Thursday, 19 April 2018

Volunteer: Build Skill and Confidence

Volunteer using chainsaw to cut up a boxelder tree.

Want to learn firsthand skills you can use on your land? Your best bet just might be by helping somebody else. Every year dozens of volunteer organizations like the Nature Conservancy and Prairie Enthusiasts, Pheasants Forever and the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association donate thousands of hours to conserve the natural resources of our state.

Most of the work is done on public lands or non-profit nature preserves. Volunteer groups will sometimes give their time to help private landowners who have conservation projects that support their mission. Contact one of these groups when you plan your next conservation project. Some hunting groups provide free or low cost professional consultation to help you develop your wildlife improvement plan. They may also help you find matching grants to help pay for it.

Wisconsin DNR welcomes volunteers at their parks, as well as state wildlife and natural areas. State park volunteers assist with a wide variety of tasks from hosting campsites and staffing visitor centers to maintaining trails. There are more than 650 state natural areas (SNA) protecting the natural heritage of Wisconsin. SNA volunteers help protect rare plants and animals; getting up close and personal with some of the coolest natural resources in our state.

Volunteer This Weekend

Trout Unlimited is one of those groups that help all of us by doing conservation work on Wisconsin’s trout streams. This Saturday, you can learn several important skills while helping to improve the shoreline of Smith-Conley Creek, south of Ridgeway in Iowa County.

This volunteer work day runs from 9:00 AM to noon. The crew will remove large boxelder trees that are hazards to trout anglers and disrupting steam flow. This is a good opportunity to watch experienced sawyers at work and get more comfortable around chainsaws. You will also learn how to construct brush piles for burning or providing wildlife cover. Contact Jim Hess if you plan to attend or need additional information

One additional piece of equipment that is likely to be used is a powered capstan. It is a gasoline engine that can be tied off to a truck or large tree. The engine turns shaft, called a capstan, that resembles a sewing thimble. a long rope is tied off to a tree and loosely wrapped around the capstan. An operator starts the engine and take up the slack on the loose end of the rope. As the rope tightens, the spinning capstan pulls the tree an the other load end of the rope, while the operator hold tension on the slack end. Powered capstans are especially useful for removing fallen trees from stream beds. The first time I saw a powered capstan at work I put it on my Christmas list.

Find the Right Group

Wisconsin groups actively involved in conservation groups include:

Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin
Ice Age Trail Alliance
Nature Conservancy, The – Wisconsin 
Prairie Enthusiasts, The
Wisconsin Waterfowl Association


If you want to develop your conservation skills while helping out in the community, consider volunteering a few hours this weekend. You will get plenty of exercise, meet some new neighbors and maybe pick up some pointers you can use to improve your property.




March 2017

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Get Fired Up

Crew checking backpack pump cans

Crew members check out backpack pumps before the pre-burn briefing. Crews take care to make sure everything is working right because depend on their equipment to keep them safe.

It’s that time of year again; time to get the burn gear ready to go. An early thaw has brought the spring burn season by several weeks. Though this weekend has been a washout, crews were already in the field last week and will be heading out again as soon as the fields and woodlands dry out.

A number of non-profit organizations conduct controlled burns across Wisconsin. While they typically only work either on public lands or property that they manage, volunteering as a burn crew member with them is a great way to gain the knowledge and skills needed to do controlled burns on your own land.

The Prairie Enthusiasts own or manage several thousand acres across southern and southwestern Wisconsin. Burn crews work many afternoons and weekends throughout the spring until the green up of native plants and bird nesting brings the season to an end. For more information or to get on their burn crew email list contact Rich Henderson.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Let’s Get Cutting

Volunteer using chainsaw to cut up a boxelder tree.

Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited volunteer cuts up boxelder as part of Sugar River work day last December.

If you have been waiting for the right time to cut wood invasive trees, shrubs and vines; now is the time. Snow is off the ground so it is easy to find and cut buckthorn, honey suckle and oriental bittersweet.

Stack the cut branches into a tight brush pile. I like to point the branches all in the same direction to get a tighter pack. Try pushing the pile down and even climbing on it to crush the branches. I even use my chainsaw to slice through the pile to compact it even more. A dense brush pile will light easier and burn hotter because the wood is packed closer together, making it easier to get the fuel to its ignition temperature.

Remember to cut close to the ground and immediately treat stumps with herbicide (e.g., Garlon 4 or Roundup). Read and follow label direction for the correct dilution. For those larger trees like boxelder and bigger buckthorn, you only need to treat the outside sap ring because the inner heartwood is not living and will not transport herbicide.

