There’s a woodland in your backyard

Join the Michigan Forest Association and partners in learning about Michigan’s urban and suburban forests.

The Tollgate Farm and Education Center is one of many tours included in the “Woodlands in My Backyard” event. | Photo courtesy of

The Tollgate Farm and Education Center is one of many tours included in the “Woodlands in My Backyard” event. | Photo courtesy of

In partnership with Michigan State University Extension, The Michigan Forest Association, Greening of Detroit, and others is hosting its 44th annual meeting in the Greater Detroit area on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 19-20. All are welcome to attend!

Usually when people hear the word “forest,” they think of vast acreages of dense tree growth somewhere up north. But forests can be found anywhere in Michigan, even in our suburban and urban areas. According to U.S.D.A. Forest Service estimates, there are over 440,000 non-industrial private forest landowners — otherwise known as family forest owners. Although the southern Lower Peninsula’s land base is only 17 percent forested, and the majority of that land is held in small woodlots of less than 10 acres, these forests provide critical products and services.

Many small forest owners enjoy their land for a variety of purposes, including natural beauty, privacy, wildlife watching, other recreation pursuits, and even timber products. With smaller properties, these owners are at times unsure of what they can actively do to encourage or enhance the things they want from their forests. What can they do if they want to see more migratory songbirds or other wildlife? What about non-timber forest products like maple syrup? What if they want to sell some of their timber, but still have a healthy forest to pass on to their heirs?

It is possible to achieve these things, even on small acreages. One easy way to begin learning about potential options is to visit places where these management activities have taken place. Michigan State University’s Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi, MI is a relatively close place to see these activities first-hand. The Tollgate property is a 160 acre farmstead that offers hands-on gardening, farming and forestry experiences, all in an urban setting.

Tollgate manages a healthy forest as part of its property, where visitors can see different management options that meet recreational, wildlife and wood harvesting goals. Anyone interested in learning about what is possible on small woodlands are welcome to join the Michigan Forest Association’s (MFA) annual event: “Woodlands in My Backyard!” This gathering on Friday-Saturday, Aug. 19-20, offers a tour of Tollgate and much more. Partnering with Michigan State University Extension and the Greening of Detroit, participants will learn about urban and suburban forest practices, take a tour of beautiful Belle Isle, visit Greening of Detroit city forest restoration, and learn about urban forest conservation in another one of Detroit’s green gems: River Rouge Park. 

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