On the Ground united with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) in “The Big Wild” this weekend to plant ~1,000 tree seedlings of various species such as white oak, red oak, nine-bark, and serviceberry. Under the sun for eight hours on a Saturday, eighteen volunteers dedicated their day to improving wildlife habitat in the Pigeon River Country State Forest; half of them associated with various Michigan chapters of RMEF!
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has over 500 chapters across the country; all promoting the mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat, and our hunting heritage. These are words directly from their conservation statement: “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation believes that Hunting Is Conservation. Early American leaders like Theodore Roosevelt shaped a set of ideals now known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They declared that wildlife belong to all of us. That every citizen is entitled to hunt and fish. And that science-based, state-regulated hunting would drive wildlife conservation and management. Today, the U.S. has the most successful system in the world. And no one does more to uphold it than hunters.”
The RMEF members that volunteered this weekend hold true to that statement by showing that hunters are the ones out there benefiting wildlife conservation. Also, a huge thanks to RMEF Michigan state chair Dan Johnson for organizing the great event this weekend and for your fantastic cooking! Among planting several hundred trees alongside volunteers, Dan greeted volunteers at the start of the event with breakfast burritos, grilled brats for lunch, and steaks for dinner; if that’s not a proper welcome and thank you- I’m not sure what is.
Volunteers traveled from various areas of the state, with returning volunteer George Fenlin from as far as Clinton Township, to experience "The Big Wild." Some were familiar with the area, but for anyone that wasn't, they may have become familiar with every two track and dirt road by accident. After all, it’s not a true Pigeon River Country experience unless you get a little (or a lot) lost. We were all still able to gather by 9am at the camp location to start off the event; that’s all that matters! Most of the volunteers made a weekend of the event and camped out to share stories around a bonfire both before and after the event.
We were also joined by Alvin Sitkiewicz and Joe Sullivan, the founders of the Michigan Gone Wild crew. Michigan Gone Wild is an organization based out of Vanderbilt, Michigan. Much of their hunting is also done on public land in the Pigeon River Country State Forest! If you haven't heard of MGW yet, check out their Deer Camp video to get a good idea of what they're all about; it's worthwhile! They came out to do some filming to capture a few glimpses of this great program representing hunters doing their part to conserve the wildlife and the habitat in places they hunt.
You can find OTG in The Big Wild again next week on Friday, June 19th, for elk habitat maintenance. See more details and sign up to volunteer here! MUCC's Annual Convention will begin at Treetops Resort following the event.