Bay Mills Indian Community: Sugar Island


Staff from the Bay Mills Indian Community used the Adaptation Workbook in September 2016, and they are currently working with tribal natural resource specialists and other partners to refine their project ideas before implementation. 

Staff from Bay Mills Indian Community used the Adaptation Workbook to consider climate change risks and adaptation actions for a tribal-owned property on an island between the US and Canada.

Project Area

Sugar Island is part of a large chain of islands on the St. Mary's River between the US and Canada, east of Sault Ste. Marie. The island is about 6 miles across and 20 miles long, and it is within the ceded territory of the Bay Mills Indian Community. Tribal members retain rights to hunt, fish, and gather on the island, and Bay Mills owns a portion of the island outright. There are a few houses and cabins on the shoreline of the Bay Mills property, but it is largely undeveloped. Northern hardwoods is the primary forest type in this portion of the island.

Management Goals

An aerial view of the BMIC Sugar Island property (click to enlarge)

The Bay Mills Indian Community does not have a history of active management on Sugar Island, so this project will represent a noteworthy first step for the tribe. Staff members focused on the property owned by BMIC for this project, and their management goals included managing for wildlife habitat (primarily deer) and managing for high-quality sugar maple for maple syrup production. 

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Declining suitable habitat for northern and boreal tree species such as paper birch, balsam fir, and sugar maple
Shorter winters may make management on this site more difficult, because of wet soils
Reduced snowpack and milder winters may lead to more deer browse challenges for forest regeneration

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Wildlife habitat
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Implement single-tree selection in northern hardwood stands 2&3, reducing BA by one-third
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Leave snags and mature yellow birch for habitat (cavities)
Sugar Bush
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Thin neighboring trees to release crowns of sugar maple crop trees
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Retain red maple as another sap-producer in case sugar maple declines


Bay Mills staff considered a few monitoring items for this project, including:
Wildlife surveys on the property
Deer browse intensity surveys
Sap production monitoring, including quantity and timing
Member use surveys

Next Steps

Bay Mills staff will be investigating options for gathering baseline data on wildlife use of the property and sap production. Sap production monitoring will begin in spring 2017.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at:


Upland hardwoods

Last Updated

Wednesday, October 26, 2016