Last weekend, MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program partnered with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) to complete their annual elk habitat workday in the Pigeon River Country State Forest. This was the fourth year MUCC has coordinated with local RMEF members from various chapters throughout Michigan to enhance elk habitat in the Pigeon River Country. This year, a total of 15 volunteers completed the first phase of restoring two 80 acre parcels to wildlife habitat. Fencing structures were removed from mature apple trees, old hunting blind were deconstructed and removed from a wildlife opening, and debris was removed from three outbuildings that will be demolished in the next phase of the restoration. This project was chosen by the Atlanta DNR Wildlife Biologist, Shelby Hiestand, and the Huron Pines AmeriCorps member serving with the Atlanta DNR, Jason LaPointe.
Volunteers arrived Saturday morning to the sizzling sound of butter on a skillet as Dan Johnson, the Michigan State Chair for RMEF, cooked fixings for breakfast burritos for the group. Dan was accompanied again this year by his grandson, Cayden Holmes, from Oklahoma who is spending time in Michigan for the summer. Two more grand-kids were recruited to enjoy the Pigeon River Country this year as well by RMEF volunteer Larry Bialobrzeski. While most of the group camped out the night before, some traveled from as far as Lansing to make the event. Doug Reeves, retired DNR Assistant Chief of Wildlife Division, dedicated one of several other Saturdays this year to volunteer for wildlife. We were also joined by staff from GUD Marketing who captured the workday on film to share the efforts to improve wildlife habitat being made by organizations like MUCC and RMEF.
After fueling up with a hearty breakfast and exchanging introductions, the group head off to the first project site. A sturdy steel barn awaited there with wood scraps, broken appliances, and debris to be removed. The group made quick work of this task and then moved on to deconstruct an old hunting blind and fencing structures from eight mature apple trees in the opening. The second project site took much more time as there was a house and garage that had plenty of belongings left behind to remove. It’s interesting to think of what kind of history the site might have and what memories were made there. Perhaps it was a family vacation home and late summer nights were spent listening for coyotes howling, elk bugling, or other wildlife sounds.
These sites will soon offer even better opportunities to experience wildlife sightings and sounds after they are fully restored to wildlife habitat. Elk, black bear, deer, turkey, and many other wildlife species will have another place to bed down, forage, or simply pass through undisturbed on their way to another water or food source. Of course, this habitat restoration will also offer more space and opportunity for hunters in the Pigeon River Country State Forest. After all, that benefit is just as important as the wildlife habitat improvement itself.
The next opportunity to volunteer for wildlife will be on Friday, June 16th at 10AM in the Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area. We will be kicking off MUCC’s 80th Annual Convention by building brush piles for rabbitat! Get involved with this hands-on portion of conservation by improving wildlife habitat on one of Michigan’s public hunting areas-see more details and RSVP to volunteer here.
MUCC's On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division