MUCC, RMEF and Outdoor Life Team Up in the Pigeon River Country

prcotg1 John Bauer and Miranda Milliken, intern for the Pigeon River Country Association, set a sign.
The On the Ground (OTG) program is all about creating a conservation community and getting some good work done for fish and wildlife, and the most successful projects we've had have always brought partner groups to the table. On June 7, we were invited to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation table on a project to improve elk habitat and public access in the Pigeon River Country as part of Outdoor Life's Open Country initiative.
By the end of the day, 35 volunteers cleared almost two miles of three-strand barbed wire fence, cleared both motorized and nonmotorized trails, installed signs to delineate which are which, potted trees for future planting, and, perhaps most symbolically rewarding, removed the old "No Hunting" signs from when it was private property.
prcotg8 RMEF and MUCC volunteers removed almost 2 miles of barbed wire fence (and old "No Hunting" signs!)
The Hackett Lake tract of the Pigeon River Country is a great example of partnerships working together for conservation, too. The 640-acre tract includes 31-acre Hackett Lake and sits in the middle of Michigan's elk range. In 2007, the Little Traverse Conservancy bought it from private owners with the help of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the State of Michigan acquired a conservation easement on the land through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which uses state-owned oil and gas royalties to purchase public recreation land. The easement includes public hunting, fishing and trapping access.
In 2008 it was added to the Pigeon River Country State Forest Management Unit, the 105,000-acre state forest known as "The Big Wild." The Pigeon River Country is unique in that it is the largest contiguous (connected) tract of state land in the lower peninsula, it is managed to keep a "wild" character, and it is the primary home to Michigan elk herd.
otgprc9 Volunteering for wildlife habitat is fun for all ages!
The property contained small buildings, junk piles and barbed wire fence, though, so in 2011 Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) volunteers held a volunteer work day to remove the buildings and some of the junk piles. This year, we tackled the fence and trails, including posting signs and barrier posts to nonmotorized trails that were being illegally used by ORV's, and clearing both motorized and nonmotorized trails.
Many of the volunteers camped out overnight the night before and the night after, and the workday started with a breakfast cooked by RMEF volunteers and their Michigan regional director, Doug Doherty. After a short orientation, volunteers divided into teams to tackle fence removal, posting signs, and potting trees. Volunteers came from all over the state, including previous OTG volunteers, the Black Mountain chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation, the Montmorency County Conservation Club, the Bullseye Sportsman's Club, as well as new volunteers.
The workday was planned and organized by Dan Johnson and Doug Doherty of RMEF, Kyle Bartowitz - an AmeriCorps member working with Pigeon River Country unit manager Scott Whitcomb of the DNR - Pigeon River Country Association intern Miranda Millikin, AmeriCorps member Taylor Renton and MUCC. It was also the first project of the season for Outdoor Life's Open Country initiative, which supports volunteer projects to improve public hunting and fishing access across the country.
otg2015On the Ground (OTG) 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 improvements, winning Outdoor Life's inaugural Open Country Award in 2014.
OTG is funded by Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Habitat Grants, Consumers Energy Foundation, Enbridge Energy Partners, Healing Our Waters, and The Community Reinvestment Fund, which is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Sustainable Communities program to the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission as part of the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability and is administered by the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council.
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