Turning pine cones into profit: helping to reforest state land
Aug. 22, 2013
Want to play a part in the Department of Natural Resources' mission of keeping state forests healthy and sustainable and maybe even make a few bucks in the process? Here's your opportunity!
This fall, as cones are ripening, people can collect red and jack pine cones and sell them to the DNR by visiting offices in Cadillac, Gaylord, Manistique and Marquette. The seeds are placed in cold storage at the DNR-operated Wyman State Nursery until needed.
Each bushel of pine cones can net between $30 and $35 for the person willing to put in some sweat equity.
"The annual pine cone buying program provides an opportunity for residents to contribute to the DNR's rejuvenation efforts and help produce millions of seedlings that will help sustain Michigan's state forest land," said Bill O'Neill, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division (FRD). "The DNR's regeneration efforts have been successful for more than 30 years. With help from folks collecting pine cones, the outcomes of this program can be enjoyed for years to come."
Michigan's forests are known for their breathtaking beauty, sheer size and inviting spaces. These forest lands are carefully managed for timber, wildlife, recreation, aesthetic and ecological values -- all of which play an important role in the state's economy through forest-based industry and tourism.
Collaboration is important when it comes to successfully managing Michigan's state forest land to meet these needs.
"It is no small job," added O'Neill, who also serves as Michigan's state forester. "Last spring alone, FRD staff planted more than 7 million seedlings on state forest land -- reforesting around 7,500 acres."
Many of the seedlings used in the DNR's planting efforts come from Wyman. The Manistique-based facility produces 5 million to 7.5 million seedlings annually to help replenish Michigan's forest land. If pine cones aren't collected yearly, those seedlings won't be produced.
The pine cones sold to the DNR can help produce seed and seedlings that will reforest habitats crucial to the survival of many species like deer, turkey and many other game and non-game species, including the federally endangered Kirtland's warbler.
In addition to the Kirtland's warbler habitat, the DNR also focuses its reforestation efforts on sites that have been harmed by natural disasters like wildfire.
"When natural circumstances -- like last year's Duck Lake Fire -- destroy large areas of forest land, the DNR works to plant seedlings that will help areas regenerate faster than they would on their own," explained David Neumann, FRD silviculturist. "Last spring, we planted about 1,200 acres in Newberry at the Duck Lake site; we have plans to plant an additional 3,000 acres over the next three to five years to help the area recover from the fire.
"We leave some of the regeneration to nature, but will continue monitoring the site for the next few years," he added.
While the pine cones collected have traditionally come from the eastern Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, the DNR is looking to push cone collection in the western U.P. this fall.
"The western U.P. has some of the highest-quality jack pine stands in the state," said Tom Seablom, FRD timber management specialist in Marquette. "The DNR would like to start an annual collection program from this area so other areas can benefit."
September and October are generally the best months to collect pine cones. For residents who are new to collecting pine cones in Michigan's beautiful forests, the DNR offers the following tips to get started:
- Look for squirrel caches.
- Pick cones off the tops of trees from recent timber sales
- Remember that only cones that are tight (unopened) and clean (free of sticks, debris, rot, decay and fungus) will be accepted
- Keep the cones cool to ensure that they do not begin to compost; the seeds will die at high temperatures.
After the DNR purchases the pine cones, they are dried and the seeds are extracted and cleaned.
"Collected seeds can be stored several years, so your contribution will help the DNR grow jack and red pine seedlings now and well into the future," O'Neill said.
People interested in picking and selling cones to the DNR this fall can contact the FRD staff person in their area for more information and to find out the dates each office will buy cones from the public.
- Cadillac: Sue Sobieski, 231-775-9727, ext. 6904
- Gaylord: Tim Greco, 989-732-3541, ext. 5041
- Manistique: Richard Mergener, 906-341-2518
- Marquette: Tom Seablom 906-228-6561
For more information about the DNR's reforestation efforts and state forest planning, visit www.michigan.gov/forestplan.