This upcoming weekend, volunteers with MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Program will be improving habitat in the Pigeon River Country State Forest and the Muskegon State Game Area. On Saturday, May 14th, at 12:30 pm in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, volunteers will be cutting down encroaching timber to restore a wildlife opening. On Sunday, May 15th, at 10 am in the Muskegon State Game Area, volunteers will be planting white pine trees to provide thermal cover for whitetail deer, turkey, and other wildlife.
See more details and RSVP to volunteer for wildlife here:
I’m very familiar with the Pigeon River Country State Forest as I grew up camping, hiking, biking, and hunting there; but I am not so familiar with the Muskegon State Game Area. I spent the day yesterday touring the Muskegon SGA with Greg Hochstetler, the areas DNR Wildlife Technician. We looked at the project site where volunteers will be planting white pines this Sunday as well as a few potential future project sites. Much to my surprise, some of the areas reminded me of the Pigeon River Country. Greg pointed out the sweet fern and reminisced about his time spent working with the Atlanta DNR in the Pigeon River Country. There are some pretty great opportunities for habitat improvement projects in the future- check in at www.mucc.org/ontheground to see updated projects for this year. One potential project for this season is in a recent timber sale that has first season aspen regenerating. The aspen is regenerating really well but needs a little assistance where the logging road remains.
This project would involve a new technique where the tips of the aspen saplings are snapped over by hand. This type of pruning of the first season regenerating aspen sapling will promote a new bud to form and grow laterally. The lateral branches will fill in cover and promote new aspen undergrowth in the open logging road. Aspen stands are near impossible to regenerate after they have over-matured and they are essential to many wildlife species for browse and cover. The roots of aspen trees are all connected and stem from a single tree; sometimes a few different clusters will form one aspen stand. Ensuring that young aspens are regenerating in the undergrowth is vital to keeping an aspen stand healthy. This can be done by select cuts and even clear cuts to promote a new growth.
There are a few other unique aspects of the Muskegon State Game Area that pose the potential for future habitat projects. The Muskegon SGA is home to rare sites of oak-pine barrens, an imperiled community type with fewer than twenty occurrences in the state. Information on these sites prepared by Jesse Lincoln from his work with Michigan Natural Features Inventory provides the DNR Wildlife Division with detailed project justifications, goals, and recommendations to protect and expand these rare savanna and prairie-type habitats. Wildlife such as deer, eastern turkey, grouse, woodcock, and cottontail rabbits will benefit from these projects as well as maintaining the biodiversity of the area and protecting rare native plants.
Jesse’s research is part of a long-term effort by the DNR Wildlife Division to document and sustainably manage areas of high conservation significance on state lands. In fact, MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Program coordinated with Jesse on a coastal-marsh restoration project in the Allegan SGA in September 2015- read about the project here! These projects meet the responsibilities to manage the land for a range of wildlife species as well as target high-quality natural communities in Southwest Michigan’s State Game Areas and recommend landscape-level management to restore, protect, and expand these areas. MUCC and volunteers through our wildlife habitat program are proud to help meet these goals!