On the Ground (OTG) is MUCC’s volunteer fish and 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 128 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, Michigan Sharptail Association, Learn to Hunt and 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 2,500 volunteers have improved fish and game 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 focuses on projects which improve habitat for game species and sport fish on lands open to the public for hunting and fishing, although an abundance of other wildlife and pollinator species are also benefited by the work completed. 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 supported by a Wildlife Habitat Grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan's hunters, anglers, and trappers.
COMPLETED OTG EVENTS IN FY 2019:
October 3, 2018 - Rose Lake State Game Area
A group of 24 fifth-grade students from Morrice Elementary teamed up with OTG Jr. to help restore grassland habitat at Rose Lake State Game Area that will benefit a broad range of game and pollinator species.
October 23, 2018 - Petobego State Game Area
Our OTG Jr. program teamed up with 83 students, teachers, and chaperones from the Grand Traverse Academy at Petobego State Game Area near Elk Rapids, MI for a rabbit habitat improvement project. At the conclusion of the project, the students and adults had assembled 20 brush piles.
January 19, 2019 - St. Clair Township State Game Area
A total of 2 volunteers braved the severe winter weather conditions to build small game brush piles with MUCC and DNR staff at the St. Clair State Game Area. 15 boxelder and over-mature jack pine trees were felled and used to assemble the brush piles, simultaneously opening up the forest to ecological succession and enhancing habitat in the SGA for game species like coyote, rabbit, deer, and turkey.
February 2, 2019 - Shiawassee State Game Area
A group of 28 volunteers gathered at the DNR St. Charles Field Office at the Shiawassee River State Game Area to volunteer for wood ducks. After building 30 wood duck nest boxes, volunteers went outdoors to check preexisting nest boxes. Volunteers were given the opportunity to determine the usage and nesting success of each box and add new nesting materials for the upcoming season.
February 23, 2019 - Maple River State Game Area
A group of 9 volunteers came out to the Maple River State Game Area to improve waterfowl habitat in Unit X and Unit D of the SGA. The work completed involved cutting down the woody brush that had overgrown in areas along the dikes and stacking it off to the side, as well as placing metal poles for future wood duck nest box placement.
March 23, 2019 - Crane Pond State Game Area
MUCC’s OTG team partnered with the MDNR for a youth rabbit hunt at Crane Pond State Game Area. At the event, 70 people (30 of which were youth) explored the SGA, participated in the hunt, and learned the importance of safe and sustainable hunting practices.
March 28, 2019 - Sharonville State Game Area
A group of 10 volunteers and 3 chaperones from the Lenawee Intermediate School District came out to the Sharonville State Game Area for a habitat improvement project. The high school students spent the day clearing brush and woody debris from a drainage ditch to improve water flow and overall water quality in the SGA.
March 30 & 31, 2019 - Rose Lake State Game Area
A total of 21 volunteers attended chainsaw safety training at Rose Lake State Game Area. This event was primarily led by the Heavy Equipment Response Coalition and organized by DNR Wildlife Technician Chad Krumnauer. Volunteers learned the basics of safe chainsaw use and maintenance and were given the opportunity to put their new knowledge to use by felling trees.
April 12, 2019 - Dansville State Game Area
A group of 13 volunteers from Consumers Energy partnered with OTG to improve trail conditions at Dansville State Game Area. Volunteers cleared encroaching invasive woody vegetation from the hiking trail so it was more easily accessible to trail users. In addition to trail clearing, volunteers created 8 brush piles for rabbit habitat from the vegetation removed.
April 19, 2019 - Barry State Game Area
Consumers Energy again partnered with OTG. In addition to 2 other OTG volunteers, 20 volunteers from Consumers Energy came out to the Barry State Game Area to improve wildlife habitat in a portion of the SGA that had recently undergone a prescribed burn. Volunteers planted a total of 3,900 oak trees in the area, and this mast-producing species will provide foraging material for an abundance of wildlife as it matures.
April 25, 2019 - Denmark State Game Area
A group of 22 volunteers from the Reese Outdoors Club at Reese High School came out to improve grassland habitat at the Denmark State Game Area. The area was beginning to be overrun by invasive autumn olive, but the 3 chaperones and 19 high school students cleared an abundance of the woody brush from multiple sites across the SGA to get the area back on track for management as grassland habitat.
May 9, 2019 - Elmwood State Game Area
Although the official OTG Jr. event was canceled due to adverse weather conditions, MUCC staff still went out to the Elmwood State Game Area and planted 300 hawthorn seedlings. In less than 2 hours and with only 4 people, all 300 seedlings were in the ground. These trees will aid in the development of the SGA and serve as a buffer between the road and field edge. As the hawthorn matures, it will provide supplemental habitat and foraging material for a broad range of wildlife.
