Existing Management Tools

In addition to these Standard Management Zones, there exist other related tools to incorporate into our application of Management Zones to State Park and Recreation Areas. Where they fit in will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The most stringent of these tools are those with legal standing. Following are "Natural Area" definitions as defined in State Law in Part 351 of Act 451 of 1994, "Wilderness and Natural Areas":


"NATURAL AREA" – A tract of land or water which has the following characteristics: (NOTE: for all of these, there is a prohibition on mechanized vehicles for any use other than management (i.e. mountain bikes, snowmobiles, ATV’s & ORV’s), and no easements or ROW’s of any kind are allowed)

  • Has retained or re-established its natural character, or has unusual flora and fauna or biotic, geologic, scenic, or other similar features of educational or scientific value, but it need not be undisturbed.
  • Has been identified and verified through research and study by qualified observers.
  • May be coextensive with or part of a wilderness area or wild area.
  • Does not have any minimum or maximum area requirement.

"WILD AREA" – A tract of undeveloped land or water which has the following characteristics:

  • Is less than 3,000 acres of state land.
  • Has outstanding opportunities for personal exploration, challenge, or contact with natural features of the landscape and its biological community.
  • Possesses one or more of the characteristics of a wilderness area.

"WILDERNESS AREA" – A tract of undeveloped land or water which has the following characteristics:

  • Has 3,000 or more acres of state land or is an island of any size.
  • Generally appears to have been affected primarily by forces of nature with the imprint of the work of humans substantially unnoticeable.
  • Has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.
  • Contains ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, scenic, or natural history value.

Any area (Natural/Wild/Wilderness) which has been "PROPOSED FOR DEDICATION" is protected under the act, and must be managed as a Natural/Wild/Wilderness Area until the dedication is final.  An area is considered "proposed for dedication" when the area nomination has been approved by either:

  • The Wilderness and Natural Areas Advisory Board, or
  • The Director of the Department of Natural Resources


In addition to these legal tools, there are cooperative agreements in-place that further define our land management for resources through The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Division, and National Parks Service, as follows:

"THE NATURE CONSERVANCY NATURAL AREAS REGISTRY SITES" – These are cooperative agreements between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy.  They are developed for ‘critical areas’ in which the DNR has recognized the need to manage in a manner which will protect, preserve, and perpetuate the elements of the area.  The DNR has agreed to manage these areas in a manner that will sustain and foster the continued protection of the elements in voluntary preservation through cooperation with The Nature conservancy.

"WILDLIFE CO-MANAGEMENT ZONE" - This management agreement was initially signed in 1957, updated in 1978, and continues in effect today (although lacking in annual review and updating with the elimination of the "Region" structure of the field organization). 

It recognizes the critical role PRD plays for wildlife management as a key landowner in southern Michigan.  The agreement establishes a joint effort between Wildlife and PRD, providing for Wildlife management (for wildlife improvements) of PRD administered lands in Recreation Areas.  There are three parks where lands are specifically dedicated to this co-management (Holly RA, Waterloo RA and Bass River RA), and other Recreation Areas are impacted as lands purchased through hunter funds (Pittman-Robertson (P-R)) and State Game or State Game and Fish funds have the potential for co-management opportunities.

Resource Conditions/Objectives:

  • Southern Michigan Recreation Areas
  • Lands purchased with state and federal hunter dollars (Pittman-Robertson, State Game, and State Game and Fish).

Visitor Experience:

  • Limited visitor encounters accommodated, dependent on desired impact on wildlife.
  • Visitors engaged in non-motorized outdoor activities in diverse land and water natural settings (i.e. hiking, backpacking, back-country camping, bicycle trail use, equestrian trail use, canoeing, kayaking, nature observation, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting/trapping/fishing).
  • High time commitment.
  • Moderate challenge and adventure.


"NATIONAL NATURAL LANDMARK" (defined by the National Parks Service) – These are cooperative agreements between the National Parks Service and the public or private landowner on whose property the area occurs.

A National Natural Landmark is a nationally significant natural area that has been designated by the Secretary of the Interior.  To be nationally significant, a site must be one of the best examples of a type of biotic community or geologic feature in its physiographic province.  Examples of this natural diversity include terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, features, exposures, and land forms that record active geologic processes as well as fossil evidence of biological evolution.  The goal of the National Natural Landmarks Program is to identify, recognize, and encourage the protection of sites containing the best examples of geological and ecological components of the nation’s landscape.


MICHIGAN NATURAL RESOURCES COMMISSION "DEDICATED" AREAS – These areas were dedicated by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission prior to 1972, and remain in effect today.  Following are the specific forms of dedicated areas under this NRC process:

  • "MANAGED TRACT" – An area of land in which specific desired habitats are maintained or established by artificially regulating or manipulating the conditions which control the environment.
  • "NATURAL AREA PRESERVE" – An area of land having distinctive natural characteristics, dedicated to the preservation of natural conditions for the lasting public enjoyment and educational benefits.
  • "NATURAL RESERVATION" – An area of land having distinctive natural features set aside for maximum preservation of natural conditions consistent with the development and use of facilities for the enjoyment of nature and extensive types of recreation, and for the proper operation of the administrative unit.
  • "NATURE STUDY AREA" – An area of land having special significance in natural history, dedicated for the preservation of natural conditions in combination with the development and use of facilities for conservation education, the study and enjoyment of nature, and/or research in the fields of conservation and natural science.
  • "NATURE STUDY PRESERVE" – An area of land having special significance in natural history dedicated for the development and use of facilities for conservation education, the study and enjoyment of nature, and/or research in the fields of conservation and natural science.
  • "SCENIC SITE" – An area of land having unusual scenic values, dedicated for the preservation and enjoyment of natural beauty.