In Mackinac County, the Hiawatha Sportsman Club and its members are focused on protecting the environment.
“We have embraced the outdoors for more than 90 years,” said Doug Sanborn, manager of the Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club. “It is in our mission statement to promote conservation.”
When the club heard about the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, they knew they had to get involved.
“A local member, who is a farmer, brought it to our attention. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to partner with the state and do what MAEAP is really about, which is promoting stewardship and protecting the environment; it is already a part of our core values,” Sanborn said.
MAEAP is a voluntary program aimed at helping producers protect the environment by implementing conservation practices on their land. To participate, landowners work together with their local Conservation District to identify steps they can take to prevent pollution.
“My job is to provide technical assistance to landowners who may have questions about taking care of their land and work with them to become MAEAP verified,” said Jennifer Parks, Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Conservation District technician. “The Hiawatha Club was already doing a great job of taking care of their land. They have about 35,000 acres of land that is managed by an on-staff forester. The club also works with local experts on conservation issues, so they didn’t have to change much.”
The Hiawatha Sportsman Club is verified in the forest, wetlands, and habitat system. The forest, wetlands, habitat systems focus on forest health; protecting air, water, and soil; and restoring habitat.
“We investigated and found out we were doing a lot of things right already,” Sanborn said. “Our tech helped with soil identification and making sure we were doing what’s right for the soil that we have. We did soil tests and found out we were putting down fertilizer that we did not need too; so, we stopped. I wouldn’t describe the MAEAP process as easy, but it is friendly.”
The club continues to work with its members promoting MAEAP and following best management practices. They are working on becoming verified in MAEAP’s Cropping and Farmstead Systems.
“(MAEAP) is one more verification that we are doing the right thing and we can report to our members that we are taking care of their land,” Sanborn said. “I would tell landowners to give me a call if they are afraid to get verified. The program is about people wanting to do the right things and protect the environment.”
In addition to working with MAEAP, the club also decided to participate in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Qualified Forest Program. QFP provides a property tax exemption for forest landowners. In exchange, landowners must sustain and manage the forests for commercial harvest, wildlife habitat enhancement, and improvement of other non-forest resources.
“The club has been a member of the American Tree Farm system since 1954 and certified sustainable to the American Forest Foundations Standards of Sustainability. We enrolled the entire club [35,000 acres] in 2019,” said Gerald Grossman, Michigan Registered forester.