Scattered across the state, Michigan’s wetlands provide great year-round recreation opportunities like birding, boating, fishing, hiking, photography and hunting. Now through July 14, the DNR’s Wetland Wonders Challenge offers even more reasons to visit. Stop by one of the 14 Wetland Wonders locations at state game and wildlife areas around Michigan, snap a picture next to the official sign, and you could win a Cabela’s gift card valued at up to $1,000.

But Michigan’s wetlands offer more than amazing recreation and prize opportunities. They’re key to improving and maintaining the state’s environmental health.

“Michigan’s wetlands are beneficial to humans and to wildlife,” said Holly Vaughn, DNR wildlife communications coordinator. “They provide important flood control functions, especially important when communities are experiencing a great deal of rainfall, and help to filter water, making our groundwater cleaner. Wetlands also provide nesting areas and resting spots for migrating birds to stop and refuel for their long migrations.”

Besides serving a vital environmental function, Michigan’s thousands of acres of wetlands are a great way to explore Michigan’s outdoors – wetlands are teeming with a diverse array of species, and opportunities abound for people who want to get involved in nature year-round. Whether that’s by wildlife viewing, kayaking or hunting, wetlands should be every outdoor enthusiast’s next stop.

Hunting Access Program helps landowners

Property owners in more than a dozen counties have the opportunity to enroll their land in the DNR’s Hunting Access Program – and play a key role in helping Michigan’s deer population.

The program is enrolling private property in priority counties for deer disease in portions of the southern and northern Lower Peninsula. Landowners should have at least 40 acres of land with some wildlife habitat (forest, brush, etc.) within a chronic wasting disease or bovine tuberculosis priority county listed below.

Enrollment is open through Sept. 1. Priority counties for HAP enrollment include Alcona, Alpena, Cheboygan, Ionia, Iosco, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Montmorency, Newaygo, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle. Landowners in Alcona, Alpena, Ionia, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Montmorency, Newaygo or Oscoda counties may be eligible for additional incentives.

“You can get paid to help with wildlife disease management, support the local economy and reduce wildlife conflicts on your property,” said DNR Hunting Access Program coordinator Monique Ferris, who explained that most counties have local conservation district staff available to assist with enrollment. “Call today to learn what you could earn for your land.”

Since 1977, Michigan’s Hunting Access Program – one of the nation’s largest and longest-running dedicated private-land public access programs – has given landowners another option to earn income from their land for allowing controlled hunting access.

Benefits to landowners include:

• An annual payment based on acres of land enrolled, type of land cover and type of hunting allowed.

• Liability protection for the landowner through Public Act 451.

• Flexible options for hunting types and maximum number of hunters allowed on the property.

• The opportunity to promote Michigan’s rich hunting heritage.

• The ability to better manage wildlife on the property.

There is no extra cost for hunters to use HAP lands, but they are responsible for reviewing rules for each property they plan to hunt (available online), checking in at the property before each day of hunting and respecting the landowners’ property.

– From the Michigan Department of Natural Resources