The conception of these projects are quite unique in their nature. The Dewey Marsh Wildlife Area has been on my radar since my freshman year at UWSP and considered it a diamond in the rough for students and fellow public landowners in central Wisconsin. It boasts approximately 5,000 acres that contain a diverse range of habitat for the various game species that inhabit the property. In the fall of 2020, we began the process of adopting the Dewey Marsh Wildlife Area through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (WDNR) Adopt a Wildlife (AWA) program. Upon receiving final approval of our successful adoption, it was late winter prohibiting us from performing any workdays leading us to conduct our first workday in early April. During this workday, we installed three signs in three separate parking lots and collected 8 bags of trash from the lots. Future projects on this property will include forest opening management, invasive species mapping and removal, continued parking lot maintenance, and will offer opportunities for undergraduate research in support of our habitat manipulation evaluation.
The morning of this workday was filled with mile-wide smiles and filled the crisp morning air with booming laughter as we shared hunting and fishing stories. Driving from parking lot to parking lot, we saw a fair number of strutting toms and unapologetically placed OnX waypoints for future reference as we unintentionally scouted surrounding fields. The atmosphere of the morning’s workday consisted of what every leader wants, and we all walked away with newly formed friendships and dozens of ticks hanging off of our bodies as an emblem of a good days work in the Wisconsin woods.
Additionally, we performed a tree planting workday on the Peter Helland Wildlife Area in Columbia County, Wisconsin in collaboration with WDNR forester and fellow BHA member, Bruce Henderson. The purpose of this project was to promote desirable regeneration in part of a recent timber sale stand that was struggling to regenerate due to the amount of deer browsing activity. Significant WDNR funds had already been spent to control undesirable invasive species on this site, especially buckthorn. UWSP BHA utilized funds from the Public Land Owner (PLO) Stewardship Grant we were granted in the fall of 2020 to purchase 150 trees tubes to combine with the WDNR’s 130 existing tubes for this project. Through a generous donation from Vortex Optics, I prepared some volunteer appreciation gifts that included a Vortex hat, playing cards, drawstring bag, BHA stickers, Vortex stickers, and a copy of the Backcountry Journal.
On May 1st volunteers were met with a chilly morning with high winds, but as the day progressed, the sun peaked out from the overcast conditions and warmed up to a balmy 82 degrees – one of the warmest of the year thus far! Some of us may have forgotten sunscreen…whoops.
The morning kicked off with Bruce providing an overview of the day and round robin introductions of the participants revealing the diversity of the group’s backgrounds. Next came a short hike to the prepped site while carrying the remaining materials needed and our 300 2-0 swamp white oak seedlings (The “2-0” indicates that the seedlings were grown in a nursery bed for 2 years prior to harvesting and preparation for planting elsewhere. The seedlings were propagated and provided by the WNDR Nursery Program.). Upon arrival to the site, Bruce provided further detailed instructions, explained the purpose of the planting, and demonstrated proper planting technique. With a well-informed group equipped with planting bars, seedlings, hammers, wooden stakes, and tree tubes, we were ready for work! We divided duties and set off performing work. Within a matter of minutes, the area was filled with various conversations of future aspirations, hunting stories, Bruce’s undergraduate days at UWSP, and other miscellaneous topics that had us all in good spirits. You can’t beat a day filled with conversation, conservation, and a community that feels like family. With the seedlings firmly planted and protected by the tree tubes, the group made the hike back to the trucks with sweat on our brow, blisters on our hands, and a replenished soul. Planting a seedling is more than just that. It’s a selfless act that’s best described by a quote I heard some years ago that stuck with me, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
I would like to express a sincere thank you to the S. Kent Rockwell Foundation and BHA’s Collegiate Program for making these workdays possible and for providing unique opportunities to collegiate students across the nation to make an impact and contribute to OUR public lands. After all, we all own this land and it’s up to us to ensure it remains that way for future generations to cherish and escape to when they seek solace from modern day society and a technologically driven lifestyle.