• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation
Staff from Bay Mills Indian Community used the Adaptation Workbook in 2016 to consider climate change risks and adaptation actions for a tribal-owned property on an island between the US and Canada. Project implementation is underway, supported by funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the USDA Forest Service.

Project Area

Bay Mills Indian Community property on Sugar Island (click to enlarge)
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 and lowland hardwoods are the primary forest types 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)
  • managing for high-quality sugar maple for maple syrup production
  • maintaining forest cover in lowland hardwood forests following emerald ash borer invasion and preventing conversion to open wetlands

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
Implement single-tree selection in northern hardwood stands 2&3, reducing BA by one-third
Leave snags and mature yellow birch for habitat (cavities)
Sugar Bush
Thin neighboring trees to release crowns of sugar maple crop trees
Retain red maple as another sap-producer in case sugar maple declines
Lowland hardwoods
Identify suitable planting sites and plant a variety of supplemental lowland hardwood tree species to compensate for the loss of ash species, including hackberry, red maple, sycamore, basswood, river birch, swamp white oak, and chokecherry


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
Survival and growth of planted seedlings

Next Steps

Bay Mills Indian Community obtained funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the US Forest Service to implement the adaptation actions identified for lowland hardwoods stands on Sugar Island. Ash mapping was completed on Sugar Island in 2018 by seasonal technicians and identified 38.2 hectares where ash trees killed by EAB had been the dominant tree. In addition to mapping the perimeter of each stand, notes were taken on stand density, soil moisture, and any ash regeneration. In spring 2019, 500 sapling hackberry were planted (attached map). Between 15 and 50 saplings were planted at 18 sites within an ash stand which had been identified as “dry”. Planting continued in June 2020, and the list of supplemental species was expanded to include red maple, river birch, swamp white oak, basswood, sycamore, and chokecherry. These species were selected to satisfy wildlife values, cultural values, and potential to tolerate future climate conditions. Planting locations were dispersed across the forested wetland areas, as staff had to identify appropriate microsites including hummocks, vehicle tracks, canopy gaps, and the edges of existing forests. As of August 2020, seedlings planted in 2019 and June 2020 are growing well.
Bay Mills staff will also be investigating options for gathering baseline data on wildlife use of the property and sap production.


Assisted migration
Insect pests
Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods
Upland hardwoods

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