Volunteer for Wildlife

On the Ground

Conserving and Enhancing Michigan's Public Lands and Wildlife through Volunteer Stewardship

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On the Ground (OTG) is MUCC’s award-winning volunteer wildlife habitat improvement program. We invite both consumptive and non-consumptive users of Michigan’s public lands to band together to improve fish and wildlife habitat as well as increase public access to lands throughout the state.

More than 3,900 volunteers have helped improve wildlife habitat through projects like building brush piles, removing invasive vegetation, restoring grassland habitat through native wildflower plantings, installing fish spawning structures and wood duck boxes, participating in river clean-ups and planting mast-producing trees.

On the Ground is funded in part by a Memorandum of Agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. DNR wildlife biologists and technicians have been instrumental in developing and coordinating the hundreds of projects that OTG has helped host throughout the state.

Please contact Habitat Volunteer Coordinator Kristina Kennedy at kkennedy@mucc.org with project inquiries.

Upcoming Projects and Registration

Invasive Buckthorn Removal/Stewardship Day

Jan 07, 2023 10:00AM—2:00PM

Gourdneck State Game Area

On the ground junior

Cultivating young stewards through hands-on habitat improvement projects

In 2016, we expanded the OTG program to include On the Ground Junior (OTG Jr.), which is a fully funded field trip program for K-12 schools. We welcome new partnerships with teachers and school groups who are interested in getting students out in the field to work hands-on to improve wildlife habitat within their communities.

Objective: Students will learn how to be active stewards for Michigan's public lands and waters by participating in habitat improvement projects and other educational outdoor activities. Projects will improve and enhance wildlife habitat and ecosystem health, educate students on wildlife management and habitat enhancement practices, and expose students to careers in natural resources. Activities and projects are typically led by MUCC field staff, DNR biologists and wildlife technicians.

When: Most OTG Jr. field trips take place in the spring, but winter and fall dates are possible depending on the location of the project and corresponding hunting zones.

Where: Statewide - public lands like State Game Areas, State Recreation Areas, Forest Management Units, State Wildlife Areas, etc. We are happy to work with instructors to find suitable public land near their schools.

Please contact Habitat Volunteer Coordinator Kristina Kennedy at kkennedy@mucc.org with project inquiries.

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Past Project Log: Completed FY2023

October 29, 2022 - Invasive Woody Vegetation Removal to Benefit Critical Reptile Habitat at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (Barry County)

On Saturday, October 29, 2022, 22 volunteers joined MUCC’s OTG program and Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (PCCI) in removing invasive woody vegetation from critical reptile habitat in Barry County. This project took place in an oak woodland/prairie fen habitat that’s sought-after by many reptile species, including eastern massasauga rattlesnakes and eastern box turtles. The removal of invasive woody autumn olive promotes the restoration of the unique habitat that is critical to these rare reptiles. In total, volunteers improved about 1 acre of wildlife habitat and helped create a firebreak that will allow for future habitat restoration activities in the area.

 

October 22, 2022 - Mast-Producing Tree Planting and Brush Pile Assembly at Traverse City Forest Management Unit (Kalkaska County)

On Saturday, October 22, 2022, MUCC’s OTG program collaborated with Gib King of Land Ethic, LCC to host 17 volunteers at a mast-producing tree planting and brush pile building event in the Traverse City Forest Management Unit (Kalkaska County). In total, volunteers planted one-hundred 5-6 foot trees including various crabapple, hawthorn, and serviceberry species. Not only will these trees provide nutrients to wildlife like deer and turkeys, but they will also serve as year-round cover and nesting habitat for a variety of wildlife like songbirds and small mammals. Furthermore, volunteers also assembled 3 large brush piles for “rabbitat” (more brush piles will be constructed at a later date).

 

Past Project Log: Completed FY2022

September 21, 2022 - Cass River Clean-Up

On Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 15 volunteers from Reese High School cleaned-up litter and removed large pieces of trash from the Cass River and surrounding access sites, including the Vassar Township Park on Caine Road, east of the town of Vassar, MI. Some of the sites that students removed trash from are popular fishing/river access sites that are managed by the DNR. Removing litter from waterways improves the quality of fish and wildlife habitat and makes the river safer for recreational users. In total, students impacted about 5 acres of aquatic and terrestrial habitat.

