MICHIGAN – Earth Day is April 22, and Arbor Day is April 24. While in-person gatherings to mark these annual celebrations and other volunteer stewardship events have been canceled to help slow the spread of COVID-19, there are ways you can support conservation and get involved in taking care of Michigan’s natural resources from home.
Be sure to maintain social distancing while outside by staying 6 feet away from anyone not in your household. Follow our DNR COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on facilities and closures/cancellations, and stay up to date on the latest public health guidelines and news at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
- Celebrate Earth Day from home
- Thank a tree this Arbor Day
- Plan to plant native trees to help wildlife
- Prepare for spring tree planting by making a sun map
- Help monarchs, bees and other pollinators
- Make your city a Tree City USA (with video)
Celebrate Earth Day from home
In-person Earth Day events may be canceled, but we still can get into the spirit of the annual environmental observance – marking its 50th anniversary this year – by taking action and celebrating at home.
Consider the following suggestions for how you and your family can contribute to a healthier and cleaner planet:
- Take a family walk and observe nature.
- Plant some trees or native wildflower seeds or put in a rain or butterfly garden. See the stories below for more information on tree planting and gardening for pollinators.
- Ride a bike or take a hike.
And check out Five Days of Earth Day, a series of short videos from the DNR’s education team that highlight many aspects of what it means to enjoy, share and take care of the world around us. A new video drops every morning this week at 9 a.m. on Facebook at @MiNatureDNR.
The photo above shows one of the winners of the 2020 Earth Day Poster Contest, created by first grader Juliana Gjokaj of Monfort Elementary in Shelby Township. See all poster contest winners.
THANK A TREE THIS ARBOR DAY
MICHIGAN – Michigan’s 20 million acres of forests and abundant urban trees do a lot for us: trees clean our air and water, make homes for wildlife, create forests for us to hike and bike through, absorb carbon, keep us cool, supply renewable materials for the things we need and provide natural beauty.
Arbor Day, celebrated the last Friday in April, is a holiday dedicated to all the great things trees do for us. It’s especially important for Michigan. Did you know Arbor Day, first held in 1872, was championed by Michigan native J. Sterling Morton? He envisioned it as a way to spread awareness about the importance of trees and encourage tree planting.
We can keep that vision thriving by finding ways to celebrate Arbor Day locally as we observe social distancing guidelines. Here are some fun ideas:
- Challenge your family to a tree ID contest using the “What Tree Is That?” guide.
- Create works of art with tree-themed coloring pages or make nature crafts from pine cones, leaves and twigs.
- Learn about the importance of trees and sustainable forest management.
- Learn how to plant a tree.
- Hike at your local park or nature trail and record the wildlife that live in the forest.
- Visit the Arbor Day Foundation website for more ways to observe Arbor Day while social distancing this year.
PLAN TO PLANT NATIVE TREES TO HELP WILDLIFE
Jump-start a connection to nature this Arbor Day by planning to plant a native tree. While some nurseries are closed due to COVID-19 mitigation, you can plan now for the trees you want to plant when nurseries reopen. Check out online tree-buying options like the Arbor Day Foundation or check with your local conservation district – many have arranged opportunities to buy trees while maintaining proper distance from others.
Trees native to Michigan are easy to care for and provide many benefits to wildlife, including food and shelter, as well as the environment. Learn more about the benefits of trees.
While landscape trees from other parts of the world may be pretty, they don’t provide as many ecological benefits (like wildlife food) as native trees. Picks for native trees that wildlife will flock to include eastern redbud, American elderberry, white oak, serviceberry (juneberry) and mountain ash.
Learn more on our webpage about native trees to plant to attract backyard wildlife. You can get native plant recommendations based on zip code from the Audubon Society.
PREPARE FOR SPRING TREE PLANTING BY MAKING A SUN MAP
Arbor Day is the perfect time start thinking about the benefits and natural beauty of trees and plants. Before you grab a shovel, make sure to pick the perfect spot for a tree to grow.
Creating a sun map to track sun exposure in your growing space can help. You can make a sun map for a backyard, a garden plot or even a porch or balcony.
To create a sun map, make a diagram of your yard and divide it into quadrants. It may help to visually mark the lines in your yard with string, a garden hose or chalk. Each hour after sunrise, make a tally mark on each area of your diagram that receives full sun. At the end of the day, add up the marks to determine the hours of sun exposure each area gets.
Once you know your sun situation, it’s easy to pick the appropriate trees and plants for your growing space.
Plants and trees labeled “full sun” need six or more hours of sunlight per day. “Part-sun” or “part-shade” labels indicate that the plant needs three to six hours of sunlight, and those labeled “shade” require three hours or less of sunlight each day. In addition to sun exposure, moisture, wind and soil conditions also will affect the success of trees and plants.
HELP MONARCHS, BEES, AND OTHER POLLINATORS
Monarch butterflies, bees and other insects – despite their small size – play a very large role in humans’ lives as they travel to flowering plants, drinking nectar and transporting pollen. Pollinators like butterflies and bees are responsible for approximately one-third of the world’s food source.
Due to a loss of habitat, the eastern monarch butterfly population has declined by 90% over the last 20 years, and bees have declined 50% in recent decades. These alarming drops have sparked conservation programs across the nation to take action, and thanks to efforts to protect pollinators and restore habitat, monarch populations have increased steadily over the last few years.
There are a variety of ways you can help monarchs and other important pollinators in Michigan, including becoming aware of and participating in ongoing conservation efforts.
Some ideas for how you can get involved:
- Make your garden a great place for pollinators. See Michigan pollinator gardening tips (accessible version of Michigan pollinator gardening tips).
- Learn about creating monarch habitat and planting native milkweed.
- Learn how to help and stay up to date with the latest pollinator information from Michigan State University Extension.
- Report your monarch sightings through Journey North and Monarch Joint Venture.
- Report your bee sightings through the Bee spotter and Bumble Bee Watch.
- Become a citizen scientist and take part in one of many opportunities to study monarchs.
- Check out more resources on the DNR’s monarch butterfly page.