From Southern Michigan to the UP, Volunteers Improve Fish and Wildlife Habitat

What do Fulton State Game Area, south of Battle Creek, and Chicagon Lake, west of Iron Mountain, have in common? Though separated by over 500 miles and a nine-hour drive through Indiana, Chicago and the entire Lake Michigan side of Wisconsin (trust me), they were both the sites of recent On the Ground fish and wildlife habitat improvement projects!
Volunteer Steve Waksmundzki. Photo by Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR Volunteer Steve Waksmundzki. Photo by Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR
The first weekend of March was the second straight weekend for On the Ground, and it started off on Saturday, March 1 at Fulton State Game Area. 10 volunteers gathered to make rabbitat brush piles and open up some canopy for crabapple trees. The piles were strategically places around the edges of a field, locating shelter and cover for cottontails close to a food source and accessible to hunters. The trees that were cut also opened up canopy in places to allow more sunlight on crabapple trees so that they can produce more mast for deer, turkey and grouse.
Volunteers included Jason Wheeler and his son Michael,  Mike Sands and his son Tyler and repeat volunteers Steve Waksmundski and Mark VanBogelen. Steve volunteered for last August’s rabbitat project at Crane Pond State Game Area, and Mark volunteered at last October’s crabapple planting near Gaylord and February’s rabbitat project at Sharonville State Game Area.
DNR biologist Mark Mills, who also helped out, actually wrote volunteer brush pile projects into the management plan for Fulton State Game Area, with the goal of creating 50 large brush piles in the next 10 years. The project was paid for out of grants from Enbridge Energy Partners and Consumers Energy Foundation.
Volunteers construct musky spawning structures on the ice Volunteers construct musky spawning structures on the ice
The next morning, 20 volunteers gathered at the county boat launch at the south end of Chicagon Lake, which is west of Iron Mountain in the western Upper Peninsula to make musky spawning structures. The temperature was a frigid -15 degrees, but that didn’t deter these volunteers. Up here they call that “sisu.” We took snowmobiles and carpooled to the north end of the lake, where DNR Fisheries Division staff led by Mark Mylchreest had arranged log poles twenty feet long, wire mesh, and a fresh load of rocks.
Volunteers arranged the poles into criss-crossed patterns of two parallel poles, stapled wire mesh in a four-feet by four-feet square net in the middle, then used ORV’s and sleds pulled by snowmobiles to transport rocks from a pile on the shore. The rocks will help the structures sink to the bottom once the ice melts, which, as some of the volunteers remarked, would likely be sometime in July. The DNR stocks fish in Chicagon Lake, but the structures will help promote more natural reproduction.
This project was a joint collaboration between DNR Fisheries, the Boundary Waters Musky Club, Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Alliance. It was made possible by a grant from WE Energies. Volunteers showed up from all over the state, including folks from U.P. Whitetails of Marquette County, Michigan Darkhouse Anglers, Wildlife Unlimited of Iron County, and even someone from Grand Rapids! And when the day was over, lakeshore resident Gary Hilberg invited everyone over to his family cottage for brats, chips, and pop.
Volunteers braved the cold for musky habitat. Volunteers braved the cold for musky habitat.
Overall, we travelled 1100 miles, organized 30 volunteers, built 25 muskie structures, 10 brush piles, and improved fish and wildlife habitat at two locations in one weekend. Thank you to everyone who showed up, worked hard and helped out! The next project will be April 12 in the state forest north of Mio to hinge-cut trees for snowshoe hares. Click here to sign up!
On the Ground is a public-private partnership between Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to build a conservation community through volunteer fish and wildlife habitat improvement projects. It is sponsored by Consumers Energy, Enbridge Energy Partners, and won Outdoor Life’s inaugural Open Country Award in January 2014.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.