 

September 17, 2022 - Access Bridge Repair at Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area

On Saturday, September 17, 2022, 4 OTG volunteers assisted the DNR in repairing an access bridge located in the northeast section of Gratioit-Saginaw State Game Area. These hard-working volunteers replaced the side rails and decking of the bridge, providing outdoor recreationists with safe access to the area.

 

September 2, 2022 - Wetland Clean-Up and Wildflower Seed Planting at Kellogg Community College

On Friday, September 2, 2022, 41 volunteers removed trash from Spring Lakes wetland area and performed trail maintenance around Linear Path at Kellogg Community College (KCC). In total, volunteers removed over 10 bags of trash and cleared encroaching vegetation from nearly 1 mile of trail while improving about 5 acres of wildlife habitat. Some of the volunteers stuck around after lunch to participate in spreading native wildflower seeds around the pond located near North Avenue on campus in order to improve habitat for native pollinators. The native seeds that were planted consisted of a mix of wet and dry wildflowers and grasses and were donated by Kalkaska Conservation District.

The partnership between MUCC and KCC was sparked after each organization (along with Battle Creek’s Willard Library) received generous donations from the estate of late KCC professor and conservationist, Dean Barnum. At this event, we celebrated the life and legacy of Dean and took this opportunity to collectively improve habitat in an area enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike.

 

August 27, 2022 - Accessible Hunting Blind Repair and Shooting Lane Clearing at Maple River State Game Area

On Saturday, August 27, 2022, 5 volunteers helped improve hunter access within Maple River State Game Area. Volunteers assisted the Department of Natural Resources in clearing shooting lanes and repairing accessible hunting blinds in the Central Unit of the SGA. These blinds are located near the intersection of S Smith Road and W Maple Road and are accessible to any public land hunter on a first come, first served basis. Volunteers helped clear multiple shooting lanes, picked-up trash along trails and spruced up three accessible blinds in time for the upcoming deer season.

 

August 6, 2022 - Bay Mills Clean-Up

On Saturday, August 6, 2022, 35 volunteers gathered at Riverside Playground in Bay Mills Indian Community and split into groups to clean-up dumpsites on trust land as well as the beach from Riverside to Gumshoes Campground. In total, volunteers cleaned-up 2 dumpsites and about 1 mile of beach, removing and properly disposing of hundreds of pounds of trash from the environment. By removing trash from beaches and surrounding public land, volunteers improved approximately 4.5 acres of fish and wildlife habitat. During lunch, Jen Parks from Bay Mills Indian Community’s Biological Services Department gave information about the new community waste and recycling program that is available to the public. This project was in partnership with Bay Mills Indian Community and LSSU's Center for Freshwater Research and Education.

 

July 16, 2022 - Manistee River Clean-Up

On Saturday, July, 16, 2022, 52 volunteers gathered at the High Bridge Boat Launch to clean-up trash from the Manistee River by boat, kayak, and on foot. Those with boats welcomed others onto the water and worked together to gather trash from Rainbow Bend in Manistee to Tippy Dam in Brethren. In total, volunteers helped pick-up and properly dispose of hundreds of pounds of trash including fishing line, camp chairs, t-posts, treated wood, grill parts, and abandoned buoys. They hauled all of this waste back to the High Bridge Boat Launch where it was properly disposed of by the US Forest Service. By removing trash from the river and surrounding public land, volunteers improved over 15 river miles of fish and wildlife habitat.

 

July 9, 2022 - Lake St. Clair Shoreline Clean-Up at Harley Ensign Boating Access Site

On Saturday, July 9, 2022, 15 On the Ground volunteers joined Lake St. Clair Walleye Association and Clinton River Watershed Council in removing trash from the Lake St. Clair shoreline at the Harley Ensign Boating Access Site. In total, volunteers removed 2 buckets, 1 tire, 1 chair, 1 seat cushion, and 6 bags of trash from the area.

 

June 24, 2022 - Hunter Access Bridge Repair and Trail Maintenance at Rose Lake State Game Area

On Friday, June 24, 2022, 15 volunteers helped to increase hunter and recreationist access in the central part of Rose Lake State Game Area by repairing an access bridge (replacing weak boards), removing woody vegetation from around the bridge and maintaining surrounding trails by removing trash and invasive vegetation at access sites. In total, volunteers removed invasive vegetation from about 0.5 acres of habitat and cleared about 350 meters of access trails.

