Hunters Volunteer for Wildlife Habitat

This guest blog was written by Joshua Billow of the Saginaw Field and Stream Club. Josh sacrificed his ability to haul heavy logs and run a chainsaw while serving in the Navy, so he volunteered to write about, take pictures and cook lunch for our first wildlife habitat project for the Michigan On-the-Ground program. We thank Joshua for his service to our country and the natural resources of our state!
During a members' dinner at the Saginaw Field & Stream Club I first met Drew YoungeDyke, Grassroots Manager with Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC).  It was between the mouthfuls of our chow when he explained his current project and I knew right then that I had to be a part of it.  MUCC, in conjunction with the Michigan DNR, were taking volunteers for the first Michigan On-the-Ground project: building wildlife habitat - “rabbitat” - in the Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area.
Volunteers gather to improve wildlife habitat. Volunteers gather to improve wildlife habitat.
While being a disabled veteran and having limited physical capabilities, I was worried about my capacity amongst the volunteers, although, Drew was more than willing to find a spot for me.  I was able to walk the entire project site and snap pictures for the MUCC blog, and then later mastered my grilling skills to feed the workers.  It was during this typical weathered Michigan Sunday where the dedication and work put forth by the volunteers truly amazed me.
David Eldridge of Friends of Gratiot-Saginaw starts his saw. David Eldridge of Friends of Gratiot-Saginaw starts his saw.
More than expected arrived that morning, including members of the Saginaw Field & Stream Club, Friends of Gratiot-Saginaw SGA, and even individuals that traveled from far as Grand Rapids.  While spending time talking to the workers, I found many of them were there for the same reasons I was; we hunt this land and could all see a dire need for the project.
Wayne Hanson of Saginaw Field and Stream Club Calvin Hilt of Livonia and Wayne Hanson of Saginaw Field and Stream Club
The 43 wildlife habitat shelters erected on Sunday will not only provide much needed protection from the elements for our forest rabbits, but will potentially provide the same to many other species including Michigan’s ever-declining game bird population, especially pheasants.  At the end of the project day, I could easily see the satisfaction on the faces of those who worked hard to make this section of state land more inhabitable, and I noticed the anticipation of many who can’t wait to test the results, including myself.
Boy Scouts from Troop 305 in St. Charles Matthew Brown and Austin VanHaaren from Boy Scout Troop 305 in St. Charles
In the end, while this was the first project of its kind organized by MUCC, I hope that the success will pave the road for many more to come.  I would like to thank MUCC and DNR for hearing hunters’ concerns regarding our lands, and allowing us the opportunity to help improve our outdoors.

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