Alger Conservation wins grant for deer habitat

Alger County will receive a portion of over $100,000 in grant funding for deer habitat improvement projects from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

According to the press release, the project will impact a parcel of land in western Alger County by turning old timber trails into environments rich in food for deer.

The DNR provided the language of the grant application.

The intent of this project with the Alger Conservation District is to partner with Lyme Timber Inc., Brian Bresette/Connie Lacko, and Delbert Storms at three project sites totaling 840 acres of ownership. Two parcels have management plans, the Strom property is Qualified Forest Plan enrolled, and Lyme is Commercia Forest Act land.

They plan to treat a large timber sale of 35 acres on Lyme Timber lands with an underplanting of oak and conifers in a harvest area treated previously for beech bark disease to restore hard mast. On the other two private properties, the conservation district plans to treat an extensive logging trail system that can be improved for spring break-up forage and for connectivity of the unique forest habitat that is critical to whitetail deer. They will use
an excavating contractor to prepare by bulldozer/mechanical treatment (skid steer with mulching head) approximately seven acres of linear trails, including a few small openings, old fields and log landings.

These areas would be then seeded with Deer Country Feed Mix at a rate of 25 pounds per acre. Additionally, the parcels will be treated with wildlife shrubs and plantings (with tree protection) to feather forest cover edges and provide additional hard and soft mast. Alger Conservation
District staff will then plant hard and soft mast producing species along the edges of these trails, where appropriate, and in small pushouts, openings and past log landings. Necessary protection will be provided and installed, such as tree tubes for smaller root stock and welded wire fence with T-posts for the larger fruit trees. Finally, the excavating contractor will revisit the sites to move and place boulders at two possible access sites to block off vehicular traffic to ensure survivability of the seed and eliminate any possibility of rutting or damage by vehicles.

The native seed and the mast plantings will provide critical food and breakout wildlife openings as a sustainable food source. The list of species to be used will include, Dolgo crabapple, standard root stock apple varieties, wild plum, black cherry, chokecherry, white oak, northern red oak, American hazelnut, black elderberry, highbush cranberry, nannyberry, serviceberry and some coniferous species (white spruce, eastern white pine, balsam fir, and northern white cedar), where applicable, for future cover. The match from the district totals $4,601 (31 percent). The total project value is $19,457.

Altogether, the grants will provide similar deer habitat improvements across the Upper Peninsula.

“These grants will produce positive impacts in Marquette, Alger, Delta, Dickinson, Iron, Baraga, Ontonagon, Gogebic, Schoolcraft and Mackinac counties,” said Bill Scullon, DNR field operations manager and administrator for the grant initiative in a statement. “The planned match for the 12 grants is valued in excess of $79,000 (well in excess of the required 25%) further expanding the impact of the projects.”

The funding is being provided through the competitive Deer Habitat Improvement Partnership Initiative, which aims to improve deer habitat on non-state lands. The program has been designed to meet specific goals, including the creation of tangible deer habitat improvements, building long-term partnerships between external organizations and the DNR, and showcasing the benefits of each project to the public. The initiative has been running for 15 years and is supported by the Deer Range Improvement Program, which receives funding from deer hunting license revenue.

Over the years, the program has supported over 100 projects, with almost $1 million in funding available to partners in the Upper Peninsula. The program has benefitted hundreds of private landowners, covering thousands of acres and involving all 15 counties in the region.