Cleaner Rivers: Thank You Volunteers!

Jill Detwiler – Water Resource Coordinator

Paddlers and anglers are familiar with the weird things found in rivers: tires, pallets, old propane tanks, and piles of endless trash (that is usually plastic). Human waste degrades the quality and aesthetics of rivers throughout Clinton County, and there is no designated entity that cleans it up. The work of volunteers – including groups such as Friends of the Looking Glass and Friends of the Maple River – are some of our biggest stewards when it comes to keeping our rivers clear of trash.

As a “thank you” to the volunteer river stewards in our community, Clinton Conservation District is offering free stream clean-up kits available for pick up at our office for volunteers to keep. Each kit contains essential items for any type of river clean-up: garbage bags, gloves, hand sanitizer, bug repellant, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and a map of public access sites along the Looking Glass River, all packaged inside of a drawstring backpack. We also have grabbers available for check-out that are helpful for snagging hard-to-reach trash. You do not need to be a part of an organization to take home a stream kit, just someone who wants to make a difference! Call our office if you are interested in picking up a kit for you or your group.

The stream clean-up kits were inspired by a Looking Glass River clean-up event on August 15 that was coordinated by a partnership between Clinton Conservation District and Friends of the Looking Glass River (FOLG) and funded by Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps). Other groups such as the Friends of the Maple River (FOMR), Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, and the Clinton County Parks and Greenspaces Committee helped promote this event, which led to participation by 35 volunteers. Together, volunteers and partners removed nearly 1,400 pounds of garbage from the Looking Glass River. An old propane tank was one of the biggest items pulled from the river.

We can measure the valuable impact of stream clean-up events like the one on August 15 by weighing and categorizing the trash that is removed from the river, but it’s also the little things people do – like disposing garbage when we see it or cleaning up after our pets – that makes a world of difference.

The Great Migration

Cheyanne Boucher- Conservation Technician

Its time for the great monarch migration! More than 500,000 monarchs travel anywhere from 1,200 to 2,800 miles each year to Mexico, or to the coast of California. There, they fly to the mountains, attach to a tree, and overwinter. Then, next spring, they will lay the first generation to start the travel back north.

Monarch Butterfly Fall Migration Patterns. Base map source: USGS National Atlas

Did you know that monarch butterflies have up to 5 generations in one year? The first four generations will only live for about a month. The fifth will live for up to eight! The first generation is hatched in Mexico where they prepare to make part of the flight back to the Northern US and Canada. It will take about four generations for monarchs to fully reach Canada. The adult butterfly will lay eggs, those eggs hatch, the caterpillar will cocoon and metamorphosize into a butterfly. That adult will the complete the next leg of the journey north. The fifth generation will travel all the way back south for winter.

Unfortunately, for the last decade, scientist have seen a decline in the monarch population. Many believe this is due to a decline in their host plant, milkweed. As many of you probably know, monarchs will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants; milkweed also provides their caterpillars with food. With more herbicides being used, and rural development on a rise, breeding grounds are becoming sparce.  

So what can you do to help? One thing is to plant a butterfly garden. There are many websites that provide a garden layout with all the best plants for butterflies. Also, just plant milkweed around your yard. There are some great tips online for harvesting natural milkweed seeds. Spread the word; encourage others to protect and plant milkweed!

Visit to find out more ways to help save monarchs. 

Does your lawn need a Rain Garden?

Kelcie Sweeney, Executive Director

Rain gardens are a special type of planted area that is meant to collect and hold rainwater while letting it slowly soak into the ground. Water from roofs, gutters, driveways, and streets is diverted into a depression in the ground. The purpose of a rain garden is to reduce runoff and keep pollutants from entering our clean water systems. Gardens are filled with perennial flowers and shrubs which help to stabilize the bowl and soak up some water as well as provide food and shelter for wildlife.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service or NRCS provides insight on how to design a garden.

  • Location – Rain gardens must be located to intercept runoff from impervious areas. They can be placed anywhere good soils with adequate percolation rates exist. It is best to keep rain gardens away from building foundations, utilities, and septic systems.  
  • Size – Rain gardens are typically 7 to 20 percent the size of the impervious surface generating the runoff entering the garden. Measure the square footage of the impervious area (length x width); then multiply this by 0.07 (7 percent). Determine a length and width of the rain garden that best fits the site. For example, a 2,000 sq./ft. roof, when multiplied by 10 percent, would call for a rain garden 200 sq./ft. in size, or 20′ long by 10′ wide.
  • Garden Depth – A typical rain garden is between six and nine inches deep. It must be level side to side and end to end, and the berm must be level so storm water runoff spreads evenly.
  • Soil Amendments – To prepare for a rain garden, remove 12 inches of soil to create a depressional area. Add three inches of sand, two inches of compost and one inch of topsoil, and blend uniformly.
  • Plant Selection – While rain gardens are a highly functional way to help protect water quality, they can also be an attractive part of your yard and neighborhood. Choose native plants based on site considerations for light, moisture, and soil. Vary plant structure, height, and flower color for seasonal appeal and butterfly habitat. Mowed grass borders or hard edging are recommended around the garden. The use of native plants is encouraged. Young plants, or plugs, are best for rain gardens because they are easier to establish and maintain. When laying plants out, randomly clump individual species in groups of 3 to 5 plants to provide bolder color. Be sure to repeat these individual groupings to create repetition and cohesion in a planting. It is a good idea to place plant labels next to each individual grouping. This will help identify the young native plants from weeds as you maintain the garden. It is important to water rain gardens regularly throughout the first season. Once established, they will thrive without additional watering. A two-inch layer of shredded wood mulch is an important part of a rain garden. Mulch helps retain moisture and discourages weed seeds from germinating.


Step By Step- Creating Your Garden

Before: Area where rain garden is needed. Located near a downspout in front yard.
MISS DIG was called to ensure no utilities were located underground.
The water flow was calculated determining the size of the garden. Area was dug creating a bowl.
Landscape fabric was laid to help reduce weeds as well as hold rocks and plants in place when water flows.
Small rocks were placed in the channel to stabilize the ground when water travels from the downspout to the garden.
A rain shower tests the holding capacity. Water should filter and drain quickly. Water from this rain event was gone in 20 minutes. Mulch was added.

More plants will be added to this garden during the fall season. Plants will be well established by spring.

If something like this would benefit your yard but you aren’t sure where to get started, contact the Clinton Conservation District. Our staff has personally constructed rain gardens. They can help you choose a location, calculate your size, and pick out the right plants.

Interested in natural resources and water quality? Join our team!

The Clinton Conservation District is seeking candidates for a full-time Water Resources Coordinator. An ideal candidate will have a passion for natural resources and strong technical skills. This position will work regularly with both partners and the public. Required qualifications include completion of a four-year degree, strong verbal and written communication skills, strong computer and technical skills, and pass a federal background check. Preferred qualifications include working knowledge of ArcGIS, a Pesticide Applicators license (or desire to obtain one), and experience working on or with grants. For more information see the full position description.

Application packets will be reviewed as they are received, and priority will go to candidate applications received by July 30th. Applications should include a cover letter, resume, and a copy of transcripts and be submitted electronically by email to the Executive Director at by July 30th.

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


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: . 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 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 for more information about the Mid-Michigan CISMA.