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 schools. This program brings the classroom outdoors and engages students in habitat projects at state game areas near their schools and homes. Most recently, 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 151 projects the OTG programs have accomplished throughout the state.
We partner with groups like Metro-West Steelheaders, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society and the National Wildlife Federation; business and media partners such Mike Avery Outdoor Magazine, Consumers Energy and the Michigan Wildlife Council; and numerous local conservation clubs, college environmental clubs and youth groups. Most importantly, the OTG program gives volunteers the opportunity to directly enhance habitat for turkeys, deer, bear, elk, waterfowl, snowshoe hare, and other game species on public land. Sportfish and countless non-game species also benefit from the habitat work completed.
More than 3,000 volunteers have improved wildlife habitat through weekend projects like building brush piles, removing invasive trees, restoring grassland habitat through native flower and grass plantings, installing fish spawning structures, hinge-cutting trees for deer and snowshoe hare, installing wood duck boxes, regenerating aspen stands, performing river clean-ups and planting a variety of trees for wildlife food and cover.
OTG hosts projects which improve habitat for wildlife on public land. Through this program, hunters, anglers, trappers and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds have the opportunity to donate their time for the benefit of the species they enjoy. The work completed by volunteers and wildlife professionals shows the general public that Michiganders are true conservationists and demonstrates how hunting license dollars are put to use.
On the Ground is funded by a Memorandum of Agreement with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division.
Updated Wednesday, 3/18/2020
Due to recent announcements and the public health concerns surrounding COVID-19, all Department of Natural Resources and OTG volunteer events have been suspended for the next two months.
This includes all OTG events from now until mid-May. There is a possibility that this suspension will be extended into the summer, depending on the COVID-19 situation at the time.
Regarding the chainsaw safety courses that were supposed to be held in March, we are currently planning to reschedule and host at least one chainsaw safety training weekend before October 1, 2020. Additionally, some of the canceled OTG events do have the potential to be rescheduled if public health regulations permit in the future. Please stay tuned to the OTG and MUCC Facebook pages as we work on scheduling the class and other events.
Updated Monday, 6/22/2020
As the state begins to reopen and COVID-19 restrictions loosen, the OTG program is beginning to evaluate field operations and future program goals and capabilities. While there are currently no OTG wildlife habitat improvement events scheduled for June or July, there is an event scheduled for August. Following the most recent direction from state and federal public health officials, we are intending to host this outdoor event. We are aiming to have more information about event details and online registration available in the near future.
COMPLETED OTG EVENTS IN FY 2020
Please click on the event title for more information about each project.
October 9, 2019 - Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp, Waterloo Recreation Area
A group of 21 students and three chaperones from Lenawee ISD came out to the Michigan Out-of-Doors (MOOD) Youth Camp in Chelsea to help improve native wildlife and pollinator habitat on camp property. A large section of the pollinator garden and sections along the walking trail at camp had become overrun by invasive autumn olive, and the students from Lenawee ISD wanted to help us take care of the problem. Students successfully removed the entire grove of autumn olive and an abundance of the invasive species along the trail.
October 23, 2019 - Traverse City State Forest
A total of 70 students, teachers and chaperones from the Grand Traverse Academy improved wildlife habitat in the Traverse City State Forest by planting native shrubs in select openings. The shrubs were placed along the “drip-edge” of the openings to capture water falling from the canopy of the established forest surrounding the openings and to leave room for future management to occur without disturbing the new shrubs. These students were so efficient and motivated that they were able to plant all 80 shrubs along the edges of the openings in just over one hour.
October 29 and 30, 2019 - Rose Lake State Game Area
During two days of hard work, 53 Morrice Elementary fifth grade students and chaperones were able to remove a major portion of invasive autumn olive in order to prepare a site for future enhancement and restoration efforts. The project site used to be home to the old DNR field office until its recent removal, which has opened up the site to a potential grassland habitat restoration project and a user-access project involving the building of a viewing platform over Rose Lake.
February 22, 2020 - Maple River SGA
A total of 24 volunteers improved waterfowl habitat in the Maple River State Game Area. Impacting a total of 36 acres, volunteers from the Maple River Wildlife Association and other conservationists cleared the dike of woody brush, checked old wood duck nest boxes and prepared them for the new nesting season, and placed new wood duck boxes in two units within the state game area.
February 29, 2020 - Shiawassee River SGA
A group of 27 volunteers spent their Saturday improving waterfowl habitat in the Shiawassee River SGA. Volunteers split into two groups to place new wood duck nest boxes and clean out old nest boxes to prepare them for the upcoming nesting season at various locations within the SGA. As one of Michigan's seven Wetland Wonders and one of the larger state game areas (more than 10,000 acres), the Shiawassee River SGA serves as critical habitat for an abundance of species. Thank you to the Shiawassee Flats Citizens and Hunters Association and all the volunteers that joined us to make this event a success.
March 7, 2020 - Clare County
The OTG program returned to Clare County to build rabbitat on public land in the Gladwin State Forest Area. A group of 14 volunteers met at the project site to limb and buck trees that were then used to assemble five new brush piles. These brush piles can provide small game species with immediate shelter from predators or inclement weather, and serve as a location for nests and dens. The event location is known to boast quality habitat for ruffed grouse, woodcock, cottontail rabbit and many other game and nongame species.