Time is running out, so don’t delay. Once the buds begin to swell and break the sap will be running from he roots up into the leaves. When that happens, the tree will not only stop pulling the herbicide down into the roots, but it may actively push the herbicide back out of the stump. Once the sap starts running, wait several months until the leaves have fully opened. At that point the shrub or tree will again start pulling nutrients down into the roots and along with those nutrients your herbicide.


September 2016

Friday, 23 September 2016

Celebrate 23rd annual NEEF National Public Lands Day

Working on your own land not only increases the amount and diversity of wildlife; it improves plant diversity and helps to create a network of high quality habitat across your community. We all also are joint owners of our public lands. Many of us enjoy camping, hunting, fishing, boating and hiking the parks, forests and wildlife areas we jointly own.

This is the 23rd anniversary of National Public Lands Day, when we spend a few hours paying back for the years of enjoyment we and our families have received. Sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation, this is the largest volunteer commitment effort of its kind. Spend part of your Saturday making that special park, forest or wildlife area near you even better.

Recent budget cuts mean it is more important than ever to pay back some of the enjoyment that our public lands provide. Lend a hand to help protect and improve the public lands in Wisconsin:

National Public Lands Day at Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

Local volunteers will one again roll up their sleeves to remove invasive plant species at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center during the 2016 celebration of National Public Lands Day. The event takes place rain or shine at the visitor center, located two miles west of Ashland, WI, on U.S. Highway 2, September 24 from 8:30 to 1 pm. Registration starts at 8:30 am. Volunteers should dress for the outdoors and wear sturdy shoes or boots. Work gloves will be provided but sizes and quantities may be limited. Bring gloves in case we run out.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

08:30 to 13:00
Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center

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Seed collecting

Help care for Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area! Collect seeds from native wetland plants to scatter in areas where invasive plants have recently been removed. We’ll identify several different plants and learn how to collect their seeds. This work will expand the quality wetland areas and continue the efforts started by the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association and Wisconsin DNR. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. See details below.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

09:00 to 12:00

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National Public Lands Day at Black Duck Lake

Volunteers will assist with invasive species and trash removal from island.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

09:00 to 14:00
Black Duck Lake

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National Public Lands Day at Island in Stevens Point

Volunteer will help cut down invasive species and remove garbage from island in Stevens Point along the Wisconsin River.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

10:00 to 15:00
Stevens Point Area

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11th Annual SidieFest

Join Vernon Trails for our 11th annual SidieFest!
This community trail building festival has brought out over 800 volunteers over the past decade and helped to create the nearly 12 miles of "Shared Use" trails that we all enjoy. We will be meeting at the northern pavillion starting at 10am and work until 5pm. We will have various projects that include trail maintenance, trail rerouting, trail repair, and bridge work. After the hard work, we will celebrate ourselves with food and fun. Bring work gloves, boots, some snacks and some enthusiasm.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

10:00 to 19:00

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National Public Lands Day

Volunteers will meet BLM employees where Blue Heron Lane meets the Wisconsin River (44.467884, -89.573492) at 10AM on September 24th, 2016. With the help of BLM employees volunteers will work to eradicate some invasive species that have show up on this island (ie. buckthorn, japanese barberry, and garlic mustard). They will do this by cutting down tree species, and either hand pulling or spray foliar herbicide on other undesirable vegetation species.

Other specifics:

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

10:00 to 14:00

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Milwaukee Community Service Market

The USFS will be hosting a booth at this new Community event focused on available resources for Milwaukee Community members. The USFS will be sharing info on federal lands, getting outdoors, etc. The event will include: community partner booths, health screenings, face painting, bouncy houses and free food.

Date and Time:

Saturday, September 24, 2016 – 

11:00 to 14:00

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Wisconsin Bat Festival

This free event feature celebrates  the unique role that bats play in our world!  Discover why bats are important to Wisconsin and learn how they keep us healthy.  Explore techniques you can use in your own backyard to help the environment, bats, and other wildlife.  On Friday, September 30th,  see how local bat experts use technology to study bats at our “Superheroes of the Night Demo” at the Urban Ecology Center at Menomenee Valley Branch at 3700 W.

Date and Time:
Friday, September 30, 2016 – 18:00 to Saturday, October 1, 2016 – 16:00
Urban Ecology Center and Milwaukee Public Museum

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