By Gavin MacDonald (CRA Development and Communications Coordinator)  

For five generations, the Andersen family has been deeply rooted in Victory Township, just northeast of Ludington, Michigan. Wayne Andersen grew up hunting, fishing, and enjoying the hidden wild places of this scenic corner of the state. His childhood of immersion in nature undoubtedly planted the seed of conservation in him. When he was grown, Wayne was inspired to become a steward of the state’s most valued resources. “At about the age of 40, I realized the importance of the land and waters of Northwest Michigan. I wanted to help support the enhancement and long-term health of these natural resources,” Wayne stated.     

Since then, Wayne has become a strong voice and leader in Michigan conservation. He is involved with many organizations, including Trout Unlimited, CRA, and a handful of river restoration committees across the state. He spends his free time exploring and recreating on various waterways. Depending on the day, his favorites are the Pere Marquette, Manistee, Big Sable, Little Manistee, and Pine rivers. Because of Wayne’s frequent river adventures, he often serves as a “first responder” to threatening issues in the river—the first to see and report erosion problems, deteriorating stream crossings, and a lack of aquatic habitat. On the restoration committees, Wanye and other informed locals build consensus on priorities and work alongside CRA to create actionable steps to improve problem sites.   

Recently, I was lucky enough to join Wayne on a brief hike of Hamlin Lake. We explored the area that he has frequented since he was a young kid. Wayne loves to fish, duck hunt, and canoe on the lake with his dog and has been doing so for decades. 

With his spotting scope in hand, I followed him to a vantage point where he pointed out a massive eagle’s nest in the distance. He swiftly set up the scope for me to spot a female resting in the nest on the warm April day. I could tell I was indeed in Wayne’s ‘backyard.” We continued our journey and meandered off the trails to other outlooks, natural springs, and through tall pines. 

If you need more proof of Wayne being the real deal, I will leave you with this anecdote: before Wayne showed me the rest of the area, he exchanged his spotting scope for a bucket and picker. He then led me to a spot where he’d been a few days prior. We approached a sizeable pile of plastic debris he had recently collected; He filled his bucket and walked with it for the remainder of the hike. Wayne takes that bucket and picker everywhere, even on the river, attaching foam to it so it floats if he ever drops it.   

Wayne is humble, kind, and a faithful caretaker of Michigan’s wild places. He is a steadfast proponent of getting out and being present in nature to help remind us why preserving it for generations is so important. I asked him what he would say to the next generation of river stewards, and he replied, “Visit, paddle, and learn about the rivers of Northwest Michigan for a lifetime of enjoyment.”  

Wayne, it was an honor to be with you in your element – Thank you for all you do!