 

May 26, 2022 - Mast-Producing Tree Planting at Maple River State Game Area

On May 26, 2022, 49 4th graders from St. John's Elementary School and 8 chaperones and teachers participated in Clinton Conservation District’s (CCD) Arbor Day program along with MUCC’s OTG Jr. program. Students planted 250 mast-producing tree seedlings in the north end of the E Unit at Maple River SGA. Species included serviceberry, cranberry, crabapple, and/or hazelnut. These masting trees will provide a consistent food source for wildlife, as well as critical cover and nesting habitat. After the habitat project, students participated in archery lessons, duck ID, and an active predator-prey simulation lead my MUCC and CCD.

 

May 17, 2022 - Invasive Vegetation Removal and Brush Pile Building at Rose Lake State Game Area

On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 19 volunteers including 16 high school students who are part of the Animal Science and Zoo Management program at Potter Park Zoo in partnership with Eaton Regional Education Service Agency Career Preparation Center joined OTG Jr and the MI DNR at Rose Lake SGA. These hard-working volunteers cleared invasive black locust trees from a wildlife opening and constructed 5 large brush piles to benefit small mammals and other wildlife using the cut woody vegetation. In total, just under 1 acre of wildlife habitat was directly impacted by volunteers.

 

May 7, 2022 - Jack Pine Planting in the Roscommon Forest Management Unit

On Saturday, May 7, 2022, a group of 35 volunteers joined Kirtland's Warbler Alliance, Huron Pines, and MUCC's OTG program in planting approximately 2,500 jack pine saplings within the Roscommon Forest Management Unit in Roscommon County. Jack pines are a critical nesting habitat feature for the once threatened Kirtland’s warbler. In total, volunteers directly impacted about 2 acres of wildlife habitat that day.

 

May 5, 2022 - Pollinator Garden in the Traverse City Forest Management Unit

On Thursday, May 5, 2022, 37 5th and 6th grade students and 10 chaperones from Grand Traverse Academy in Traverse City volunteered with OTG Jr and the MDNR to plant a pollinator garden and help build a deer exclosure in the Traverse City Forest Management Unit in Union Twp. Students broadcast-planted wildflower seeds, as well as planted 24 potted plants including lupine. They also planted 24 large shrubs including serviceberry and nannyberry. These soft mast-producing shrubs are an important component of healthy wildlife habitat. Not only are the shrubs well-adapted to local growing conditions, but they also attract target pollinator species like songbirds, insects, and small mammals that may consume the fruit mast and disperse seeds into the environment.

 

April 30, 2022 - Tree and Shrub Planting at Potterville State Game Area

On Saturday, April 30, 2022, a group of 9 OTG volunteers joined Eaton Conservation District in planting 270 native shrubs and trees within the Potterville State Game Area in Eaton County. These mast-producing plants will provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife such as ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, white-tailed deer and songbirds. Volunteers planted highbush cranberry, American hazelnut, silky dogwood and buttonbush and impacted about 8 acres of wildlife habitat through their efforts.

 

April 12 and 14, 2022 - Invasive Vegetation Removal at Denmark Twp State Game Area

On Tuesday, April 12, 2022, a group of 22 student volunteers from Reese High School Out-of-Doors Club participated in a grassland restoration project at the Denmark Township SGA by cutting down invasive woody vegetation and stacking brush into piles to create “rabbitat.” 38 students from Reese Middle School's Out-of-Doors Club continued this work on Thursday, April 14. In total, these student volunteers impacted about 7 acres of grassland habitat, which will benefit various species of upland wildlife.

 

April 9, 2022 - Clinton River Clean-Up

On Saturday, April 9, 2022, 25 OTG volunteers picked-up and properly disposed of over 25 large bags of trash, plus traffic cones, bikes, car parts and tires (approximately 650 pounds) from in and around the Clinton River at River Bends Park. By removing trash from the river and surrounding public land, volunteers improved about 15 acres of fish and wildlife habitat while making the park more beautiful and safe for recreational users!

