You’re Invited to our Annual Meeting on March 24th!

The Clinton Conservation District Staff & Board invite you to join us Tuesday, March 24th for our 66th Annual Meeting! Please RSVP by March 19th to seth.gibson@macd.org or by calling our office. 

This meeting is FREE and includes a hot buffet-style dinner courtesy of generous local businesses and organizations.  This meeting is family-friendly and open to the public.  We will be electing board members, so Clinton County residents 18 and better are asked to bring proof of residency to participate in the election. 

Dr. Jen Owen, Associate Professor, Director of Michigan State Bird Observatory, Center Coordinator for Corey Marsh Bird Observatory

Our keynote speaker, Dr. Jen Owen, has become known locally for turning the former MSU Muck Farm into the Corey Marsh Bird Observatory. This 300+ acre property in Bath Township has a long way to go before it is prime real estate for some bird species but many (over 150!) have been observed here since 2018. Corey Marsh is open to the public, parking is available at the field office off Peacock Road.

Dr Owen leads an interdisciplinary research program that studies the interface between wild bird, human and environmental health. Corey Marsh will hopefully become a center of interdisciplinary undergraduate research in coming years. Dr. Owen will discuss with us the current research topic of her team: how habitat quality and food availability affects a bird’s ability to meet the demands of the migratory period. Dr. Owen also researches the role of birds in the spread and maintenance of zoonotic pathogens.

Let us know you’ll join us by March 19th by calling the office at 989-224-3720 x5 or emailing seth.gibson@macd.org

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.

We have a new Mission Statement!

The Clinton CD Board recently adopted a new Mission Statement to help quickly demonstrate our role in the community. The process of telling people what we do and demonstrating our role is ongoing and always evolving. From helping farmers through the USDA-NRCS application process, to holding tree sales and addressing water quality concerns, the Clinton CD strives to provide a multitude of services. 

Mission Statement:
Provide information and technical assistance for Clinton County citizens to better understand, plan, manage, protect, and use natural resources.

Because conservation districts are funny, unknown entities to most people, we often also share a “What We Do” statement. The purpose of this statement is to give a bit of background about how we view conservation in our community. Here is our revised What We Do: 

What We Do:
The Clinton Conservation District was established in 1954 to carry out programs for conservation and the wise use of natural resources for current and future generations at the local level by local people.

As always, please call or email us if you ever have any questions. We try our best to point you in the right direction, even if we cannot help! 

Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

— Clinton CD Staff

Spring Tree Sale 2019

Private landowners work with MAEAP to encourage wise management of Forests, Wetlands and Habitat in Clinton County

Eric Bak, MAEAP Technician, Clinton County

The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is an innovative and proactive program that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.  Some examples of practices that have been put in place to help farms achieve verification include nutrient management plans, pest management plans, buffer/filter strips, cover crops and restricting livestock access to local lakes, rivers and streams.  MAEAP is voluntary, confidential, and non-regulatory.    MAEAP takes a systems approach to assist producers in evaluating their farms.  One of the systems is Forest, Wetlands and Habitat.  This system helps assess how effectively you manage your land while protecting the environment and incorporating Best Management Practices.  

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Neighbor Lady Bee Farm — Fall 2019

Two Clinton County residents are making great use of their land with the production of honey.  Two years ago, Neighbor Lady Bee Farm (Lisa and Brennen Falor) enrolled with the Farm Service Agency in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  As part of CRP, they rented the no-till drill managed by the Clinton Conservation District and planted eleven acres with different flowers and grasses.  The planting really took off and the honeybees were able to take great advantage of the field filled with pollinator friendly species.  With only six hives on the farm this year, they harvested over 600 pounds of honey.

After attending a workshop and training session at Michigan State University, Lisa was introduced to the MAEAP program.  Lisa is currently working with the Clinton Conservation District MAEAP Technician, Eric Bak, and Wildlife Biologist, Kurt Wolf, to become MAEAP verified in the Forest Wetland and Habitat system.

We’re Hiring!

The Clinton Conservation District is seeking interested applicants to serve as CTAI Conservation Program Assistant. This full-time (40 hours/week) position will be employed by the Clinton Conservation District (located in St. Johns, Michigan) with primary duty station located at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) State Office in East Lansing, Michigan. This is an administrative and technical support position under the day-to-day supervision of the USDA-NRCS with oversight provided by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

The Conservation Program Assistant position will focus on processing and tracking Farm Bill contracts, including uploading and certifying complete documentation.  The position will have responsibility to work with staff in the NRCS state office, and staff and partners located in NRCS field offices statewide.  While a base knowledge of agriculture and conservation is helpful, it is not required. A successful applicant will have better than average computer proficiency and experience completing administrative tasks. Knowledge of how to upload documents and utilize Microsoft Office systems and other software is a must.

Starting pay rate will be dependent on experience $16-18/hr.  Benefit package includes paid holidays, sick leave and a flex plan.  A valid Michigan driver’s license is required.  Interested applicants should submit a resume, answered supplemental questions, up to 3 references, and a cover letter indicating relevant experience.  Please submit full application packet electronically to Kelcie Sweeney, Executive Director (kelcie.sweeney@macd.org)  or mail/drop off to the St. Johns USDA Field Office/Clinton Conservation District, 2343 N US 27, St Johns Michigan 48879. First applications will be reviewed on December 16th at 9am, applications received after this time are not guaranteed review.

