Open Country Kicks Off Project Season With Michigan Effort

The Open Country project season is about to kick off and the program's first-awarded grant funds will be put to good use.

On Saturday, June 7, the Open Country efforts begin anew for 2014 when a group of volunteers from Michigan's On The Ground initiative team with up volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in assisting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with work to create and enhance access in the Pigeon River Country area of northern lower Michigan.

The Black Mountain Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be putting $500 to work on the project as the beneficiary of Outdoor Life's newly-founded Open Country grant program.{C}

"This project is exactly the sort of on-the-ground effort we want our mini-grants to help with: enhancing access, making it easier for sportsmen to enjoy public land. We're excited to get applications from other projects this summer," says Andrew McKean, Outdoor Life's Editor-in-Chief.

A year ago, Outdoor Life launched the Open Country program with one goal in mind: To make a real, tangible difference in the area of public access to quality hunting and fishing areas.

Having a place to hunt and fish is of paramount importance to the future of our hunting and fishing heritage. For a sizeable chunk of the hunting and fishing population, publicly-accessible land is their sole conduit to the outdoors. And yet woefully little is being done to make access more available.

Last year, Outdoor Life's Open Country program participated in six access-enhancing efforts ranging from the creation of enhanced access to Lake St. Clair's excellent waterfowling opportunities in Michigan to creating an educational program designed to re-open and maintain existing areas for recreational shooting on National Monument lands.

The Pigeon River Country project looks to have a direct impact on public access to a special area in Michigan.

"We'll be removing fences, improving access trails, making access points more easily identified and some general cleanup work," says Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the coordinating organization for the On The Ground program and inaugural recipient of one of Outdoor Life's Open Country awards for its work in area of public access. "The area we're working in is known as the 'Hackett Lake tract' and it was once privately-owned before being purchased with funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for public use. The Open Country grant program is really valuable to this effort. Funding plays a big role in what we're able to accomplish each year. And, trust me, every dollar helps."

Local chapters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will be offering plenty of assistance at the event and with good reason – the Hackett Lake tract is in the middle of some of Michigan's best elk habitat.

If you're interested in volunteering in the effort, contact YoungeDyke at dyoungedyke@mucc.org.

Volunteers will receive lunch, a t-shirt and a digital subscription to MUCC's Michigan OutofDoors Magazine.

Come dressed ready for outdoor work. And don't forget a fishing rod. The Pigeon River Country is home to several top-notch trout streams and those streams are located in vast areas of publicly-accessible lands.

And, once this project is complete, access will be that much easier.