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Trash and trees don't mix -- help protect Michigan's forests

Person picking up trash in the woods Credit: PixabayRecord numbers of people are heading to Michigan's outdoors this summer, exploring forests to enjoy the beauty of wildflowers, bright songbirds and splashing waterways. This captivating scenery is, unfortunately, sometimes marred by something less beautiful: dump sites.

Trash in the forest isn't just ugly, it's hazardous to people, wildlife and the environment. If you want to help care for the wild places you love, join Adopt-a-Forest, a volunteer-driven cleanup program bringing people together to protect the outdoors. Because of this program, more than half of illegally dumped trash removed from public lands in the last 10 years has been recycled.
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First, find a dumpsite using the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) online database and fill out the volunteer waiver at CleanForests.org. Then, pack the right gear including gloves, sturdy boots, sun protection and bug spray before heading to the forest for a cleanup. Lastly, let us know to check it off the list by filling out a report.

If a hands-on cleanup isn't right for you, Adopt-a-Forest also needs assistance with scouting sites and sharing proper disposal resources, and accepts donations for supplies and heavy equipment rental.

"Proper disposal of waste keeps the environment clean, safe and beautiful," said Phil Roycraft, the District Supervisor with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy who handles waste programs across the northern Lower Peninsula and all of the Upper Peninsula. "A lot of items people throw out can actually be recycled, and all can be disposed of responsibly."

Here are a few resources for responsible recycling and waste disposal:

See someone dumping? Report it to the DNR's Report All Poaching hotline. Find something potentially hazardous in the woods? Contact EGLE's Environmental Assistance Center or the Pollution Emergency Alert System if it's clearly a hazard needing immediate attention.

Learn more about Adopt-a-Forest by contacting program coordinator Conor Haenni, 989-429-5542, or visiting CleanForests.org.

Photo caption: Person picking up trash in the woods.

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