Volunteers Care About Hares

Sarah Topp Sarah Topp
What is your motivation to get outside? Perhaps you like to hunt or fish on nearby state land, take your kids to your favorite childhood camping spot, surprise your significant other with a picnic on a sunny afternoon at one of Michigan’s sinkhole lakes, or just enjoy a hike in solitude hoping to see some wildlife and soak up all the nature that surrounds you. Having public land available enables us all to enjoy and share our passion for the great outdoor opportunities that Michigan has to offer.
My name is Sarah Topp and I am the Huron Pines AmeriCorps member serving at Michigan United Conservation Clubs in Lansing. Part of my service involves coordinating volunteers for “On the Ground” (OTG) habitat restoration events partnered with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. OTG projects primarily focus on improving wildlife habitat on public land. The first project I helped with was creating snowshoe hare habitat in the Grayling State Forest.
Sam Hudnutt of Onanadaga Sam Hudnutt of Onadaga
Volunteers traveled from various parts of the state to get outdoors and restore wildlife habitat. Dedicated volunteers such as Sam Hudnutt drove from Onandaga located 20 miles south of Lansing, Mike Frith traveled from Livonia, and George Fenlin returned for his second hinge-cutting event with MUCC.  This project site was carefully mapped out to target lowland forest stands totaling 60 acres.  As we trudged through the forest, carrying our chainsaws and extra fuel, we coordinated as a team to visualize tall, standing trees as homes for our forest friends; the snowshoe hare. We looked for tall black spruces and balsam fir with long branches and abundant needles. These were the optimal trees to provide horizontal cover for the hares when we put the trees on the ground using the hinge-cut technique. The project itself only took three hours to hinge-cut 230 trees, but these great people gave so much more than that.
Huron Pines AmeriCorps member Sarah Topp Huron Pines AmeriCorps member Sarah Topp
Although undeniably impressive, it wasn’t the hard work these volunteers put in that struck me the most, but the various motivations to get out and volunteer for this event. These dedicated people gave their time to be directly involved in Michigan’s habitat restoration to positively impact the land they enjoy.  This project not only benefits snowshoe hare, but also provides cover for other small game and browse for white-tail deer; hunters, that’s for you! My crew did stumble upon a hand-made blind in our project site; perhaps we’ve also helped a proud hunter put venison on the table next fall! Whatever your motivation may be, get outdoors and be a part of where Michigan’s conservation starts: on the ground.

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