Michigan DNR offering $75 for red pine cones to help restore state forests

The Department of Natural Resources is taking pine cones for cash as part of a state program to plant trees in state forests.

For the entire month of September, residents that collect a bushel of pine cones and return them to one of six DNR locations will earn $75 - as well as that intangible sense of joy for helping restore the environment.

From Sept. 1-30, people can collect and return red pine cones before dropping them off at locations in Marquette, Newberry, Manistique, Gaylord, Roscommon, and Cadillac. 

There are a few rules to follow if one is going to embark on this tree-planting quest.

Cones can be found in felled treetops from recent timber sales, state forestlands, and squirrel caches.

If someone is getting them from a timber sale, they'll need permission from the loggers and should wear protective gear. However, the DNR said it's easiest just to pick them from living red pine trees where branches are near the ground. 

But what does the perfect pine cone from a red pine look like?

  • Red pine trees have "craggy, reddish bark, and 4-to-6 inch needles that grow in pairs. Harvesting from Scotch or Austrian pine trees won't help you as those pine cones will not be accepted
  • Cones should be picked off a tree. Any on the ground might be too old or wet. 
  • Keep twigs, needles, and debris away
  • The physical cone should be closed with "a little bit of green or purple tint." If they're brown and open, it's too late for that pine cone

The pine cones should be stored in cool, dry places or in mesh bags. The DNR also offers onion bags at its drop-off locations residents can use. Bear in mind burlap and plastic bags can ruin the pine cones. 

Bags should be tagged on the inside and outside with one's name, county, and where the cones were picked. 

The DNR says once the pine cones are collected, they'll put them into machines that gently warm them up and then shake them, allowing the seeds to drop out and be stored until planting time. 

Anyone who is contributing will need to register as a vendor online to get paid. You can do that here.

The efforts will go toward replanting forests and replenishing the Red pine supply. 

Here are the contacts for each of the six locations: