A Comprehensive Summary of the Department of Natural Resources Planning Process For Natural Resource Management in Michigan

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides for management and planning on several types of lands that are owned by the state including state forest lands, state game lands, park lands, natural areas, water access areas, and recreation trails. Fish and wildlife populations and many habitat attributes are also influenced by private land management, and to this end the DNR also provides guidance and planning information for working with private land owners, environmental regulators, and other governmental agencies to achieve landscape and habitat goals for natural resources management. The scale and disparate purposes of DNR-owned lands precludes the integration of all these management directions into a single comprehensive management plan. In lieu of such a plan the DNR operates under a suite of management plans that when considered as a whole, form a framework of planning initiatives that represent an over-arching management program for the management of the state's natural resources.

The Multi-level Planning Process

The DNR is responsible for multiple plans, programs, and activities that address management of many differing individual or multiple natural resource elements such as flora, fauna, watersheds, and/or ecosystems. The broad diversity of these elements and the multiple scales at which they must be addressed requires the DNR to employ a hierarchical, tiered planning structure for natural resource management. Multidivisional planning and management responsibilities lie at three levels:

  1. Statewide strategic and oversight responsibilities lie with the Statewide Council (SWC) which is comprised of chiefs, select members of the executive office, and representatives from each of the ecoteams.
  2. DNR Ecoteams make key mid-scale decisions related to resource management planning occurs within an ecoregional landscape-scale context appropriate to processes that control ecological systems taking human values into consideration. Ecoteams are comprised of representatives from each DNR Division.
  3. Local planning or resource specific plans (e.g. each Great Lake, or individual state parks) are developed by the responsible division with input from other Divisions, partner agencies, the public, and ecoteams.

The Framework of Specific Planning Processes

The natural resources of state public lands must be considered within the context of land itself, the natural resource values that the lands provide, and the use of these natural resource values by people. Human or public interactions have a great impact upon the specific management purpose of DNR lands. Based upon public desires, different areas of DNR land are managed for different sets of natural resource values. These different values in effect result in a zoning of DNR lands, with different management purposes and objectives for each type of zone. Distinct management zones within DNR ownership are state forest lands, state parks, state game areas, and wildlife refuges and floodings. Within a landscape-scale context management of these distinct areas must also take the matrix of interspersed private lands, Federal lands, and aquatic resources into consideration. A discussion of specific planning processes for the different types of public (State) and private land ownership and management may be found at the following links:

State Forest Lands

State Park Lands

State Game Areas, Wildlife Areas and Wildlife Plans

Aquatic Resources

Private Lands

Management Plan Monitoring

Effective management of DNR lands requires a process for monitoring the effectiveness of management plan implementation. Monitoring needs to be well-integrated at all levels of management, at statewide, ecoregional and management unit levels. There are a number of existing divisional planning processes that have varying degrees of monitoring components. Some are required by the annual budgetary process, including federal grants programs. Others are program related, such as the annual Timber Sale Preparation Plan of Work process, FMU analyses, the Biodiversity Conservation Planning Process, and annual fire plans. Some are project oriented or dependent upon the appointment and functional term of various teams.

For State Forest lands a management review process forms the core of DNR monitoring efforts. Monitoring is integrated with the compartment review process, whereby forest prescriptions contained in the Annual Plan of Work are assessed via internal and external audits and encapsulated into annual Field Management Reviews. Tools for monitoring different aspects of forest management will be linked with a new operations and inventory system (the Integrated Forest Monitoring, Assessment, and Prescription project).

Follow-up monitoring of State Forest plans is conducted to assess how well the plans were implemented. Monitoring is also conducted to assess the condition of the forest, the degree to which management goals, objectives, and desired future conditions have been achieved, deviations from management plans, and the social and ecological impacts of management activities. The following elements of forest management are monitored to achieve this as well as to meet the requirements for forest certification standards:

  • The yield of all forest products harvested.
  • Growth rates, regeneration, and condition of the forest.
  • Composition and observed changes in flora and fauna.
  • Environmental and social impacts of harvesting and other operations.
  • Cost, productivity, and efficiency of forest management.

Monitoring of the Parks and Recreation Division management process (Phase 4) is detailed in an annual report reflecting performance in meeting the Phase 1-3 Plan objectives. The report also lays out the desired outcomes for the coming year.

A process for monitoring of dedicated wildlife areas is under development.

Management Plan Revisions

The scope and spatial scale of management plans and processes need to be adjusted or changed when the results of monitoring indicate that the management goals and objectives necessary for the attainment of a desired future condition are not being achieved or have been met for a specific ecological, social, or economic value. Changes in management processes that are identified by divisional planning processes and the management review process will be incorporated into the revision and implementation of subsequent statewide, ecoregional, and local or resource specific management plans.

Operational components of some local management plans (such as the FMU Analyses, and the Annual Plan of Work) will be updated annually.

Operational components of statewide and ecoregional management plans will be reviewed and revised as necessary but, at a minimum of every five years.

Strategic components of statewide and ecoregional management plans are to be reviewed and if necessary revised or updated at the completion of each 10-year compartment review cycle, or when other changes in management require revision.