• Forests provide many of the things we consider essential: clean air and water, habitat for wildlife, spaces for recreation and wood products for houses, paper and furniture.

    But Michigan’s forests face challenges. Insects and disease, wildfire, climate change and human use all need to be managed to help forests continue to thrive.

    Below, you will find information that describes the forest and its present condition. There are two parts: a landscape assessment and an action plan.

    1. The Landscape Assessment of Forest Resources tells us what Michigan’s 20 million acres of forest include: types of trees, where they’re at, how many there are, how old they are and how healthy they are. It also describes many other aspects of the current forest. Download our PDF version of the landscape assessment for a printable copy, for accessible data or if your device does not support ESRI maps. 
    2. The Forest Action Plan lays out goals for Michigan’s forests and how we can, collectively, achieve those goals. It’s renewed every 10 years and it can be updated as needed to account for unforeseen events such as wildfires and invasive species like the emerald ash borer, which has laid waste to Michigan’s ash trees. You can read the 2010 Forest Action Plan here. The strategies of the 2020 Forest Action Plan will be developed over the coming year.

    Below, you’ll find key components of the landscape assessment. Check back for updates and to review the strategies once they are developed. Click through each section to learn more about Michigan’s extensively forested landscape.

    Please submit comments or questions about the content of the landscape assessment story maps to For anything related to the function of or accessing the story maps, please email us at

Ecological Areas in Michigan

  • What are ecological areas?

    Ecological areas are used to identify land and water areas at different scales that have similar functions and potential for management. Ecological areas are designed to have similar patterns in:

    • Plant and animal species
    • Soils
    • Water function
    • Land features
    • Rock formations
    • Weather and climate
    • Natural processes such as flooding, wind or fire

    Ecological areas can be large, broad areas, such as several states, or localized areas as small as a few square miles. Ecological areas can be subdivided, and refined in classification, based on the characteristics listed above. The hierarchy of ecological units is defined as:

    1. Eco-regions: Domains, Divisions, Provinces
    2. Subregions: Sections, Sub-sections
    3. Landscapes: Land-type Associations
    4. Land Units: Land-types, Land-type Phases

    The concept and use of ecological areas have been around for several decades. Much of the early work of defining ecological areas started in the 1980s and was further formalized in the late 1990s. The publication called the National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units offers more background and history of ecological area concepts.

    Why use ecological areas?

    To manage an ecosystem, we need to understand how it works.  In order to help us reach that goal, the data used in this landscape assessment has been collected using three sampling systems, which are:

    1. Social information is collected for each of Michigan's 83 counties
    2. Soil and water data (and to some extent vegetation data) are collected at the Hydrologic Unit Level 12 (HUC 12) scale, which focuses on local tributary systems. See the Soil Resources and Water Resources chapters for more detail.
    3. Land data are collected based on ecological sections and sub-sections. Click on an area on the map to learn more about the selected sub-section.

    Explore Michigan's eco-sub-sections. Click on an area to learn a bit more about each area.