In early 2020, the U.S. Forest Service and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers began to work together to identify projects east of the Mississippi that would be ideal for BHA volunteers to complete. During these discussions the USFS identified a project that would remove four miles of barbwire fencing in the Huron-Manistee National Forest near Glennie, Michigan. The Michigan chapter was more than happy to help on such an important project.
“We were really excited to help on this project, and it was incredibly satisfying to see the area opened up more by removing the barbwire fence, and the elimination of barriers for both people and wildlife that move through the area,” Michigan chapter secretary Ryan Tucker said.
On the weekend of July 17, the Michigan chapter showed up in spades and with spades to work alongside local Americorps members. Over 20 volunteers spent eight hours on Saturday and another seven hours on Sunday removing as much barbed wire fence as possible. In two days, the project removed upwards of three miles of fencing from the thick undergrowth in the mature hardwoods, and wetlands on the Wilbur Creek Property.
“This was a great partnership project, and a true win-win for the forest, wildlife and conservationists. It is truly though partners like BHA that we are able to continue to fulfill the diverse management needs of our public lands,” said Greyling Brandt, Mio District Ranger, Huron-Manistee National Forests.
“The Wilbur Creek Fence removal project completed with the help of BHA allows the Forest Service to safely plan and conduct prescribed burns in the area. Helping reduce fuel loads, regenerating the forest, and maintaining openings is key to our land management plan,” said Dana Meder, Wildlife Technician, Mio Ranger District, Huron-Manistee National Forests.
“The openings were old grazing pastures that started to fill in from succession and will succeed to red maple and aspen forests otherwise. Prescribed fire will help keep these openings available for grassland birds like short-eared owl, American kestrel, several species of songbirds and also pollinators and the dusted skipper, a butterfly species that is of special concern in Michigan,” Meder added.
In addition, gamebirds like ruffed grouse and the American woodcock, would benefit from the undergrowth regeneration that comes from prescribed fires. By removing fencing, Michigan BHA members allows the USFS to jumpstart an ecological switch.
“The canopy gaps result from fire-weakened trees eventually falling in the forest after the prescribed burn is completed. The canopy gaps and resulting undergrowth improves the forest health and helps return areas of the forest to pre-settlement conditions where these conditions are desired,” Meder said.
“It was an honor to team up with the USFS and AmeriCorps during this event. We were able to come together and pool our resources and accomplish more as a team then any single entity could individually. It was important to give something back to an area of our national forest system that my family has camped, hunted and fished for generations. And by doing so I hope the generations that come after us can look back at this effort and others like it and feel compelled to protect our public lands and water and leave it better then they found it,” said Austin Motte, Michigan chapter board member.
The chapter would also like to thank the Michigan United Conservation Clubs for loaning hard hats and wire cutters for the event and the Glennie Ace Hardware store for the donation of work gloves!
Photo Credit: Jason Meekhof