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Volunteers Make A Difference For Public Lands Day
Updated October 6, 2015 7:45 AM
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(BEDFORD) - National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands.

This year NPLD was held on Saturday, September 26. Nationally, more than 175,000 volunteers worked at public land sites in all 50 states. Two of those sites were on the Hoosier National Forest.

At the Patoka Wetland in Orange County, a group of volunteers planted native trees in a lowland area for wildlife habitat. The wetland was constructed in an old farm field. Swamp white oak and cottonwood were planted to provide cover and nesting sites for wildlife. Though there was concern about planting the trees with the drought, the rains came shortly after they were planted so the trees should do well.

On a separate project, the Hoosier Backcountry Horsemen restored a natural setting to several campsites in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness. The sites on the north side of the wilderness were accessed by boat and horseback. Many of these campsites had been significantly built up with "rock furniture" and large campfire rings.

Wilderness Ranger Rod Fahl, explains the idea of wilderness is to have an area where the natural conditions are preserved and protected from impacts. Wilderness character is lost when people build these large rock structures that are inappropriate for a wilderness area. Fahl and his volunteers worked hard to restore the area to it's natural condition. Only small fire rings are encouraged in wilderness.

Fifteen sites in the Wilderness were cleaned up and rehabilitated by the group on NPLD . Due to the extensive impacts of camping in this particular wilderness, some campsites are designated and signed to help concentrate use in as few places as possible and in areas that are already impacted by use. One of the sites the group worked on was rebuilt to it's original size, the other 14 sites were dismantled and the site naturalized. Fahl acknowledged that many users find the rock furniture appealing, but said people would be amazed how many spiders (including black widows), mice, and snakes they find hiding in the rocks of these elaborate structures. He emphasizes it really is safer to just sit on the ground.

The Hoosier appreciates all the volunteers who came out to share the stewardship of our irreplaceable public lands. For more information on volunteering, contact the Hoosier National Forest at (812) 275-5987.

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