August 15, 2013
Open Country Project: Eugene RMEF Chapter Looking For Hands - 0
by Tony Hansen
If you want to see just how much of a difference one person can make, pay a visit to Oregon's Lane County.
There you'll have little trouble finding a place to volunteer some time and energy in an effort to improve public access and the quality of hunting and fishing you'll find when you get there.
And odds are good that you'll meet Kati McCrae.
McCrae is a "second time around" college student at Oregon State University and a member of the Eugene chapter of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. She's also the catalyst behind one of the nation's most active RMEF chapters in terms of on-the-ground work.
On Aug. 24, the chapter will be in Lane County's Grasshopper Meadow to collect native grassland, forbes and wildflower seed as well as conducting some meadow restoration work. Alpine meadows are critical habitat for a variety of mountain species, including elk, and small conifers have steadily been encroaching in on these high meadows. Volunteers will remove those conifers and collect native grassland seed to help reestablish meadow areas.
Also on Aug. 24, the group will partner with Coos Bay BLM for a road repair and reseeding project designed to not only help meadow habitat in the area but to also repair an access road that allows for hunter and angler access into the area.
Finally, on Oct. 30, the chapter will do native forage planting and browse seeding in Lane County's Upper Foley Meadow.
"We've had to cancel a project this summer because we didn't have any volunteers," McCrae said. "Part of the problem is just a lack of communication. I do everything I can to spread the word but sometimes it just isn't enough. The work that's being done is important. These habitats need our help. The Forest Service has been very willing to work and partner with us. But they can't do everything that needs to be done. We have to step up as volunteers."
And McCrae isn't just talking the talk. Her story is one that should provide all the inspiration needed to spend a few hours volunteering.
Earlier this year, McCrae was diagnosed with Lyme disease. A debilitating condition she most likely acquired from a tick bite while working in the field, possibly during a previous project.
"Life really came crashing down. There was tremendous pain. I couldn't move. I couldn't walk," she said. "I'm looking at 1-3 years of antibiotics and a pretty lengthy recovery. I haven't been able to get out to the projects this summer. I just don't have the stamina to get to the meadows. But I'm hoping to make it out to the Grasshopper Meadow project. It's a place where we've done a lot of work and the difference is remarkable. I want to be there to see how it's coming along and because I really thrive in the woods. And if I can make, I will."
And, hopefully, she'll see plenty of volunteers there as well.
About Open Country
Hunters and anglers across the nation consistently list one challenge as their primary obstacle to spending more time in the field: Access.
Outdoor Life’s Open Country program aims to tackle that issue head on and with boots on the ground. The program highlights volunteer-driven efforts to improve access along with habitat improvements to make existing public lands even better places to hunt and fish. The program's goal is to substantially increase sportsman's access across the country by promoting events that make a difference.
The Open Country program culminates in an awards system with top projects and participants being honored during a gala at the 2014 SHOT Show in January.