The Department of Natural Resources is taking grant applications for Deer Private Land Assistance Network grants.
For 2014, the grants will target a six-county area, including Alcona, Alpena, Presque Isle and Montmorency counties, according to grant documents. Its two main goals are to build partnerships between the DNR and private landowners or conservation groups, and to create substantial improvements in deer habitat.
Landowners and conservation groups can apply for grants from $2,000 to $10,000, and a total of $50,000 is available for the grants, DNR Deer Program Biologist Ashley Autenrieth said. By targeting six counties, the money will have a greater impact on the area. Possible projects include planting oak or apple trees, creating, maintaining or rehabilitating a wildlife opening or creating a space where northern white cedar can regenerate without being eaten by deer.
"We've heard from local landowners and heard from conservation districts there are certain areas that have good habitat potential but currently do not have good habitat," she said. "There could be some older woodlots that are maybe privately owned that would really benefit from basically going in and doing some hand-cutting, and planting some seedlings and saplings."
Grant money won't be awarded to plant exotic or invasive species, to dig a pond or for commercial timber harvest-related activities, among other restrictions, Autenrieth said.
The DNR's already received two applications, and Autenrieth has taken several phone calls about the grants, she said. The deadline is May 14, and applicants will be notified on May 30.
When Autenrieth first learned of the grant, she identified Northeast Michigan as an area where locals were interested and where there were issues with the deer.
"We thought it would be a great area to start as a pilot program for it," she said. "We do anticipate in the next few years that we're doing this grant program that we would move it around the Northern Lower Peninsula."
Because of this, Autenrieth said those who apply should consider longer-term projects. While applicants could get a grant for a food plot, they'd get three to five years' use out of it. Apple trees, on the other hand, would give a 10- to 20-year return, and oak trees would give a 20- to 50-year return.
All grant money has to be spent by Sept. 30, the end of the DNR's fiscal year, Autenrieth said. The DNR will also check in on projects to make sure applicants follow through with the plan.
More information on the grant is available online at www.michigan.gov/dnr-grants, under "Wildlife Habitat Management." Those with questions can contact Laurie Abel at 732-3541, ext. 5901, Autenrieth at 732-3541, ext. 5044, or Brian Piccolo at 275-5151, ext. 2030.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.