The Heritage Corps on a mission!
This past week the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Corps (that’s me! that’s me!) organized an event at Devil’s Lake State Park that involved 300+ AmeriCorps members who normally do humanitarian work and set them to work against the invasive species that are threatening out natural areas in Central Wisconsin! For a lot of them, it was their first experience doing land stewardship. For us in the the Heritage Corps, it was just another day doing what we do best. It was the final capstone project of a couple of our members, putting this event together, and for the rest of us we got to spend the day in Wisconsin’s most visited state park, in gorgeously cool, sunny weather. A little bit of free-climbing here, a lot of garlic mustard pulling there. It was a fantastic show of support for the environment as a whole, and if you were lucky hopefully you got a chance to see our program featured on the news or in one of your local papers in the area. If you didn’t – well now you know what happened, and how great this all was.
So this was not to be the end of our journey either! With almost all of us in tow, we prepped out campsite at the park, left for dinner, and spent the night joking around, brainstorming about what we do for the natural areas and land stewardship in general, and came together as a group of people who share a passion for the outdoors and make up one of the best environmental initiatives for the state. We are all part of this pilot program, it’s the first state-based conservation program in Wisconsin. We’re all learning as we go – but if what’s been accomplished so far is any indication on what we can do, this is a program that’s going to stay around for a long time.
The night held some fun surprises – our campsite was right near a Great Blue Heron rookery. We had friendly raccoons, and somewhere, somehow, during the night a murder was committed. Not just a murder, a long, slow, painful screeching thirty minute death wail of some unfortunate animal to be caught up in the food web. I luckily slept through that, but from what I hear of my other AmeriCorpses … it was nightmarish. Sweeeeeet.
The next day we got setup for our quarterly meeting. That went by fast, had a workshop on grant writing and talked as a group about what we’ve accomplished so far. All good fun – the real reason why we were there was to participate in our own special little field trip that would take us kayaking around the Dells of the Wisconsin River state natural area! Some of us were experienced, veterans of water navigation and seafaring. Others, like myself, were complete rookies to this human-powered paddling experience. I’ve already taken flak for this, considering my history with the outdoors it’s amazing that I haven’t done this before. Luckily, as you can see from the picture, I now know what it’s like to be a kayaker, and plan on doing it a lot more.
We traveled about 6 miles of shoreline, and got up-close-and-personal to the rock formations that make the Dells so unique. At one point in our trip, we even got to see a severely-endangered plant that only resides in two places in the whole state of Wisconsin. I am a complete (explicative deleted) for forgetting it’s exact name, but I can tell you that it’s normally native to Arctic/Tundra areas. It requires a real cool root system, and there is a 15 foot stretch of the rock-outcroppings where water comes from the hillside above, trickles over the rock ledge and keeps the roots of this plant cool. This is the most-southern place in the world where it can be found, the next closest is 900 miles away in New York State. How it got this far south, who knows. But it found it’s niche and … well, how can you NOT think that’s cool?
Kayaking done, a few of us met up one final time for dinner and then we parted ways heading off to our respective areas of the state. We Heritage Corps members have the important trust of taking care of, and preserving the “best of the best” of Wisconsin’s natural areas.
A great way to spend a couple days, now it’s time to head back to West Bend with a renewed enthusiasm and start kicking some Garlic Mustard ass once again.
Where’s my Rambo bandanna?