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Environmental Stewardship Division (ESD)

The Environmental Stewardship Division (ESD) administers a wide variety of programs which provide for a safe and healthy environment, a viable natural resource base, and a strong agricultural and forestry economy. ESD cooperates with, local, state, and federal programs and private landowners to strengthen the economic viability of the food, fiber, and agriculture industry, and help provide profitable economic opportunities for businesses on working lands.

Division Director

James Johnson
517-284-5602

Our Programs

Conservation District Operations – Michigan’s conservation districts utilize local, state, federal, and private sector resources to deliver programming designed to solve today’s agricultural and natural resource problems. The Division works cooperatively with Michigan's 75 conservation districts who deliver ESD's soil, water, and energy conservation programs directly to landowners. 

Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program – The Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program (commonly known as PA 116) protects farmland and open space through voluntary agreements and conservation easements that restrict non-agricultural development and may provide certain tax benefits in exchange for program participation.

Forestry - The Forestry Assistance Program is designed to help private forestland owners manage their forests in an economically beneficial and environmentally sound manner. Conservation District foresters work with private landowners to increase the understanding of the value of forest resources. They also refer landowners to private sector foresters for management plan development, forest management practice implementation, and verify landowner eligibility for Michigan's Qualified Forest Program (QFP).  QFP encourages landowners to actively manage their privately owned forests for commercial harvest, wildlife habitat enhancement, and improvement of other non-forest resources. In exchange for managing their forests in a sustainable fashion, the landowner will receive an exemption from the local school operating millage.

Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) – MAEAP is an innovative, proactive program that helps farms of all sizes, and all commodities voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. MAEAP also helps farmers with safe and proper disposal of pesticides through the Clean Sweep Program and reporting their water use.

Intercounty Drains - County and intercounty drains play a key role in the development of agriculture, roads and highways, residential, and commercial properties by removing excess soil moisture, reducing flood impacts, and improving public health. ESD staff chair intercounty drainage boards that oversee drain management and balance upstream benefits with downstream costs between counties.

Migrant Labor Housing - Migrant Labor Housing is designed to ensure the safety of housing occupied by five or more migrant agricultural workers. ESD inspects and licenses 4,000 living units a year.   

Right to Farm - Michigan has one of the most effective Right to Farm laws in the nation.  The Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development to adopts Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices. These GAAMPs provide a standard for noise and odor associated with farm operations protecting farms from being nuisance lawsuits.   Additionally, the program assists new or expanding livestock with siting and odor mitigation The program also provides biosolids education and assistance and aquifer dispute resolution.

Spill Response Team - Through rapid response and land application of recovered materials, Michigan saves tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs from agrichemical spills.