What Makes a Trophy?

By Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

Michigan deer season is full swing. In addition to traditional buck poles, social media has been full of pictures of everyone’s harvest. It’s impossible to look at all the pictures and not compare your own trophy to all of those posted on the various hunting pages. It’s even more difficult to find a post without at least one hunter bragging about how they would’ve passed on taking the deer because it was not what they would consider a “trophy”.  Having only harvested three deer, I wasn’t sure what my definition of a “trophy” was. It finally became clear to me a few weekends ago when I got to be a part of a hunt I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Those that know me well know that my free time in the fall is primarily spent in the duck blind with the “bluebird” days set aside for time in the tree stand. As such, I elected to only purchase a single buck tag this season and was fortunate enough fill it opening day on an eleven point (my biggest buck!). I was ecstatic that I had bagged my “trophy” though my season had ended on the same sit that it began. This made for a strange ride up to deer camp in northern Michigan with no additional tags to fill and a freezer full of venison at home, though I was still excited for the long weekend ahead and the good food, good company, and, of course, good stories.

With the pressure to get a deer gone, I elected to spend my time in the stand trying to film someone else’s successful hunt. Saturday evening, I set out towards a tri-pod stand on the back of the property with my long-time hunting and fishing buddy, Chad, leaving the heated box blind for his dad and his grandpa to sit in. We sat for a while, just enjoying the scenery, when two does walked into our clearing. It was just about the time that I was daydreaming about a Booner stepping out from behind them that the unmistakable sound of a gunshot rang through the woods from a clearing towards the front of the property. Even before the text from his dad came through confirming our guess, Chad looked and me and whispered, “Grandpa got it done.”

We continued our sit until just before dark, then began making our way towards the field that the other two had sat over. The quad was already loaded down with gear by the time we reached the box blind and all that was left to do was load up the deer that had been dropped exactly where it had previously stood nibbling on the food plot. Seeming like no big deal at the time, Chad and I quickly got the doe loaded and strapped down for the short ride home. It wasn’t until I saw the quad pulling away with Grandpa and his deer on the back that I began to fully appreciate what I had just been a part of. You see there was a point last year that we weren’t sure if Grandpa would be able to return home due to complications with his health, and hunting this year definitely seemed out of the question. As I approached Chad and the rest of his family gathered around Grandpa and his deer, seeing the smiles on all of their faces left no doubt in my mind about the doe that had just been harvested.

Congrats on your trophy Grandpa Wasco.

Tom Wasco and his doe. (Photo by Chad Wasco, 2019)

Annual Conference Eventful for Staff and Board

Each year the staff and board attend a conference in Bellaire, Michigan at the end of October. This meeting is organized by conservation district partners, such as the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts (MACD). It hosts the annual MACD business meeting and has many educational opportunities for conservation district staff and board members. At this year’s Annual Meeting, Clinton Conservation District’s board treasurer, Elaine Brown-Bartholic, was elected to represent conservation districts statewide as Vice-President of MACD. Clinton County will surely benefit from Elaine’s expertise and representation of conservation at the state and regional level.

During the three-day conference, staff attended field trips and sessions to learn more about new tools, construction and forest management. There were also many opportunities to network with other conservation district employees and board members. Often conversations with other districts help us discover new ways of doing things that have worked well for districts and farmers in other parts of the state.

Back, L to R: Elaine Brown, Seth Gibson, Erik Bak, Gary Boersen
Front, L to R: Kurt Wolf, Kelcie Sweeney, Rebekah Faivor, Katie Hafner

The annual conference is also an opportunity to recognize the great work conservation districts, staff and board members are doing statewide. This year, Clinton Conservation District staff member Katie Hafner was recognized for her first-year achievements. The Seedling award is given to a conservation district staff member in their first year of service who has supported the community where they work and been an exemplary employee. Katie joined us in January to support the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and programs in the Maple River watershed. Congratulate Katie on her achievements next time you’re in the office!

Kelcie Sweeney, Executive Director

More Than Just A Sport

Seth Gibson, Water Resources Coordinator

I’ll never forget the culture shock that I experienced during my first few weeks of college. As you would expect, moving from a small rural town of 1,200 people to the largest university in the state came with more than a few adjustments. I just never thought that casual conversation during the fall would be one of the most glaring differences. I quickly realized that I was the only one out everyone that lived with who hunted regularly. Sure, there were one or two of them who had been out hunting before, or still made it out one weekend each fall, but it was clear that their interests were elsewhere. My first few conversations about hunting ended with the other party asking some variation of, “Is there anything else to do in your hometown?” It didn’t take long to notice that I was the outlier in this pseudo-random sample of my peers.

