Mostly Trapping

Volunteers to make Michigan’s woods cleaner and safer
Aug 7, 2020 22:34 ET

(Reprinted from above link)

Original Title: Ambitious project seeks more volunteers to make Michigan’s woods cleaner and safer

TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. -- Conor Haenni says you wouldn’t believe what some people illegally throw away in Michigan’s forests.

In his time working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s Adopt-a-Forest program, he’s seen everything from rat traps to roofing materials piled up alongside country roads and quiet two-tracks on otherwise beautiful state land.

“There’s a lot of random stuff out there,” he says.

Haenni, who came to work for Adopt-a-Forest through the Gaylord-based Huron Pines AmeriCorps, is helping see the volunteer-driven program through a particularly ambitious campaign: A “summer forest cleanup challenge” aiming to tackle 100 of these illegal dump sites in 100 days.

The challenge kicked off June 15 and will run through Sept. 22.

So far, volunteers have cleaned up 61 sites across the state, getting Adopt-a-Forest more than halfway to its goal with about six weeks left to go.

But plenty more help is needed, Haenni says: Currently there are more than 650 known dump sites across the state.

These sites can cause environmental concerns, such as chemicals leaching into ground water, or trash trapping or injuring animals. Plus, “if the trash is there long enough, it will just attract more people dumping trash,” Haenni says.

Volunteers who want to pitch in can use the database on Adopt-a-Forest’s website to find dump sites where they live or wish to volunteer. The database also allows users to further filter down to see smaller “Family Friendly” sites, or -- if they’re not afraid of a challenge -- the “Horrendous Hundred,” which includes the worst 100 known dump sites.

Since the program went statewide almost 20 years ago, more than 22,000 pickup loads of trash have been removed from Michigan’s forests, with about half of those materials able to be recycled.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected some of the procedures and guidelines for cleanups. Volunteer groups are smaller, and people are asked to practice social distancing and to wear face coverings if volunteering with those outside their immediate household.

Part of the volunteer work means bagging and hauling away the trash that’s picked up, Haenni said -- though in some situations, volunteers can work with organizers to arrange for assistance in proper disposal.

Adopt-a-Forest helps organize volunteer cleanups year-round, but this summer’s special campaign was organized to commemorate the National Association of State Foresters 100th anniversary.

Those who are interested in volunteering or learning more about the program can check out the Adopt-a-Forest website at CleanForests.org.