Program Overview

Primary Function

  • Coordinate the natural areas system in Michigan and ensure that the elements of the system are protected
    • seek legislative dedication of State Natural Areas
    • seek other forms of protection for recognized State Natural Areas
    • identify new potential natural areas
    • cooperate with other Department conservation efforts to identify and manage natural areas
      (e.g., Old-Growth, Parks & Recreation Stewardship Program)
  • Ensure that MDNR Divisions/Bureaus are able to recognize and protect natural area elements
    • develop site conservation and management plans for State Natural Areas
    • incorporate agreed upon stewardship activities into annual work plans
    • provide expertise and consultation to resource managers on restoration and management methods and techniques (e.g., prescribed burns, invasive species control, brush control, native plant species, ecological restoration, monitoring, site conservation planning)
    • develop and provide opportunities for resource managers to attend stewardship training workshops
  • Manage natural areas related data and provide access to data to Department staff and other partners.
    • create detailed individual maps of natural areas
    • manage natural areas database
    • maintain list of biodiversity element occurrences (natural communities & species), including current status, for each natural area

Other Tasks

  • Complete workshops, presentations and field visits with Department field staff.
  • Work cooperatively with other Divisions/Bureaus to provide educational materials for interpretation of natural areas by the public.
  • Engage local communities, industry and neighbors in the implementation of stewardship activities on State Natural Areas.
  • Promote protection opportunities on private lands (e.g., natural areas registry, conservation easements, dedication).

Future Direction

  • Complete the natural features inventory of all lands and waters in Michigan for identifying new natural areas (start with recognized State Natural Areas).
  • Develop, populate, and continuously update a Geographic Information System (GIS) of natural areas data that will be available to all Department staff.
  • Develop a statewide volunteer stewardship network for natural areas (start with SE Michigan).
  • Develop and implement an ongoing plan for strategic outreach.
  • Analyze the Natural Areas System using an eco-regional framework, land ownership, and protection status to identify where the protection gaps of representative native ecosystems, natural communities, and species occur in the system.
  • Create a guidebook to Michigan's Natural Areas (public and private).


  • The Stewardship and Natural Areas Coordinator position is currently vacant.

Contact Information

Natural Areas Program
Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife
PO BOX 30180
Lansing, MI 48909-7680