Michigan Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Michigan’s Wildlife Action Plan provides a common strategic framework and information resource to help conserve Michigan’s terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and the lands and waters on which they depend for survival.

The action plan takes a primarily habitat-based approach to conserving rare, declining and common wildlife species. The action plan focuses on “landscape features,” such as prairies, bogs, large rivers and coastal dunes. Recommended conservation actions are provided for these landscape features on a regional basis. The action plan also looks at the conservation needs of more than 400 vulnerable wildlife species and at statewide conservation priorities.

By combining habitat and wildlife-specific approaches, and considering multiple scales, Michigan’s action plan will help to guide the conservation of the state’s full wildlife diversity.


Michigan has more public land than any state east of the Mississippi River. Federal, state or local governments manage one-fifth of the land area, including the country’s largest state forest system.

Hundreds of conservation partners – including other public agencies, local governments, tribes, watershed groups, nature centers, land conservancies, corporations, special interest groups and dedicated individuals – are also working for the conservation of Michigan’s native wildlife and their habitats on publicly- and privately-owned lands.

Wildlife Highlights

Karner blue butterflies lend brilliant color to the prairies and savannas of southern Michigan. Lake sturgeon grace Michigan’s waters, which also provide a backdrop for the unexpected beauty of more than 40 species of native mussels. Each year, Kirtland’s Warblers faithfully return to the only nesting area they’ve ever known – in northern Michigan’s jack pine forests.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Michigan

Michigan’s action plan identifies 20 statewide priority threats and significant conservation issues. Invasive species and habitat fragmentation repeatedly surface as highest priority threats.

Invasive Species

Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that cause ecological and economic harm. The Great Lakes region alone hosts more than 200, including plants like purple loosestrife and autumn olive, and animals such as the gypsy moth and zebra mussel. The emerald ash borer, a native of eastern Asia, arrived in Michigan less than a decade ago and has already destroyed millions of the state’s ash trees.

Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation results from breaking up larger landscapes into smaller patches. Housing development, new roads, stream diversions and dams can isolate animal populations, create barriers to wildlife movement, and lead to wildlife declines. Fragmentation can be especially harmful to migratory aquatic wildlife such as lake sturgeon, and animals that need large habitats, including songbirds like scarlet tanagers and meadowlarks, and mammals like the American marten. 

Working Together for Michigan’s Wildlife

Michigan Department of Natural Resources invited more than 200 conservation partners to help shape the action plan, and nearly 60% actively participated, including the American Fisheries Society, DTE Energy, The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Bow Hunters Association, Michigan Farm Bureau, and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi. Twelve public meetings and eight additional partner meetings included regional technical workshops that brought together natural resource professionals from conservation organizations, universities, and state and Federal agencies to examine the conditions and threats facing each landscape feature and to recommend conservation actions.

Michigan’s action plan identifies a wide variety of needed conservation efforts, making it a valuable resource for all conservation partners in Michigan. Each conservation partner, whether government, tribe, organization or individual, will determine for itself which actions are most appropriate to help fulfill its mission and goals.

Some of these decisions have already been made; that is, many of the recommended conservation efforts in the action plan were drawn from existing strategies and plans, and implementation is already progressing. In many ways, Michigan’s conservation partners have already started on the path toward ensuring representation of the full diversity of Michigan’s wildlife species and their habitats. Success will require continued coordination, cooperation and a common vision for the conservation of natural resources in Michigan.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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