If you have a state fisheries or wildlife area you are particularly fond of and were wondering how you might contribute to maintenance or improvement of that property, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created a new program just for you.
It is called the Adopt a Fish and Wildlife Area program.
According to program literature, sponsorship is open to all types of organizations including scouts, school clubs, businesses, faith-based groups and others.
As a sponsor, your group will have an opportunity to work with DNR staff to create a work plan dedicated to the specific needs of your property. Plans can include a wide range of activities from “wildlife surveys, building and maintaining facilities, habitat improvement projects, litter cleanup, sign postings, seed collecting and prairie restoration.”
“Basically this program is a way to try and get the public involved in land and resource management. There are two different options; you can participate either by donating financially or donating labor, essentially volunteering hours,” explained DNR Wildlife Biologist Ryan Haffele.
The program requires groups to make a three-year commitment to work three days totaling 100 hours of labor, or donate $3,000, or an equivalent combination of the two, annually.
Two local organizations have already taken advantage of the program and are working with Haffele on several properties in Pierce and St. Croix counties.
The University of Wisconsin River Falls (UWRF) Resource Management Club consisting of students whose course of study focuses on various aspects of conservation, has been trading labor for the opportunity to work and learn side-by-side with DNR professionals in the field. Students are trained by DNR staff to meet safety certifications on specific equipment depending on what’s required for the job.
“We’ve been partnering with the students working cutting brush, maintaining parking lots, maintaining signage, picking up litter, community service type of activities. For example, in terms of technical skills, after learning how to properly use a chainsaw, a number of students did some cedar clearing on an oak savanna project. We also have some special projects where we’ve been teaching students how to write management plans trying to get them the experience they need to become a successful biologist or technician or whatever they want to pursue with their career in conservation,” said Haffele.
Haffele hopes that by formally establishing the program with UWRF it will develop into a viable resource both students and DNR staff can rely on well into the future. With the correct training and more experience, Haffele expects that students, as well as some other groups, will be able to operate independently executing management plans for specific properties without DNR supervision essentially multiplying the amount of work the DNR can accomplish. So far, the program provides experience and exposure for students but does not translate into actual course credits.
Another organization, the Kinnickinnic Chapter of Pheasants Forever matched funds spent to purchase pheasant stamps, to write a check to the adoption program for $4,000 in 2015.
Haffele approached the chapter with specific projects including a number of prescribed burns and tree work to be accomplished on properties in the group’s core work area of southern St. Croix and northern Pierce counties.
“I went to them and said, this is what we have and this is our management plan to benefit grassland birds including pheasants. Does this align with your chapter goals and would you be willing to participate through funding?” said Haffele. “There’s not a lot of need for education there. There was a mutual agreement that this is a good course to help local populations.”
“We’ll put that money 10 percent toward grassland management including prescribed burning, mowing, and invasive species issues. In addition to pheasants, it will benefit a wide array of grassland species. There’s been a lot of habitat loss with CRP going away. There used to be 30 to 40,000 acres in CRP in St. Croix county alone. Now we are relying on public lands, state and federal, and the little bit of CRP that is left.” Haffele said.
To get started in the program, groups in Pierce and St. Croix counties may contact Ryan Haffele at 715-684-2914, ext. 118.
Interested groups can also download an application form and find a listing of fish and wildlife areas by searching the keyword “volunteer” at dnr.wi.gov.
The DNR suggests consulting with the DNR property manager for a specific property by calling customer service at 1-888-936-7463.
Signage recognizing sponsors and the work being done on the property will be posted at the entrance to the property.