On the Ground Kicks-Off the New Year at Gourdneck State Game Area

On Saturday, January 7, 2023, MUCC’s On the Ground (OTG) program partnered with Portage Parks and Recreation and the Michigan DNR to host a volunteer stewardship day at Gourdneck State Game Area (SGA) in Kalamazoo County. We had an impressive volunteer turn-out with over 30 people in attendance! It was a great way to kick-off the start of a new year.

Volunteers head out to a work site within Gourdneck SGA to cut invasive vegetation.

Gourdneck SGA is located in the southwest corner of Kalamazoo County in Portage and Schoolcraft Townships. The parcel of land expands over 2,000 acres and contains Gourdneck and Hogset Lakes, among various wetland and forested habitat types. This area of land was originally purchased as public hunting property. Over time, biologists have actively managed this property to provide quality habitat for a variety of species including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, eastern cottontail, fox squirrels and wood ducks.

During the stewardship day, volunteers were given a quick lesson in how to identify multiple species of woody shrubs that are encroaching on a wetland/fen habitat. To help restore this increasingly rare habitat type, volunteers removed invasive vegetation using loppers, handsaws, and a great deal of diligence.

DNR Wildlife Technician, Nate DeVries, treats cut buckthorn stumps with herbicide to prevent future regrowth.

Fens are a type of wetland that are extremely difficult to restore if destroyed. This habitat type has the potential to boast diverse communities of both wetland and prairie plants. Fens also provide suitable habitat for many species of wildlife including reptiles like the eastern box turtle which are becoming increasingly rare in Michigan due to habitat fragmentation and degradation. Biologists hope that, with careful management and continued stewardship, this area within Gourdenck SGA can once again provide suitable habitat for rare reptile species like the eastern massassauga rattlesnake.

In total, volunteers helped remove invasive vegetation from about two acres of wildlife habitat within the State Game Area. If you are interested in volunteering with OTG, check out our upcoming events at mucc.org/on-the-ground/.

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