This past Sunday, volunteers teamed up at the Fennville Farm Unit of the Allegan State Game Area to continue work on an aspen regeneration area. Efforts were continued from last year’s project that was also hosted by MUCC’s wildlife habitat program at this location. A total of 24 volunteers dedicated their Sunday to cut down mature trees in an aspen stand, then limbed the trunks and stacked them into large brush piles for rabbitat in the new open areas. A majority of this volunteer crew were students from Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Soil and Water Conservation class.
These students took this opportunity to get some field experience relevant to Natural Resources management. A few of the students are avid hunters and anglers, but some had no hunting experience at all. For those few, their interest in hunting is now higher just from attending this habitat event. Quite a few familiar faces volunteered as well such as: Bethy Williams, Kelvin and Traci Bross, Levi Bross of Boy Scout Troop 147 and a few of his scouts as well as a few from Boy Scout Troop 153. Returning volunteer Phil Gzym was a huge help in the field and even shared some of this season’s venison harvest with the group! Phil has been very successful with his hunts on public land and is also very involved with giving back by volunteering; that’s what this program is about.
The opening that was created by volunteers in December last year has produced a new understory of flowering plants and brier patches as well as some young aspens ; which is exactly what was intended by removing over-mature aspens. “Aspen stands are very difficult to keep once they mature; they need to be cut in order to regenerate” said Mark Mills, DNR Wildlife Biologist for the SW Region. Mills stressed the importance of volunteer groups and programs like this to get habitat work done on public land. Especially in the Allegan State Game Area, which is comprised of more than 50,000 acres, maintaining these aspen stands is crucial to the wildlife for cover and browse.
The volunteer crew was led to the project site by Mike Richardson, the DNR Wildlife Technician for the Allegan SGA. There, we split up into four groups of six and began our work. It had been a couple of months since I got to start up the chainsaw; so I was looking forward to this project! There’s just some special about smelling of chainsaw exhaust and being freshly decorated with sawdust and bark shavings after a hard day’s work in the woods. Our dedicated board members Jack and Judy VanRhee made sure hot food was ready for the volunteers after we were plenty tired and ready for lunch break.
This was a great way to start out the 2016 wildlife habitat season and I’ve already got plenty more events marked on the calendar or pending confirmation. Make sure you keep updated with the event schedule here and RSVP to an event near your favorite state game area. Next up is MUCC’s Chainsaw Safety Training hosted by Chuck Olsund of Bay College. He will cover topics on why each saw operator must have a safety system, the elements of a good safety system, mental aspects of safety, safer chainsaw handling techniques, and the state-of-the-art safest way to fell a large diameter tree; RSVP here.