On Saturday, October 14, 2023, MUCC’s On the Ground program partnered once again with biologist Gib King of Land Ethic LCC to host volunteers at a mast-producing tree planting and brush pile building event in the Traverse City Forest Management Unit (Kalkaska County). In total, 23 volunteers planted one-hundred 5-6 foot trees including various crabapple, hawthorn, and serviceberry species.
These masting trees produce fruits, seeds, or nuts that act as an important source of sustenance for a wide variety of Michigan wildlife. Mast is a particularly important component of healthy wildlife habitat in fall and winter when other food sources become scarce and wildlife need to prepare for a long, cold winter. Not only will these trees provide nutrients to wildlife like deer, turkeys and grouse, but they will also serve as year-round cover and nesting habitat for a variety of wildlife like songbirds and small mammals.
Volunteers also constructed ten large brush piles throughout three planting sites using downed limbs, logs and brush. Brush piles are an excellent addition to forest and grassland habitats because these structures are multifaceted in their benefits to wildlife. They provide small mammals with a safe place to hide from aerial predators like hawks and falcons. They also act as a good habitat for ground-nesting species like rabbits and even some reptiles like the common garter snake! If constructed with limbs and branches still containing green vegetation, they can also act as a food source for browsing species like white-tailed deer.
In total, volunteers improved approximately 12 acres of wildlife habitat during this project. After the project, volunteers gathered at a cookout at CCC Bridge State Forest Campground in Fifie Lake!