 

March 26, 2022 - Brush Pile Building at Gourdneck State Game Area

On Saturday, March 26, 2022, a group of 15 OTG volunteers joined the Kalamazoo Conservation District in a day of brush pile ("rabbitat") construction in the Gourdneck State Game Area. Brush piles provide a variety of wildlife with shelter, nesting and denning sites, and protection from predators. Species that are positively impacted by the presence of brush piles specifically at Gourdneck SGA include cottontail rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, garter snakes, and songbirds. In total, volunteers assembled 10 large brush piles which will enhance wildlife habitat on approximately 7 acres of land within Gourdneck SGA for years to come.

 

March 5, 2022 - Accessible Hunting Blind Maintenance at Gladwin State Game Area

On Saturday, March 5, 2022, a group of 6 OTG volunteers joined the MDNR in a morning of shooting lane clearing for an accessible hunting blind located in the Gladwin State Game Area. The ground blind with accessible features was donated by Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO) and is maintained by the MDNR. The accessible blind is located less than ¼ mile from the State Game Area parking lot off South Rogers Avenue. The blind has viewpoints of multiple game trails and can easily be accessed by track chairs that can be rented for free from the MDNR.

 

January 29, 2022 - Wood Duck Nest Boxes with Marion Springs Conservation Club

On Saturday, January 29, 2022, MUCC's OTG program partnered with Marion Springs Conservation Club (MSCC) to host a youth wood duck nest box building event. Multiple families attended the event, and each family was given the opportunity to take home one of the boxes they built and place it on their property. This event was designed to engage local families in conservation efforts supported by MSCC and to provide supplemental wood duck nesting habitat near the Gratiot-Saginaw SGA.

 

October 16, 2021 - Tree Planting near Kalkaska

On Saturday, October 16, 2021, a group of 12 OTG volunteers planted 50 mature mast-producing trees throughout a large opening on public land near Kalkaska. A mix of apple, crabapple, hawthorn, and serviceberry were planted, mulched and fenced. These tree species will benefit an abundance of wildlife including ruffed grouse, wild turkey and white-tailed deer.

 

October 9, 2021 - Wildflower Planting at Petersburg State Game Area

On Saturday, October 9, 2021, MUCC’s OTG program partnered with The Nature Conservancy at the Petersburg State Game Area (SGA) to plant the native wildflower blazing star. More than 900 blazing star were planted in two oak openings within the SGA by 16 volunteers. This event was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore habitat for the blazing star borer moth and it is MUCC's second time partnering with The Nature Conservancy for habitat restoration efforts at Petersburg SGA.

 

October 2, 2021 - Tree Planting with NWTF at Camp Grayling

On Saturday, October 2, 2021, a group of 31 OTG wildlife volunteers planted 100 mature soft mast-producing trees throughout multiple openings within Camp Grayling during a partnership event with the National Wild Turkey Federation and Camp Grayling. The two species of crabapple that were planted will benefit wild turkey, ruffed grouse, white-tailed deer and an abundance of other wildlife species.

 

Past Project Log: Completed FY2021

 

September 18, 2021 - Tree Planting in the Escanaba River State Forest 

A group of 11 volunteers joined MUCC as we planted and fenced 80 mast-producing trees and shrubs on public land in Menominee County. These mast-producing trees and shrubs included a mix of crabapple, highbush cranberry, and hawthorn and will provide foraging material and additional habitat for wildlife like white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, American woodcock, wild turkey, and songbirds. This tree planting was made possible through a grant from the Caterpillar Foundation.

 

September 11, 2021 - Prairie Restoration at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute

A group of 15 volunteers met at Meadow Lodge on Pierce Cedar Creek Institute property to begin the first phase of a prairie restoration effort in the surrounding fields. Volunteers used loppers and handsaws to remove woody vegetation such as autumn olive and multiflora rose before the remaining stalks and stumps were treated with herbicide to prevent regeneration. This was the first of many projects to restore the fields to shortgrass prairie habitat.