May 10, 2019 - Bay City State Park
A group of 20 students and 3 chaperones from Cramer Junior High School came out to improve habitat along the Frank N. Andersen Trail within Bay City State Park. A total of 24 garbage bags of garlic mustard were filled, each weighing an average of 20 pounds. This means our OTG Jr. volunteers cleared approximately 480 pounds of garlic mustard from along the path.
May 18, 2019 - Gwinn State Forest Area
OTG returned to the Upper Peninsula to host a partnership event with the Mid U.P. Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society. A group of 24 volunteers planted 85 crabapple trees and 250 fruit shrubs at several sites within the Gwinn State Forest. We impacted 9.3 acres of public land and celebrated a major milestone for the OTG program by reaching our 2,500th OTG volunteer at this event (to read the official DNR press release for this event, please click HERE).
May 23 & 24, 2019 - Rose Lake State Game Area
A total of 98 students and 12 chaperones from Murphy Elementary in Haslett came out to improve grassland habitat at the Rose Lake State Game Area. The students planted milkweed seedlings they grew in their classrooms and other native grass and wildflower species provided by the DNR. Additionally, these OTG Jr. volunteers pulled a total of 53 bags of garlic mustard around the SGA. With each bag weighing approximately 20 pounds, students pulled an impressive total of 1,060 pounds of garlic mustard.
June 18, 2019 - Mid Michigan College, Mt. Pleasant
A total of 30 volunteers came out to Mt. Pleasant to aid in the restoration of grassland habitat. Mid Michigan College hosted a pollinator workshop in partnership with the Michigan DNR, Pheasants Forever, Huron Pines AmeriCorps, the NRCS and MUCC and designated a half-acre plot of campus land as pollinator habitat. Although managed for pollinators, this grassland habitat will benefit a variety of fauna that includes wild turkeys, pheasants, songbirds and deer.
June 21, 2019 - Backus Creek State Game Area
To kick off MUCC's 82nd Annual Convention at Houghton Lake, a group of 20 volunteers that included MUCC staff, board members and affiliates came out to Backus Creek State Game Area to plant 35 soft mast-producing trees to improve habitat for ruffed grouse, wild turkey, songbirds and deer. The trees planted included juneberry, hawthorn, and three different species of crab apple. These trees were planted in openings north and south of Backus Creek within the SGA, and volunteers impacted 30 acres of habitat for wildlife.
July 6, 2019 - Clinton River Clean-Up
In an annual partnership between MUCC, Metro-West Steelheaders and the Clinton River Watershed Council, 41 volunteers donated their time to improve aquatic habitat and recreational opportunities on the Clinton River. In four hours, these volunteers pulled nearly 400 pounds of trash from around and within the river that runs through Yates Park in Rochester Hills, MI.
July 13, 2019 - Red Cedar River Clean-Up
In a partnership between MUCC and the MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Department, 32 volunteers donated their time to improve aquatic habitat and recreational opportunities on the Red Cedar River. In three and a half hours, these volunteers pulled over 500 pounds of trash from around and within the river that runs through Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.
July 20, 2019 - Gladwin State Game Area
A group of 8 volunteers came out to improve small game habitat within the Gladwin SGA. Volunteers teamed up with the DNR and MUCC to limb downed trees and assemble the logs and brush into large piles to be used as habitat for rabbit and a variety of other small game species. In just three hours, volunteers built five large brush piles that directly impacted 5 acres of wildlife habitat.
July 20, 2019 - Manistee River Clean-Up
A total of 54 volunteers met at the Highbridge Boat Launch in Brethren to clean up a heavily-used stretch of the Manistee River. Braving the inclement weather, these volunteers spent three hours removing a variety of debris and trash from within and around the river to improve aquatic habitat and recreational opportunities on the Manistee River. Even in adverse weather conditions, volunteers removed 250 pounds of trash from the river.
August 3, 2019 - Rose Lake State Game Area
A group of 9 volunteers came out to remove invasive honeysuckle that was negatively impacting wildlife habitat within Rose Lake State Game Area. By mechanically removing the invasive honeysuckle from the understory of the forest, there will be less competition and native vegetation will be able to re-establish, thus improving habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Volunteers impacted 24 acres of wildlife habitat.
August 17, 2019 - Pigeon River Country State Forest
A total of 14 volunteers came out to the Pigeon River Country State Forest to improve wildlife habitat near the Pickerel Lake State Forest Campground. The goal of the project was to perform an "oak release" by clearing out early successional tree species that were crowding the canopy and preventing oaks from developing in the understory. Volunteers impacted 19 acres of wildlife habitat.