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DNR halts proposed plan for Genoa Township seed orchard

Nov. 3, 2021

A young tree seed orchard with well-space conifers.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will not move ahead with proposed projects to extract sand and gravel or establish a tree seed orchard on two parcels of land in Genoa Township, southeast Livingston County.

The DNR had proposed removing excess material and leveling the hilly land on the 50-acre and 77-acre parcels between Brighton Road and Cunningham Lake Road by leasing the rights to mine sand and gravel on the properties. The land now is expected to be sold at auction in the future.

"People in the area have told us that they do not want the DNR to complete this process, and we have listened to their concerns," said Jeff Stampfly, chief of the DNR's Forest Resources Division. "Public input has always been an important aspect of proposed forest management activities, whether here or in evaluating other decisions across the state."

The Forest Resources Division took over management of the two parcels in 2019. The properties had previously been listed as surplus properties by the DNR's Parks and Recreation Division, which manages the nearby 4,947-acre Brighton Recreation Area.

Public input is part of the process

About 500 people attended an Oct. 12 informational meeting where DNR staff explained the proposed project. Public comment at the meeting was overwhelmingly negative, especially regarding the sand and gravel extraction phase. They also expressed concerns regarding a sodium and chloride groundwater plume on the 77-acre parcel, as well as an old township dump site on the site. The state's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy had determined that the plume was unlikely to be disturbed by the proposed gravel operation.

Stampfly said the location initially seemed like a good fit for needed expansion of the DNR's Tree Improvement on Chilson Road, but that the department now will seek another site for expansion of seed orchards.

Existing trees already have been cleared from the Genoa Township property through a timber sale. About a year remains on the timber contract. Some cut wood still needs to be removed from the site and chipping of top wood remains to be completed.

Seed orchards help state forests thrive

Seed orchards are used to provide large volumes of pine cones for growing tree seedlings for DNR reforestation efforts. Seeds are extracted and nurtured under controlled conditions, with seedlings then planted on state forest land. Using seed orchards helps guarantee the health and success of future forests. The DNR has operated seed orchards to obtain jack pine and red pine seeds at the Brighton Tree Improvement Center for several decades, and is in the process of establishing new orchards on the site and other DNR lands in northern Michigan.

In a typical year, the DNR plants as many as 6 million trees to make sure state forests remain healthy and abundant.

The DNR has been certified by two separate outside agencies since 2005 as using responsible forest management practices. Learn more about how the DNR plans for and takes care of state forest land at Michigan.gov/Forestry.