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Volunteer with Adopt-a-Forest

Volunteers clean up trash as part of an adopt a forest event

Volunteer with Adopt-a-Forest

Volunteers are the backbone of our program

Adopt-a-Forest enjoys a large network of volunteers throughout the state. Participating groups range from Scouting organizations to homeowner associations to hunt clubs as well as individuals and families.

There are a few ways to adopt a forest:

Physical cleanup and maintenance

In many places on public forest land, adopting a section of forest will simply involve picking up litter along the roads found in and around your adopted area. These relatively small amounts of trash may be disposed of directly by the adopter as they would their own household trash. Cleanups may involve removal of small litter items or larger items such as discarded stoves, mattresses, carpeting, etc. After the initial cleanup, adopters should try to pick up an area at least twice a year, preferably in early spring and early fall. If possible, recycle found materials -  use the Michigan Recycling Directory to find recycling resources. 

How to get started:

  1. Gather your team, get your trash bags and buckets ready and wear the right gear including sturdy boots, gloves, sun protection and bug spray.
  2. Find a dumpsite suitable for your team using our dumpsite database. You can search sites by size, materials and other criteria.
  3. Head out and clean the site!
  4. Report back - let us know you cleaned the site and tell us a bit about what you found. This helps the program qualify for grants and funding to keep doing good.

The legal stuff - By volunteering with the Adopt-a-Forest program, you agree to the terms of our volunteer waiver, acknowledge that you have reviewed our safety information and participate at your own risk.

Volunteer forms and information

Frequently asked questions

  • Program funding can only be used for trash disposal fees. Tax laws may allow for gas and out-of-pocket expense deductions for volunteer projects; check with your tax-preparer for additional information. 

  • The Adopt-a-Forest program does not have a fleet of trucks or paid staff available to remove piles. If the trash site is large enough, dumpsters may be ordered and dropped off on-site and picked up soon after cleanup. Do not leave unattended dumpsters for extended periods, or they will attract more trash. If the piles are not large enough to warrant a dumpster, you may be able to partner with local groups who have access to pickup trucks and/or trailers and are willing to transport the trash to a local landfill or transfer station. The Adopt- Forest program maintains a database of volunteers.  If you need assistance in finding partners, feel free to contact us. 

  • Volunteers must follow all laws, regulations and special conditions for the area they are working in. If exemptions are made and ORV use is evident in an area, enforcement of unauthorized use becomes very difficult. In addition, most illegally disposed trash is dumped using vehicles licensed for road use; therefore, cleanup of trash using only road-licensed vehicles should suffice.

  • There are other ways to assist: Make a tax-deductible donation. Donate tools, food, or large equipment to volunteer groups working in your area. Encourage local officials to make legal disposal readily available in your community.

  • If possible, take a photo of the pile before you start cleanup. Proof of dumping will likely be in the form of an address on a magazine or discarded mail. Send the proof of dumping and photo with your progress report after project completion. If the item is too large to mail, make a note in the comments area of your progress report and save the item for later follow-up. The local authorities will be contacted with evidence of dumping. Keep in mind that license plate registration information is purged by the Secretary of State after 30 months of non-renewal. For abandoned vehicles, title identification numbers (VINs) are maintained for only 10 years. If dumping appears to be recent and proof of offender is very obvious, you may wish to leave the pile in place and call the DNR RAP Hotline at 1-800-292-7800.

  • Explore the dumpsite database to see all the active sites currently listed throughout the state. Filter by county to find a dumpsite in your area.

    There is no need to contact a project manager before your cleanup unless you need assistance.  If you have questions or comments regarding the Adopt-a-Forest program, contact us by emailing