With only a very small portion of Michigan's original landscape remaining, it is integral to the mission of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to protect representative examples of the native ecosystems and unique natural features that remain. Natural areas are recognized internationally as an important tool for managing ecosystems, associated natural resources, and safeguarding our natural heritage. In Michigan, it is the role of the Natural Areas Program to coordinate the identification, protection, management and administration of natural areas. The Natural Areas Program currently recognizes 80 State Natural Areas, totaling approximately 130,000 acres of MDNR administered lands and waters. These areas, together with the many natural areas managed by other public and private organizations and individuals, make up a statewide "system" of natural areas.
A working group was established in April 1997 by George Burgoyne, then Chief of the Wildlife Division, to address the needs of the Natural Areas Program. The group, comprised of representatives from each Division, was asked to:
- "Develop and recommend to the Division/Bureau Chiefs a common direction for natural areas on Department administered lands."
- "Recommend immediate and long-term actions to implement this common direction."
The result of the working group's efforts is the "Natural Areas Program Strategic Plan."
The Strategic Plan is currently available in Adobe PDF format.