We’re sure you’ll agree – we love trees! Exploring trails among them, watching their beautiful cycle from bud to leaf to showy fall foliage, and enjoying a shaded campsite beneath them.
For nearly a decade, the DNR has partnered with the Department of Corrections to grow our Happy Little Trees. The program began as a response to losses of ash from emerald ash borer and to fill the need for replacement trees suitable for parks, but has grown into valuable career training opportunities.
Teams of volunteers (that could be you!) collect seeds from healthy trees at risk in state parks. These are then shared with inmates at prisons around Michigan. These inmates become “trustees” of the seeds. Because the seed source is from within the ecoregion of where they will finally be planted, the trees retain the unique genetics of the area. This helps the trees survive each ecoregion’s unique conditions. For example, the genetics of a tree growing in Warren Dunes State Park in southwest Michigan likely are vastly different from trees growing near Fayette in the U.P. Even though you may find red oaks growing in both locations, the local genetics are better adapted to the local conditions and will increase the likelihood of survival.
The trustees grow the trees from seeds to saplings, and then into “treenagers,” which is the perfect size to plant them somewhere else (#parentingtruth). The trustees gain skills in the nursery and horticultural industries. They work hands-on with educators in the facility to germinate, grow and care for the trees, becoming adept with the “tools of the trade.” They also learn about Michigan’s native tree species and techniques for growing containerized tree stock.
Volunteers will be needed at all planting locations (though space is limited, so spots are not guaranteed), and all volunteers will receive a Happy Little Trees T-shirt. People interested in volunteering are encouraged to sign up by registering on the “volunteer” link on this page.
Chateau Grand Traverse was the first partner in the These Goods are Good for Michigan
program, generating $20,000 to support the Happy Little Trees program, already planting more than 1,000 trees in nearly 20 different state parks through their generosity. We hope you’ll do the same, by donating your time or financial support to this great program.