Lansing, MI - Fifty-one years and counting, and this year – as Michigan residents still seek out safe, socially distant relief from the COVID-19 pandemic – it may be more important than ever to recognize Earth Day and the value of healthy, abundant, public outdoor spaces.
While people around the world will recognize Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, in ways big and small, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is taking the opportunity to highlight yet another reason to celebrate: the department’s centennial anniversary. The DNR’s forerunner, the Department of Conservation, was established in 1921 (March 30, 1921, to be exact).
“We are blessed in Michigan with fresh water, thriving forests, and diverse fish and wildlife populations,” said DNR Director Dan Eichinger. “These unmatched resources not only provide the backdrop for year-round outdoor recreation adventures, they also contribute in a big way to local, regional and state economies.
“During this, our centennial year, and on Earth Day, in particular, it makes sense to shine a light on the many ways residents can lend their energy, action and voice to conservation and volunteer efforts that serve and protect our natural resources. We also want to offer ideas and opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors, explore new recreation pursuits and learn a little more about the history of our department and many partners.”
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Enjoy a conversation on the shared history of the DNR and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. How is the modern environmental movement in Michigan rooted in the concerns of early hunters and fishers? What are the big environmental and conservation issues that will face us in the next 100 years? Hear Eichinger, EGLE Director Liesl Clark and author Dave Dempsey talk about conservation, environmentalism and why it all matters to you. Look for it on the DNR Facebook page on Earth Day.
- Explore the DNR centennial webpage, where you’ll find an interactive timeline and story map capturing conservation milestones and accomplishments, 100 ways to explore and enjoy Michigan’s natural and cultural resources, and a variety of Showcasing the DNR stories (including an Earth Day-themed one coming out Thursday) that capture interesting chapters of department history.
- Make a difference. There are many ways to take action to protect the outdoor places you love. Clean up a forest dump site. Help clear out invasive plant species at your favorite state park. Practice the “leave no trace” ethic every time you visit the outdoors. Be a campground, harbor or lighthouse host. Participate in meetings where important resource decisions are made. Visit Michigan.gov/DNRVolunteers and get inspired to get involved!
Kevin Frailey, DNR Education Services manager, said that this year the DNR also will complement the annual Earth Day celebration with virtual school presentations, a renewed callout to parents and a fun video to mark the moment.
“We’ll be releasing another video on April 22 to encourage people to appreciate the wonders of nature, and also to remind them about the many things they can do to help,” Frailey said. (The new Earth Day video will be shared at Facebook.com/MiNatureDNR , a page where you can learn about Michigan's natural resources through outdoor education, environmental education, tips, fast facts and more.)
He also pointed to two online DNR resources with a wealth of age-specific information about Michigan’s natural world:
- For parents: Discover Michigan.gov/NatureAtHome, developed during the early weeks of COVID-19, but still updated with new information. The site offers hundreds of resources for parents eager to safely connect their children to nature. Many Nature At Home activities can be done in your own yard or even at the kitchen table. There also are 100-plus entertaining and educational nature-themed videos to check out.
- For educators: Learn more about Michigan.gov/NatureAtSchool, a resource that brings a variety of nature lessons into the classroom on the virtual platform of the teacher’s choosing. Since mid-September, more than 400 programs – schools in Detroit can learn about Upper Peninsula forests and wildlife, while a landlocked school in mid-Michigan can enjoy a Great Lakes science lesson – have been conducted “live” to elementary, middle and high schools throughout Michigan; 21 such programs are scheduled for this week! Nature At School programs have had a nearly 50% response rate for teacher evaluations, with programs averaging better than 4.8 out of 5 for overall program effectiveness and presenter engagement.
Frailey said Earth Day and the DNR’s centennial year are perfect opportunities to think about the way we interact with the world around us and to be more responsible caretakers of Michigan’s natural and cultural resources.
“Historically, Earth Day has been about awareness and a reminder to clean up our act. It’s a great time to begin or renew your Earth Day resolutions,” he said. “You can begin on a personal level. Are you recycling as much as you can? Avoiding buying plastics? Spending more time outdoors? When it comes to protecting the outdoors, every day should be Earth Day because these amazing resources belong to all of us.”
Follow Michigan.gov/DNRCentennial throughout the year for news and information updates, volunteer opportunities and other resources.