Now that the summer field season for OTG has concluded, it is time to look back and reflect on the completed 2019 season and begin developing goals and projects for the upcoming 2020 season. However, as I was entering the data into the program, it became clear that our OTG program had a much bigger story to tell than just the past field season alone. Since 2013, this program has impacted more than 2,000 acres of public land across the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula of Michigan through the dedicated work of nearly 3,000 Michiganders. Together, these volunteers have served more than 13,500 hours for wildlife and its habitat across the state.
The success of our program is the result of a partnership between individual volunteers, conservation organizations and wildlife professionals all across the state of Michigan. We partner with groups like Metro-West Steelheaders, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, National Wildlife Federation, Steelhead Manifesto, Consumers Energy, college clubs, school groups and many others. There truly is power in partnership when it comes to conservation, and the OTG program looks forward to continuing to unite Michiganders through their shared passion for conserving their natural resources.
Although it is easy to get distracted by the hard numbers when determining the success of a program like OTG, it is also important to remember that it is the intangible aspect of each event that truly determines its overall success. It is the camaraderie that results when bird hunters and bird watchers unite to regenerate an aspen stand, it is the memories made between parents and their children when planting trees in a local state forest and it is the sense of stewardship that is instilled or renewed in each individual who gives a portion of their time to a conservation project or initiative that matters to them.
The goal of the OTG program is far greater than just acreage and species impact–it is designed to give Michigan conservationists an outlet for their passion and the opportunity to share their outdoor heritage with family, friends and like-minded individuals. As we move into the program’s eighth year, I hope you join us for a project in your region and discover how large an impact you can have over the course of a few hours on a Saturday.