Proud of MI Public Land

Sarah Topp Sarah Topp
Many of my fondest memories growing up involve public land. In fact, I cannot fathom not having access to the many areas I have had the opportunities to explore and experience. I started to learn how to navigate using only a map and compass in the forest of the Pigeon River.  That was the place of many first experiences for me; where I hunted for morel mushrooms, foraged my first wild blueberries, went camping for the first time and inquired about the constellations, saw a bull elk for the first time while my Dad stalked deer during bow season, chose the perfect green twig and whittled my first marshmallow roasting stick. I’ve enjoyed public land in other areas as well; Colorado where I summited my first peak, Wyoming where I summited my second--higher yet. Each of those endeavors were huge accomplishments of my childhood--growing up and still today; building up both my confidence and determined character.
Protected wildlife habitat area in the Pigeon River Country State Forest Protected wildlife habitat area in the Pigeon River Country State Forest
I've been fortunate enough to travel to many places, both for work and for pleasure. Public land has also given me many opportunities of employment. I spent three months building and improving recreational trails in the San Juan National Forest and a small part of the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado.  I was later a wilderness expedition guide for kids and adults alike in various parts of New Mexico and Arizona.  I've backpacked the Grand Tetons twice, canoed just a portion of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and explored the narrows of Zion National park.  Those places all hold special places in my heart, but I always come back to my roots in Michigan.
Michigan has it all; the Great Lakes, many inland lakes and watersheds providing a variety of fishing experiences, four wonderful seasons, prairies, hills, and mountainous terrain. More importantly, Michigan has an abundance of public land available to enjoy however you may.  Studies via surveys show a direct correlation between happiness and availability of public land; ranking states with the most public land available higher on the list of America’s Happiest States.  Our home state of Michigan has 28.1% of its land available to the public; close to 8 million acres of public land! This land is available to both residents and non-residents of the state for many types of recreation.  A small sample of recreation you could enjoy on public land includes hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, biking, nature viewing, mushroom picking, dog training and so much more.
MUCC Public LandsThrough my service as a Huron Pines AmeriCorps member with MUCC, I have been able to step foot on various State Game Areas of the Lower Peninsula that I had not seen yet.  Just when I thought I had seen it all, Michigan continues to captivate me. I could not feel better about the habitat projects I am promoting and the volunteers I am connecting with who are giving back to the public lands they hunt, fish, and recreate on. MUCC’s On the Ground (OTG) program provides many opportunities to improve public land near you; visit mucc.org.ontheground to show your support and give back to the public land you are proud of.

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