2018-04-22 / Insight

Official: Tree count up in Lapeer County

Lapeer Conservation District plays big role
BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich @mihomepaper.com


Leo Ruhana, chair of the Lapeer Conservation District, helps prepare trees last week that had been pre-ordered. The organization sells tens of thousands of trees annually. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Leo Ruhana, chair of the Lapeer Conservation District, helps prepare trees last week that had been pre-ordered. The organization sells tens of thousands of trees annually. Photos by Andrew Dietderich LAPEER COUNTY — Mary Brown has an interesting proposition for those interested in the landscape of Lapeer County — an idea that is especially timely in light of Earth Day.

“If you look at historical aerial photos — just take one spot from say, 1950 — and look at that same spot now, you’ll see how much more of it is trees than it was 50 to 60 years ago,” said Brown, executive director of the Lapeer Conservation District.

The Lapeer Conservation District has had a big role in it too, from assisting landowners in getting help with forestry management to being responsible for distribution of many of the actual trees through its annual tree sale event (the most recent one continues through this week).


Above, Mary Brown, executive director, Lapeer Conservation District, (left) and volunteer Carl Kern prepare trees for distribution last week. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich Above, Mary Brown, executive director, Lapeer Conservation District, (left) and volunteer Carl Kern prepare trees for distribution last week. Photo by Andrew Dietderich “We have a lot more forestry than some of our agricultural neighbors do,” Brown told The County Press.

Lapeer Conservation District (LCD), celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2018, has had a front row seat to that forestry, too.

LCD is part of a “conservation partnership,” according to Brown, and its partners are the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) and the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

According to its most recent annual report, LCD offers support for the many available NRCS programs “through a cooperative agreement with NRCS. Technical and financial assistance ensues to landowners for making environmental improvements to their farming and forestry operations by reducing the negative impacts of their operations on the environment. LCD’s goal is to assist…agricultural and forestry sectors to the point where our counties have the cleanest water, cleanest air, little or no invasive species, the healthiest forests and the most fertile soils in the country.”

Brown said assistance related to forestry continues to be an important part of what LCD does.

One big reason, she said, is that because of how glaciers once rolled through the area, the makeup of local soil isn’t always the most conducive for use in farming operations.

Many landowners have turned to planting trees as a result, she said.

“Some of our decline in farming was because some of the soils in Lapeer County are not suitable for farming,” Brown said. “And so the people that own that land with those soils have gone back to trees… instead of crops.”

Brown said LCD can connect landowners with the resources for tasks such as managing their wooded property, how to take care of such areas, how to have a sustainable harvest, and more.

“You know, if you’re looking for income, it doesn’t have to be a devastating clear cut,” Brown said.

Another big reason LCD is so connected with trees is financial.

Brown said soil conservation districts have traditionally distributed trees, whether given away or sold, since their beginning.

Today, the organization’s annual tree sale in Lapeer County provides almost all of its funding as continual cutbacks over the years at the federal and state levels have slashed LCD’s budget.

“We aren’t going to wait,” Brown said. “We can’t sit around and wait for someone to come up with this money. So we have tree sales and other fundraisers.”

Trees pre-ordered during winter months were picked up late last week.

Volunteers quickly worked Wednesday in a pole barn at Lapeer Township-based Mutch’s Hidden Pines Farm (donated for LCD to use for a few days) to prepare more than 20,000 trees.

In machine-like fashion and precision, volunteers picked trees, cross-referenced orders, and dipped roots in a special gel-like solution specifically made to preserve them prior to planting. The pole barn smelled like a giant Christmas tree, and all the volunteers seemed to be smiling.

Among them was Leo Ruhana, chair of the LCD board, sporting a winter cap and work jacket and helping prepare orders.

“What could be better than planting a tree?” Ruhana said as he prepared an order of hazelnut trees. “And it enables people to get trees at great prices.”

Carl Kern also was helping prepare trees for pickup. Kern said he has been helping LCD with its tree sales for “at least 20 years.”

Kern said he planted two acres of pine trees on his own property and essentially ran out of space.

“So I said ‘OK, fine, I’ll help somebody else plant them,’” Kern told The County Press.

LCD took orders for its tree sales in February this year.

However, anyone interested in buying trees from LCD and supporting the organization still has a chance.

Trees will be available for purchase at the Lapeer County Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 1633 N. Lapeer Rd., in Mayfield Township, starting Tuesday, April 24, at 1 p.m. and for the rest of the week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Lapeer Conservation District website can be found at lapeercd.org. Further, it can reached via phone at 810-664-0895, Ext. 5, or via email at admin@lapeercd.org.

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