Newaygo Conservation District Tree Nursery

Through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry, NACD and partners can better support conservation districts and their work with private forest landowners. The cooperative agreement allows for broader partnership engagement and helps support the production of Forestry Notes, NACD’s monthly forestry newsletter that promotes conservation district forestry efforts to an audience of more than 16,000 conservation professionals.

In 2022, NACD released the 2022 Community Wildfire Desk Guide in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service. This guide is designed to aid conservation districts and other conservation practitioners on understanding the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy and their role in supporting the goal areas that drive it.

The Newaygo Conservation District (NCD) in western Michigan was established in 1950 and the NCD Nursery was established the same year. The nursery provides bare-root seedlings in bulk to conservation districts throughout the state of Michigan and to residents for reforestation, afforestation, wildlife planting and erosion control. The nursery prioritizes native Michigan trees and shrubs and sold over 1.5 million seedlings the past 3 years, all grown at their 28-acre property. With the recent hiring of Symon Cronk, Nursery Manager, the NCD Nursery is looking ahead to continuing to meet the growing demand and staying on top of industry changes (and challenges) in seed collection, germination, and propagation of these species.

In addition to assessing the current and future capacities of the nursery, meeting a variety of local and in-state demands for stock, NCD Nursery is also engaging partners like Michigan State University in understanding climate assisted migration and the species shifts anticipated in response to warming temperatures. “That [climatic tension] line bisects Newaygo County, right where we are. Currently, we’re looking at central hardwood species, like the Tulip Poplar as a potential candidate for some of our southern counties. Our future here at the nursery will probably include adding 20% more species from southward, central hardwood, and lowland species,” said Cronk. Future visions of the NCD Nursery include a desired expansion in native species offerings, including native plants and grasses that support the biodiversity and natural features inherent to the state of Michigan. These visions of growth hinge on stock availability challenges, addressing the nursery infrastructure, and promoting the germination levels necessary for successful stock availability. NCD Nursery also aspires to sourcing seed more locally to support genetic diversity and site suitability.

When Conservation Districts were established out of the Dust Bowl, there were considerably more district managed nurseries. Referring to the “1981 Directory of Forest Tree Nurseries in the United States,” of the handful of conservation district operated nurseries mentioned in the 1981 directory, Newaygo Conservation District Nursery in Michigan and Antelope Valley Resource Conservation District Nursery in California remain. With an increasing need for reforestation, these district managed tree nurseries are meeting a critical need.

In western Michigan, demand continues to increase, and the district is poised to deliver. When asked about his favorite part of the role, Cronk said, “I get to communicate with landowners on how to manage their forest for health, regeneration, and encourage and advocate for native tree planting, native grass planting, native wildflower planting. The opportunities when I get to go out on site to a landowner and talk best management practices as well as tree planting are some of the best experiences.”

You can learn more about the Newaygo Conservation District Nursery on their website.

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