 

August 7, 2021 - Clinton River Clean-Up 

A group of 25 volunteers joined MUCC, Metro-West Steelheaders and the Clinton River Watershed Council at the annual Clinton River Clean-Up event at Yates Park in Rochester Hills. More than 450 lbs. of trash was removed from within and around the Clinton River during this clean-up event. Volunteers followed the river throughout Yates Park, covering popular walking trails, the river bank and within the river itself. Items like traffic cones, tires, plastic containers, shelving units and countless other forms of trash were pulled from the river and its banks.

 

May 15, 2021 - Chainsaw Safety Training at Rose Lake State Game Area

Seven Huron Pines AmeriCorps members serving across Michigan gathered at Rose Lake State Game Area to learn how to be safe sawyers. Attendees learned the basics of chainsaw safety, practiced bucking and limbing downed trees, observed a demonstration on tree felling techniques and also learned how to sharpen and disassemble the saw for cleaning. The trees felled and used for training were invasive black locust trees, which are known to outcompete native flora and displace wildlife that relies on them.

 

May 12, 2021 - Tree Planting and Trail Maintenance at Lake Interstate State Game Area

A group of 24 students from Eaton Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) volunteered for wildlife at Lake Interstate State Game Area with our On the Ground Junior (OTG Jr.) program. Students planted 500 sargent crabapple seedlings, picked up trash throughout the state game area and helped improve user access by pruning encroaching vegetation along the trails. The work completed on this piece of public land during this habitat event will benefit wildlife and recreationists alike.

 

April 24, 2021 - Oak Tree Planting at Minden City State Game Area

OTG partnered with the Robert J. Lytle Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society to plant 200 red and bur oak saplings within the Minden City State Game Area. A group of 56 volunteers gathered to plant and tube these oak trees, which will benefit a wide variety of wildlife that include ruffed grouse, wild turkey and white-tailed deer. This event engaged volunteers of all ages, and there was great representation from local conservation organizations like the Ruffed Grouse Society, Harbor Beach Conservation Club and many others.

 

March 27, 2021 - Brush Pile Building in Kalkaska

The OTG program returned to Kalkaska to build brush piles ("rabbitat") on public land. A total of 18 volunteers constructed more than 40 brush piles within openings along Johnson Lake Road that will be utilized by wildlife throughout the area. These openings are surrounded by young aspen stands and also contain mature oak trees throughout. In addition to building brush piles, volunteers also prepared these openings to be managed as grassland habitat in the future.

 

March 13, 2021 - Brush Pile Building in Clare County

The OTG program returned to Clare County to build brush piles (“rabbitat”) on public land near Harrison. A group of nine volunteers met at the project site to limb and buck trees that were then used to assemble five new brush piles. These brush piles will be utilized by wildlife that ranges from rabbit/hare and ruffed grouse to songbirds and reptiles. The event location is known to boast quality habitat for ruffed grouse, woodcock, cottontail rabbit and many other game and non-game species.

 

October 24, 2020 - Tree Planting in Kalkaska

A total of 22 volunteers gathered in Kalkaska to plant, mulch and fence 90 mature soft mast-producing trees to enhance habitat for wildlife in Kalkaska. These fruit trees were planted throughout five different openings within the state forest along Sunset Trail Road and will benefit a variety of wildlife that include ruffed grouse, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, songbirds and an abundance of other game and non-game species.

 

October 10, 2020 - Native Wildflower Planting at Petersburg State Game Area

OTG partnered with The Nature Conservancy at the Petersburg State Game Area to plant the native wildflower blazing star. A total of 450 blazing star plants were planted in two oak openings within the SGA by 18 volunteers. Valuable to naturalists and hunters alike, the Petersburg State Game Area is home to diverse wildlife. From rare insects like the blazing star borer moth and Karner blue butterfly to the abundant white-tailed deer and wild turkey, this area has benefited greatly from habitat restoration efforts by many conservation organizations.

 

October 4, 2020 - Tree Planting at Fulton State Game Area

OTG returned to the field to kick off the planting of 2,500 native trees at the Fulton State Game Area. These trees were funded by the Consumers Energy Foundation and will enhance habitat for diverse wildlife. Originally designed to be a volunteer event for Consumers Energy staff during Earth Day this past April, restrictions due to COVID-19 prevented the original volunteers from attending the event and it was postponed until October. Since COVID-19 restrictions remained in place, it was determined that the event would make a great day for the MUCC field team to get outdoors and kick-start the planting of the trees.