as a board member for the Clinton Conservation District. Stop in the office to pick up a petition if you or someone you know is interested in serving on our board. All petitions are due back to the office by January 9th, 2019. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions.

64th Annual Meeting

It’s time for the Clinton Conservation District to host our annual meeting. We would like to invite you to join us for dinner, our annual review, board elections, as well as a presentation titled, “Projected Climate Changes in the Great Lakes Region and their Potential Impacts on Agriculture” given by Dr. David Lusch. The meeting will be held at AgroLiquid (3055 M-21, St. Johns) on March 28th and will start with dinner at 5 pm. If you are a Clinton County resident and unable to attend the Annual Meeting but still want to participate in the board elections, Absentee ballots are available at the Clinton Conservation District office. You may also request an absentee ballot be sent to you via phone or email. Please contact Kelcie Sweeney at or 989-534-3107 with any questions or to request a ballot.

Looking Glass River Log Jam Removal

The Looking Glass River Intercounty Drainage Board recently completed a river cleanup project. The details of the project as well as a list of frequently asked questions are included below.

Q: How did a portion of the Looking Glass River become an Intercounty Drain?
A: A portion of the Looking Glass River was established as a drain by acts of the Michigan
Legislature as early as 1881, Public Act 239 of 1881 and Public Act 84 of 1885, to address
water conveyance issues. In 1886 improvements were made to approximately 36 miles
of the river/drain based on an Order Establishing Improvements that included dredging
and log jam removal.

Q: Why does this make it an established drain today?
A: Current state law provides that any watercourse established as a public drain in
accordance with the law in existence at the time it was established is recognized as a
public drain today.

Q: Where does the Looking Glass River Intercounty Drain begin and end?
A: Based on the 1886 Order Establishing Improvements, the point of beginning of the
Looking Glass River Intercounty Drain is approximately the point where the river crosses
the township line between Dewitt and Olive Townships in Clinton County and the point
of ending is the county line between Shiawassee and Livingston Counties.

Q: What areas does the Looking Glass River Intercounty Drain serve?
A: The Looking Glass River Intercounty Drain serves portions of Bath, Dewitt, Olive and
Victor Townships in Clinton County; portions of Sciota, Woodhull, Bennington,
Shiawassee, Perry and Antrim Townships in Shiawassee County; portions of Meridian,
Williamstown and Locke Townships in Ingham County, and a portion of Conway
Township in Livingston County.

Q: Who has jurisdiction over the Looking Glass River Intercounty Drain?
A: An intercounty drain board chaired by a representative from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Drain Commissioners from
Clinton, Livingston, Ingham and Shiawassee Counties oversee the operation and
maintenance of the drain.

Q: What is a drainage district?
A: A drainage district is a land area benefitting from an established drain. Under Michigan
law, a drainage district is a public corporation authorized to build and maintain a drain, and to own land and hold property rights necessary for that purpose. It is also authorized to assess lands within its boundaries.

Q: Why is a property included within a drainage district?
A: Generally, a property is determined to be in a drainage district if runoff from that property drains to, or has the potential to drain to, an established drain.

Q: Why are changes to the drainage district boundaries being considered?
A: In many cases, drainage district boundaries were established decades or even a century ago. Since that time, changes in land use, surface composition, and topography may have
occurred that alter historic drainage patterns. These alterations can change whether, and to what extent, properties are now benefitted by a drain.

Q: How does property included in a drainage district benefit from the drain?
A: County drains are an important part of public infrastructure in much the same way as roads, water mains, and sanitary sewers. Although drains may not be visible, they provide an outlet for storm water runoff and reduce the risk of property damage caused by flooding.

Q: How will we know if our property is located within the Looking Glass River
Intercounty Drain Drainage District?
A: A map has been prepared based on topographic and other information identifying the
land served by the established portion of the Looking Glass Intercounty Drain depicting
the boundaries of the proposed revisions to its drainage district. You will receive a Notice
for Day of Review indicating the date, time and place when these proposed boundary
revisions will be reviewed.

Q: What happens on the Day of Review of Drainage District Boundaries?
A: On the Day of Review, historical drainage district boundaries will be updated so that all
properties currently benefiting from the drain are included, and the properties not
benefiting from the drain are excluded. The Day of Review of Drainage District
Boundaries provides property owners with an opportunity to provide input and participate in the decision-making process and share information and local knowledge about lands involved.

Q: What maintenance work does the Drainage Board intend to have done on the Looking
Glass River Intercounty Drain?
A: The maintenance work proposed for the drain involves removal of log jams and flood
wood from the drain channel. It also will include selective clearing of trees (leaners) along
the drain right-of-way and drain banks. Clearing of trees will reduce the occurrence of
trees falling into the river/drain reducing the incidence of future log jams.

Q: What are the benefits of the maintenance work proposed?
A: Removing trees and log jams will allow the water along the river/drain to move freely,
reducing the extent of soil erosion and sedimentation causing damage to the river and
flooding to surrounding areas. Clearing the river from debris and improving conveyance
along the river channel will create indirect benefits to wildlife, hunting, recreation, and

Q: How much will the maintenance work cost?
A: Maintenance cost is limited by the Michigan Drain Code to $5,000 per mile of drain per
year. For the Looking Glass River Intercounty Drain, the maximum annual cost would be
$180,000 ($5,000 x 36 miles = $180,000) per maintenance project.

Q: Who will pay the cost?
A: In accordance with the Michigan Drain Code, the maintenance costs will be assessed to
those who benefit from the existence and operation of the drain. Those benefiting include
the counties for benefit to county roads, MDOT, railroads, townships and the landowners
within the drainage district.