On the Ground Volunteer Highlight: Tom Kelley

OTG volunteer Tom Kelley uses a dibble bar to plant native wildflower plugs at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Barry County.

Meet Tom Kelley, local public land steward and active MUCC member and volunteer. Tom started volunteering with On the Ground (OTG) in March of this year and has already participated in five OTG events across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula!

Tom earned a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology from Michigan State University in the early 90s, and originally dreamed of being a wildlife biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) so he could give back to the resources that he enjoyed growing up. After twenty-nine years in manufacturing, Tom decided it was time to retire and pursue his passion of giving back to Michigan’s natural resources.

“Volunteering for MUCC OTG events is giving me opportunities to give back now,” Tom said. “I’ve enjoyed the chance to engage in conversation with the wildlife professionals that collaborate and cooperate with MUCC; they truly appreciate the people that are willing to come out and help do the hands-on work that is required for these projects to happen.”

Tom said that volunteering with OTG is a great way for conservationists to interact with those who have similar interests. It also provides opportunities to explore new public lands and even introduce young ones to conservation stewardship and careers in natural resources.

Using a handsaw, OTG volunteer Tom Kelley helps remove invasive woody vegetation from a restored grassland at Edmore State Game Area in Montcalm County.

“I think my favorite event so far was the Jack Pine Planting Day,” Tom continued. Each spring, MUCC collaborates with the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance to host a tree planting day near Grayling to improve critical habitat for the once endangered Kirtland’s warbler. In fact, Tom actually worked as a seasonal employee for the US Fish and Wildlife Service back in 1992 on their cowbird-trapping program in an effort to mitigate cowbird’s parasitic behavior on warbler nests. “It’s very gratifying to know that in a small way I helped this species recover,” he concluded.

Thank you, Tom, for your continued volunteer stewardship with the OTG program! We greatly appreciate your lifelong dedication to improving Michigan’s natural resources.

Would you like to be our next volunteer steward? Visit mucc.org/on-the-ground/ to register for upcoming projects!

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