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Scouting for America's Great Outdoors
Midwest Region, October 22, 2011
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Scout and troop leaders worked hand in hand to clear non-native species like buckthorn, aspen and prickly ash.
Scout and troop leaders worked hand in hand to clear non-native species like buckthorn, aspen and prickly ash. - Photo Credit: Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Venturers--A co-ed outdoor adventure wing of the Boy Scots of America for ages 14-21,
Venturers--A co-ed outdoor adventure wing of the Boy Scots of America for ages 14-21, "Crew 144" provided additional supervision and mentoring to the Scouts. - Photo Credit: Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
St. Croix Wetland Management District Range Technician Tracy Ronnander briefs Scouts on safety.
St. Croix Wetland Management District Range Technician Tracy Ronnander briefs Scouts on safety. - Photo Credit: Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
As the sun started to set and the geese returned to Oak Ridge WPA, scouts and volunteers gathered as the American Legion Honor Guard stepped forward to honor Wisconsin soldiers who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the sun started to set and the geese returned to Oak Ridge WPA, scouts and volunteers gathered as the American Legion Honor Guard stepped forward to honor Wisconsin soldiers who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. - Photo Credit: Photo by Chris Trosen/USFWS.

As the morning sun rose over the 200 acre wetland on the Oak Ridge Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) and Canada geese and trumpeter swans headed out to feed in the surrounding fields, more than 50 volunteers converged on the WPA parking lot to set up for “Conservation Day on the WPA”.

With more than 400 scouts and parents registered to attend the event, there was plenty of work to do. The late October event was a partnership project between the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle River District, the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District (WMD) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s St. Croix Wetland Management District (WMD). The goal of the event was to merge learning with hands-on invasive species management while at the same time providing opportunities for scouts to work on several merit badge requirements.

Planning for the event started many months earlier when local scout leader Greg Scheder approached District staff about working with scouts. As Scheder and Wildlife Biologist Chris Trosen started planning for the day, excitement grew and many partners and volunteers stepped up to help out with the event.

“A little known fact about the Eagle River District is that their motto is Fly-High,” said Trosen. “This motto certainly describes the Eagle River Districts many programs and activities but was recently exemplified within the District’s Event Planning Team, comprised mostly of volunteers, who worked very hard to make this event so successful.” The Friends of the St. Croix WMD also played an important role in accepting donations for the event. Donations from 17 community sponsors ranged from cash to porta- johns and even a bus for the event.

More than 400 scouts and parents showed up for the Saturday event in west central Wisconsin. They were divided into groups of 40 and hiked about a mile to the work site, learning about local plants and animals on the way. After a safety briefing, their group leaders led them to their work area and using loppers and saws, they started removing buckthorn, Siberian elm and other invasive species from the oak savanna restoration site. As the groups worked, staff from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and numerous volunteer educators moved among the groups providing short educational programs about habitat restoration and invasive species management.

Around noon the scouts started heading back to the lunch area, where they were treated to a Wisconsin style lunch of hotdogs, brats, beans, chips, cookies and juice. After lunch the scouts and parents spent some time looking at exhibits before heading back to the work site. Two of the more popular exhibits were the ducks on a stick staffed by wardens from the WI DNR and a FWS Migratory Bird Biologist and the skull collection staffed by Friends Board member Mike Reiter. Other exhibits included Leave No Trace, the Prairie Enthusiasts, DNR’s Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and several others.

According to Project Leader Tom Kerr, “The success of this event was not measured in the amount of habitat treated by the cutting activities, but rather in the number of young adults who had the opportunity to spend time learning about what their public lands have to offer.”

The District leadership team for the scouts is also excited by the event, already starting discussions about next year. According to Michael Sietsema, Eagle River District Commissioner, BSA, “I believe that we, Eagle River District, found an outing where scouts of all ages, from 5 to 21, can come together and work side by side, as one collective unit, and do a good turn for our service area. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental in making this happen. It was a beautiful day, and a great location, for a project of this magnitude, for a hands-on educational experience that was also great fun.”

Steve Wojan, District Chairman, Eagle River District, Northern Star Council, BSA summed up the event with “…..sponsors of this event collaborated to make this day a wonderful experience. Hopefully this type of collaboration can be replicated in other areas of the Northern Star Council."

As the sun started to set and the geese returned to Oak Ridge WPA, scouts and volunteers gathered as the American Legion Honor Guard stepped forward to honor Wisconsin soldiers who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. In cooperation with the scouts, the honor guard completed the decommissioning of several American flags. The day ended in silence, only broken by the calling of geese on the wetland and the bugler playing taps, while the honor guard stood at attention.


St. Croix Wetland Management District Conservation Day on a WPA

Contact Info: Tom Kerr, 715-246-7784, tom_kerr@fws.gov



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