Volunteers Plant 1200 Trees on Public Land

Today is Earth Day, and this past weekend volunteers planted 1200 trees on public land in Michigan. But it wasn't for Earth Day; it was to improve wildlife habitat as part of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs' On the Ground program, proving that camo isn't just the new green, it's the original.
On April 19, volunteers of all ages met at the Crane Pond State Game Area in Cass County to plant white spruce trees purchased with funds donated by Enbridge Energy Partners.
"The spruce trees are going to create thermal cover to allow for better winter survival," said Ken Kesson, area biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "It will block the wind and create pockets of habitat for small game and other species."
The volunteers cited numerous reasons for volunteering, but the common link was spending quality time with family. Tim Beute and his son Joe Beute travelled from Dorr, Michigan. "We're planting trees to help animal habitat, creating a windbreak to help them through cold winters like we had this winter," said Joe, 14.
For the Sands family, it was about giving back and having fun. "I'm here to plant trees," said Helen Sands. "We like to go camping and so we thought this was a way we could give back."
Her son Mike and grandson Tyler, 14, had also volunteered on the March 1 rabbitat project at Crane Pond State Game Area. "We really had fun on the first project," said Mike. "I brought my whole family." And he wasn't kidding: in addition to mom Helen and son Tyler, Mike also brought his dad David and daughter Avery, who will be turning eight this week.
Dean Ernzen and his son Clay, 15, drove up from Indiana to help out. "We just love being outside," said Dean. "And we wanted to help out the other hunters who come out to public lands."
Mark VanBogelen volunteered on his fifth On the Project, serving as grillmaster for the the third time. This time he brought his dad Glen VanBogelen. Mark has previously volunteered to plant crabapple trees near Gaylord, build rabbitat at Sharonville State Game Area (with his son and grandson), and cook lunch for the Fulton State Game Area rabbitat project and for the youth rabbit hunt at Crane Pond State Game Area.
"Volunteers are integral to the work the Department of Natural Resources does," said Kesson. "We coundn't do this without all the great volunteers from On the Ground, and other folks, that dedicate their time and energy to do plantings like this."
In addition to the volunteers, DNR staffers planted trees alongside them with a tractor and a tree-planting attachment. The volunteers matched the tractor every step of the way, though, and proved that a dedicated group of individuals can improve wildlife habitat just as fast as the latest technology.
This project was part of the On the Ground (OTG) program, the Outdoor Life award-winning partnership between Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to build a conservation community through volunteer fish and wildlife habitat projects. The next project will be a partnership with Huron Pines to plant jack pines for Kirtlant warbler habitat (and thermal cover and browse for game animals) near Grayling on May 3. Click here to volunteer!
On the Ground  is funded by grants from the Michigan DNR, 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.
Founded in 1937, Michigan United Conservation Clubs is the largest state-specific conservation organization in the nation. Its mission is to unite citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan's natural resources and outdoor heritage.

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