Livin' Wild Wednesday: Collaborating for Conservation

Drew YoungeDyke Drew YoungeDyke
Football is a great sport for teaching basic lessons about life. As we're in the midst of football season, and on the verge of deer season, it's good to keep that in mind. One of those lessons is that collaboration and teamwork are more productive than trying to do everything on your own.
For instance, as a high school option quarterback a long, long, long time (and many pounds) ago, I could gain a few yards by keeping the ball, but our team could gain a lot more if I took the hit from the defensive end and pitched to our (much faster) tailback. And that principle has fueled some great collaborations for the On the Ground (OTG) program recently, too, especially for building rabbitat.
45 volunteers from Consumers Energy improved wildlife habitat on July 31.
Back in July, MUCC teamed up with employees from Consumers Energy to build rabbitat (brush piles for rabbit habitat) out of non-native black locust trees at Rose Lake State Wildlife Area in East Lansing. The Consumers Energy Foundation is a primary sponsor of the OTG program already, providing funds that allow us to buy the equipment and do the work. But on July 31, they put sweat equity into wildlife habitat, too.
45 volunteers - an OTG record - showed up that day, most who were Consumers Energy employees. Carrie Schneider led their team, and we'd collaborated on planning the project for months before that. In addition to building dozens of brush piles around a planted field at the wildlife area, several volunteers also built wood duck boxes that will be installed in a wetland area later this coming winter.
These wood duck boxes will be installed in wetlands this winter. These wood duck boxes will be installed in wetlands this winter.
We collaborated with the folks from Gourmet Gone Wild for a special post-project lunch, though, which really made the day. Many of the Consumers volunteers had never eaten wild game before, and what better way to introduce them to it than by gourmet elk and bear sliders coupled with venison taco salad prepared Chef Dan Nelson!
Just this past weekend, OTG collaborated with the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy and 16 volunteers to build rabbitat and remove invasive autumn olive from the Standish Nature Preserve. This was the first private property that we've worked on, but this private preserve is open to the public for hunting. By building rabbitat piles along the birding trail that goes through the 25-acre property, it will now double as a short rabbit-hunting trail perfect for a winter afternoon.
MUCC Executive Director cleared trails and cut autumn olive on Saturday. MUCC Executive Director cleared trails and cut autumn olive on Saturday.
Trevor Edmonds was the leader for the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy group, and they teamed up with MUCC volunteers (including Executive Director Dan Eichinger and Deputy Director Jennifer Clark!) to clear and widen the trail for improved hunter access and then cut out autumn olive and stacked it into brush piles for rabbits, other small game and birds alongside the trail. We actually finished a little earlier than expected, so Trevor let me hinge-cut a few trees to improve cover in a swampy area, and that led to an idea to do another project hinge-cutting trees on another conservancy property to improve browse, bedding and cover for whitetails.
Collaborating with Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy Collaborating with Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy
Now, MUCC could have done these projects on our own. And we probably would have completed them, it just would have taken longer. But we wouldn't have had 61 new people join our conservation community, introduce new people to wildlife conservation or how delicious wild game meals can be, or established the relationships and connections needed to think up new projects like hinge-cutting for whitetails on publicly-accessible conservancy lands.
In other words, we could have gained a few yards On the Ground by ourselves (see what I did there), but by collaborating with other groups we scored a touchdown. That's a totally cheesy metaphor, I know, but it's true nonetheless. Next Tuesday, we'll be teaming up with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Beaver Island Wildlife Club to plant crabapple trees for wild turkeys and whitetails on the island. (You can sign up to volunteer here). I'm confident that this collaboration will be just as productive, not to mention that the island is a great place to hunt the bow opener the next day!
Livin' Wild Wednesday is the weekly blog from MUCC Grassroots Manager Drew YoungeDyke.

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