Ecological Reference Areas

Ecological Reference Areas (ERAs) serve as models of ecological reference within the state, and are one category of High Conservation Value Areas. They are higher-quality examples of functioning ecosystems that are primarily influenced by natural ecological processes. ERAs are based on the Michigan Natural Heritage Database of known natural community occurrences, and represent both rare and common natural communities.

ERAs are recognized primarily on DNR-managed lands, but may also include some federal-administered lands, local government-administered lands and conservancy lands.  At this time, ERAs are limited to the northern two-thirds of the state, but the DNR does intend to complete a similar process in the Southern Lower Peninsula in the future.

Within ERAs managed by the DNR, conservation of the identified natural community through restoration and/or maintenance of plant composition and ecological processes (e.g. fire) will be emphasized. Planning and management of ERAs will occur through the DNR’s normal land management planning processes, which include opportunities for public participation. 

ERAs located on non-DNR lands are equally important to Michigan’s biodiversity, but there are no imposed requirements for management or limitations on activities – this is at the exclusive discretion of the land owner.

ERAs will help the DNR to prioritize and more effectively use available financial and staff resources. The DNR hopes that other landowners will also be able to use them in the same way.


ERA Quicklinks