ON THE GROUND
On the Ground (OTG) is MUCC’s volunteer wildlife habitat improvement program. Launched in 2013 with six pilot projects, it won Outdoor Life magazine’s inaugural Open Country award for its partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In 2016, the OTG program expanded to include On the Ground Junior (OTG Jr.), which is a fully-funded field trip program for K-12 schools. MUCC was awarded the 2018 Pillar Award for Land Use from the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council for the OTG Jr. program. DNR wildlife biologists and technicians have been instrumental in developing and coordinating the hundreds of projects that OTG has participated in throughout the state.
OTG hosts projects that improve habitat for wildlife on public land. Through this program, consumptive and non-consumptive users of public land have the opportunity to donate their time to benefit the species they enjoy. More than 3,400 volunteers have improved wildlife habitat through projects like building brush piles, removing invasive trees, 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 by a Memorandum of Agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division.
COMPLETED OTG PROJECTS IN FY 2022
Please click on the event title for more information about each project.
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.
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.
COMPLETED OTG PROJECTS IN FY 2021
Please click on the event title for more information about each project.
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.
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.