The fact is that hunter numbers are on the decline, plain and simple. A survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that only 5% of Americans 16 and older hunt. Half of what it was 50 years ago, and the decline is only expected to accelerate. Now if you’re a hunter reading this, it’s easy to think, “That’s good for me, right? More space and game for me to hunt,” which may be true, but at what cost? Sportsmen dollars make up most of the funding for our state wildlife agencies and our country’s conservation system. Most are surprised to learn that roughly 60% of the funding for state wildlife agencies comes from license fees and taxes on guns, ammunition, and fishing equipment. The equation is a simple one, less sportsmen equals less conservation dollars. While we haven’t quite reached the tipping point, the projections based of the recent decline in hunters say that it’s not far off.

What does this mean for the future of the sport then? It doesn’t mean that state conservation agencies are going anywhere anytime soon, but they may have to look for funding elsewhere if the trend continues. Though hunter numbers have been on the decline, the number of individuals participating in non-revenue generating activities such as bird-watching, hiking, and paddling have been on the rise. As much as state agencies would like to keep these activities free, they may need to tack on fees or licenses to these or other forms of recreation in order to continue managing our state’s natural resources.

First Goose – Photo by Patrick Gibson 2007

As hunters, it’s our job to lead by example. Fall is a great time to introduce someone new to the sport. Mild temperatures and small game seasons make it easy and fun to take someone out for their first hunt. With programs like the Hunter Access Program (HAP), youth hunts, and the apprentice hunter options, it is easier than ever to get someone started. Growing up hunting taught me how to respect nature. It opened my eyes to just how complex this mechanism we refer to as the great outdoors really is. Aldo Leopold said it best when he said, “I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness.”

Seeing the Hearts of Farmers

Katie Hafner, Soil Conservationist

When my husband Steven and I started dating, he took me to the Mid-Michigan Old Gas Tractor Show in Oakley to watch him pull his Oliver 77. He had rebuilt the tractor almost entirely himself. We were 16 years old and he had bought the tractor stock, rusted, and run down. For almost a year, he did all the things you needed to do to get it to be a “pulling tractor”.
I don’t really know the details. I grew up in a small town, but not on a farm. Farming was almost entirely new to me. The show filled with hundreds and hundreds of people that came from near and far to watch and compete in different types of pulls. Drivers pull heavy loads with antique gas tractors different distances to see who’s has the most power. I was standing by his mom off to the side and Steven was riding up to get in line to pull.
Just as he was half way across the field, POP. Everyone ducked for cover, because the noise was as loud as a gunshot. But it wasn’t. It was Steven’s tractor tire. He looked up at me across the field with a shocked look of embarrassment and disappointment that his whole year of wrenching was all for nothing. I gave him the same look back because I knew how hard he had worked to now miss his chance to pull, which was only 5 minutes away.
Everyone was now looking at him, as he sat in the middle of the grass lot with his head down trying to limp his Oliver off to the side. I started to walk up to him but stopped when I saw about 20 farmers (some we knew and some we didn’t) run toward him to help.
In just a few seconds, someone was jacking the tractor up to get the tire off. Someone else was running for the announcer’s booth to try to get him put later in the line-up. Two or three people are already calling around to see if one of their friends has a spare tire. A pickup truck pulls up a guy yells, “Get in, we are going to get you a new tire!” Steven hops in and off they go.
By the time they get back, the other guys had already gotten the tire off and ready for a new one. A group of people was standing there waiting to man handle this giant tire off the trailer. They maneuvered it around and got it on his Oliver. Steven hops on his tractor and races up to the pulls where he makes it just in time.
I just sat there dumbfounded, with a big lump in my throat holding back the tears. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It looked like a NASCAR pit stop, it happened so fast. In what other competition would competitors help each other like that? Why would a whole group of guys we didn’t know spring in to action without being asked? Why would adults help a teenager with just an average pulling tractor?
Because they are farmers and that is what they do.
That day I decided that there were no hearts as big as those of farmers. Neighbors helping neighbors; lending equipment, lending a hand. Marrying into a farming family, I am constantly reminded of the kindness farmers show toward one another as well as the community.
One of the biggest things I have learned working at the conservation district is that most of our customers show the same compassion as we were shown that day at the tractor pulls. Through this year’s wet spring, failed crops, and prevented plant acres, many producers have worked together. They have shared cover crop seed, planted each other’s fields, and made sure all the livestock were fed. Why?
Because they are farmers and that is what they do.

Save Michigan’s trees from forest pests – Your firewood choices matter

Erin Pavloski, Regional Invasive Species Coordinator, Mid-Michigan CISMA

Your cut firewood may seem healthy, but invasive forest pests and diseases can be lurking inside. How can we protect the forests we love? Don’t move firewood.

October is Firewood Month and it is a great time to remind us of the simple actions we can take to help reduce the spread of forest pests and diseases, like beech bark disease or oak wilt, or keep new pests from entering Michigan, like Asian longhorned beetle or spotted lanternfly. You can help by:

  • Leaving firewood at home
  • Gathering firewood at your campsite, if permitted
  • Buying local firewood where you’ll burn it
  • Buying certified firewood
  • Leaving unused firewood at your campsite- don’t take it home

Remember, your firewood choices matter and can save trees from forest pests! Learn more at www.dontmovefirewood.org and www.michigan.gov/invasives.