Weekly Warriors

Expect extreme satisfaction when you see the difference you and your team have made!

The Weekly Warriors are an essential group of volunteers who have been helping to keep SWMLC’s preserve habitats healthy for more than 20 years! Though the faces may change from week to week, people enjoy each other’s company and often linger after work sessions to talk, laugh, and enjoys snacks together.

Want to know more? Click this icon for Volunteer FAQ’s

upcoming volunteer opportunities

Click these icons to read last week’s Tales from the Field!

Sailin’ with the Monday Privateers

Last Week’s Wrap with the Wednesday Warriors

Read Mitch’s 2023 year-end letter to the Weekly Stewardship Volunteers

Click to get weekly locations sent directly to your inbox. Use subject line “warriors email list.”

Privateers Workday
Monday, May 20, 2024  •   9 am – 12 pm
Jeptha Lake Fen

Columbia Township, Van Buren County

We’ve moved to our summer morning workday schedule.
PLEASE NOTE THE MORNING START TIME!

 

WHAT
Join the ‘Privateers’ weekly volunteer stewardship group for an outdoor work session at Jeptha Lake Fen where we will take on the new work of clearing woody invasives from the wet meadow near the entrance. It’s a WET meadow, so wet worthy footwear is advised, though muck boots are not necessary. Chainsaws might well be needed, but it’s mostly lopper work.
Please park outside the yellow gate: the road into the preserve has mired more than one vehicle in the past, and our work site this time is quite close. This area is very small, so please consider car-pooling with friends.

BRING
Bring your own work gloves and favorite cutting tools (SWMLC can supply loppers if you need to borrow a pair). Don’t forget the creature comforts: hat, bandana for mopping up sweat, and personal drinking water and snacks. Reminder: it’s tick season and you need to use repellent, even if you don’t hear mosquitoes,  and be sure to detick yourself and your clothes when you get home. Sunscreen or a hat are a good idea for those who are prone to burning. Also, those who choose to bring their own chainsaw are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including eye protection and chaps. 
DRESS
As usual, wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind potentially getting dirty, stained, or ripped – and dress in layers that you can remove if you get hot. Wear wet-worthy shoes or boots. Eye protection (sunglasses or safety glasses if you don’t already wear glasses) is highly recommended. You can borrow safety glasses from us if you don’t have a pair.)
MEET
Meet at the roadside pull-off in front of the yellow gated preserve entrance to the right of the yard. This area is very small, so please consider car-pooling with friends.
Approximate street address:
49000 block of Co Rd 380, Grand Junction
GPS
42.34668, -86.02404
Driving Directions
From M-43 just east of Bangor, head north on County Road 215 to the blinking light in Breedsville. Turn east at the light onto County Road 380, and go 2.5 miles until the road makes a right-angle turn to the north (left). The preserve entrance is at this corner near a private residence, just beyond the yellow gate.

Wednesday Warriors Workday
Wednesday, May 22, 2024  •   9 am – 12 pm
Spirit Springs Sanctuary

Marcellus Township, St. Joseph County

We’ve moved to our summer morning workday schedule.
PLEASE NOTE THE MORNING START TIME!

WHAT
Join the ‘Wednesday Warriors’ weekly volunteer stewardship group for an outdoor work session at Spirit Springs Sanctuary where we will continue our spring cleaning. We will be foliar spraying so if you don’t wear specs, bring safety glasses (or borrow a pair from us). 
BRING
Bring your own work gloves and favorite cutting tools (SWMLC can supply loppers if you need to borrow a pair). Don’t forget the creature comforts: hat, bandana for mopping up sweat, and personal drinking water and snacks. Reminder: it’s tick season and you need to use repellent, even if you don’t hear mosquitoes,  and be sure to detick yourself and your clothes when you get home. Sunscreen or a hat are a good idea for those who are prone to burning. Also, those who choose to bring their own chainsaw are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including eye protection and chaps. 
DRESS
As usual, wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind potentially getting dirty, stained, or ripped – and dress in layers that you can remove if you get hot. Eye protection (sunglasses or safety glasses if you don’t already wear glasses) is highly recommended. You can borrow safety glasses from us if you don’t have a pair.)
MEET
Meet in the Spirit Springs Sanctuary parking lot at 9 am.
Approximate street address:
10200 block of Dutch Settlement Rd., Marcellus
GPS
41.98363380375934, -85.76856403264597
Driving Directions
From the Kalamazoo area:
Travel south on US-131 to Marcellus Road (M-216). Turn right (west) onto Marcellus Road, drive 4.3 miles to the intersection of Bent Road (large green sign). Turn left (south) onto Bent Road and drive 3.1 miles to the intersection with Dutch Settlement Road. Turn right (west) onto Dutch Settlement Road; the preserve parking lot is approximately 2.3 miles ahead on the north (right) side, just after the road surface changes color at the county line.

a few reminders

COVID
Please stay home if you feel ill, are exhibiting symptoms, or have had recent exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID.
AVOID SPREADING INVASIVE SPECIES – CLEAN YOUR BOOTS!
Seeds, rootlets, and other stuff from invasive plants can get trapped in the treads of work boots or shoes, then transferred to clean areas – like a SWMLC preserve! Please be sure to fully clean the boots or shoes you plan to wear for the workday in advance. We also recommend the use of nylon hiking-type pants, if you have them, to reduce the inadvertent and undesired collection of “stick-tight” weed seeds that can be so anoying and time-consuming to remove from clothing.

