Doug Hansen lives in Saginaw County, but like many of us, he enjoys the outdoors.
So, 41 years ago, Hansen bought more than 280 acres in Ogemaw County, Hill Township. He soon realized his land needed a lot of work.
“When I first bought the land there was garbage everywhere,” Hansen said. “There were also parts of my land that had not been forested.”
Over the years Hansen cleaned up his land and started to forest his property. He now has more than 100 apple trees and eagles’ nests on his property.
Hansen still wanted to do more, especially since he recently decided he wanted to give his land to a conservancy.
“I have been in the process of getting my land together to give to the conservancy, and I want to make sure my ducks are in order. So, I decided to get MAEAP verified,” he said.
The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) is a voluntary program through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) that helps farmers and landowners reduce environmental pollution through education and technical assistance. Landowners can get verified in four categories: farmstead, livestock, cropping, and forest, wetlands and habitat.
Hansen got his land verified in the forest, wetland, and habitat category which focuses on environmental and forest sustainability practices.
“I decided to get verified because I am concerned about the environment and want to make sure I am doing the right things. If you want to be a good steward of the land and you want to be sustainable, you must do something,” Hansen said. “MAEAP provides a good set of guidelines and management plans that help anyone who is concerned about being a good steward.”
To become MAEAP verified, a landowner attends an educational session either online or in his or her community. He or she learns about MAEAP and an environmental topic that may help the landowner improve the performance of his or her forest, wetland, or habitat.
Then the landowner meets with a MAEAP technician to go through his or her forest with an assessment tool, which looks at a forest’s environmental impact. The assessment tool includes a series of questions that ultimately focus on management practices and impact on surrounding ground and surface waters.
“The process took me about five months,” Hansen said. “I met with a MAEAP technician who helped me with a land management plan. I also met with a forester. They gave me a lot of good information, which I applied back to my land.”
After a farmer’s assessment, the technician makes suggestions on changes the landowner might need to make to improve his or her land. Some of the practices MAEAP requires to be verified cost very little in time or money and reduce many risks toward the environment.
“I didn’t have to make any big changes. I have a lake that is part of the land and I wanted to make sure it was taken care of too,” Hansen said. “They suggested adding stone around my lake to help prevent erosion, which I did.”
Once the landowner makes those changes, a MAEAP verifier comes out to verify that the forestland is following best management practices. If the landowner is, then he or she is MAEAP verified.
“After I made changes, I met with a MAEAP verifier, which was great. He kept telling me I was already doing the right things to take care of the land,” Hansen added. “I am verified, and I like the guidance MAEAP provides me through educational tools and talking to a MAEAP technician.”
Once a landowner becomes verified, he or she receives a sign that shows the community that the farmer is taking care of the environment.
“I can’t wait to get my sign,” Hansen said. “It will go on a post in front of my property.”
For those landowners who are hesitant to become MAEAP verified, Hansen suggests looking toward the future.
“We have to be concerned about the future,” he said. “It is not now, but we can plan for it. Any tree that I plant today, in my case, I am not going to see it to maturity. I purchase trees for a better tomorrow. I am looking toward the future and not today.”
For more information about MAEAP, visit www.maeap.org.
The story was originally published on November 19, 2019, in Michigan Farm News written by MDARD.