Weekly Warrior volunteer FAQ’s

What will we be doing?
Activities often include cutting invasive shrubs with handtools and spot-applying herbicide to the stumps. More info can be found in the specific workday details.
I have no experience . . . can I still come?
Yes! No previous experience, special skills, strengths, or talents are needed. It’s just plain old grunt work – but essential to keeping habitats healthy, and very satisfying.
What should I bring?
Please dress in layers that you can remove if you get hot. Wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind potentially getting dirty, stained, or ripped. Long pants are encouraged. Wear sturdy shoes or boots – no sandals please! Sunglasses or safety glasses are highly recommended. Don’t forget the creature comforts: hat, bandana for mopping up sweat, sunscreen if you’re prone to burning, insect repellant, and personal drinking water and snacks.
Do I need to have my own tools?
Bring your own work gloves and hand tools if you have them. SWMLC usually has loppers that you can borrow if you need them.
Can I volunteer with both the Monday and Wednesday groups?
Absolutely! Many people come to both groups, or just attend one or the other when their schedule allows.
Do the Monday and Wednesday groups do the same things?
Pretty much! The two groups often work on different projects, but the type of stewardship field work they perform is much the same.
Am I committed to coming again, or on some schedule?
No way! Come when you can or feel like it – the group will be glad to see you if and when you come again!
What if the weather forecast is bad?
Volunteer leaders often choose to go forward with the workday if the forecast calls for light rain, light snow, moderate cold, or relatively high temperatures. Workdays are usually cancelled or postponed if high winds, thunderstorms, heavy rain, blizzards, extreme cold, or treacherous ice are expected. Please check the forecast and make your own decisions about driving and working in the predicted conditions. And please remember that many of SWMLC’s preserves are located in rural areas where snow may not be removed as quickly in town. If a workday has been canceled or postponed, we will do our best to get the information on this page and on social media as quickly as possible. Please check these platforms for updates.
Will there be bugs?
Probably. It’s Michigan, which means mosquitoes could be fierce and ticks are looking for prey (that’s us)! Please be sure to bring your favorite insect repellant, consider tucking long pants into socks, and doing a self-exam “tick check” when you get home. And remember – mosquitoes and ticks are just another part of nature: they’re bird food!
Will there be a bathroom?
Probably not. Most SWMLC preserves are rustic natural areas without bathroom facilities. Please keep this in mind before drinking a lot of liquid before the work session – or be prepared to “rough it.”
Can kids come?
Yes, there will be tasks for all sizes! Kids are welcome to help but must be supervised by their caretakers. Volunteering is a great way for children to learn valuable lessons about community and sharing.
Can I bring my dog?
No. Though short-leashed dogs are usually welcome at SWMLC’s public preserves, we ask that you please leave your four-footed friends home on workdays for their safety.
I don’t see many people in the photos that look like me. Will I be welcome? 
Absolutely! SWMLC is committed to making our preserves welcoming, safe places for everyone – and we expect all volunteers to understand and support this. Aggressive behavior or language of any sort will not be tolerated. If you ever attend a SWMLC volunteer workday and experience anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, please let us know immediately.

Sailin’ with the Monday Privateers
May 13, 2024

Text & photo by David
This Monday a full crew eight Privateers continued the spring cleaning of Portman Nature Preserve. We finished our work along the south edge of Mud Lake by splitting into two groups: Carol took on the area from the causeway to the viewing platform and the other seven of us worked on the area to the east of the causeway. For some reason we seven finished before Carol and we marched over to the wetland near the boardwalk. We almost made it to the boardwalk, thoroughly cleaning up missed and resprouts as we went. There are still stands of old growth invasives further into the wetland but now at least you can see there is a wetland there!
When we returned to the cars, Carol reported that she had single handedly cleared the lake edge, including a couple of big woodies that needed her ever present companion: the electric saw.
By the way, Carol’s white oaks we planted at Wolf Tree are doing well. They all have buds and a few even have some cute little leaves. They are looking good with a background of clusters of Columbine in full bloom. After a little yank-about on Thursday, there are more Columbine than Garlic Mustard and Dame’s Rocket combined. Our new savanna is off to a great start.

Last Week’s Wrap with the Wednesday Warriors
May 15, 2024

Brought to you by David, Jeff, John, & Kristi – Wednesday Warrior volunteers
Photos by Kristi & David
SWMLC Weekly Volunteer Workday
This Wednesday, five Warriors returned to Chipman Preserve to continue their spring cleaning of the northeast corner. The spray bottles that David researched were the perfect fast moving tool for all the resprouts of MF Rose, buckthorn and autumn olive. These are the great little hand held tools that Joe provided (he hinted to a fan of our work who was walking Portman, and six appeared at Joe’s front door).  We had fun identifying some native plants that had managed to survive decades of being buried under the invasives (e.g. Woodland Sunflower and Thin-leaf Sedge). Looks like there is actually some biodiversity left there after all. There was one giant patch of pure oriental bittersweet that was just too much (at -85.45763,42.30916). We hope Dave will send the crew with backpack sprayers some day.
Sharp eared and eyed John called out the different birds singing their heads off and the butterflies frolicing in the sun. We enjoyed the lovely sun ourselves, highlighting the glorious lupines bursting into bloom in all directions, another piece of work we can take some credit for.
We walked back the long way to admire the burn from last week. It was awesome: all our work on the Savanna-with-a-View project was included in the burned area and little green blades were already peeking up. Thanks DaveB! And on Thursday it gets some much needed seed. Yea!
 (Hear that Jesse? We are following through.)

Mitch’s Open Letter to the Weekly Stewardship Volunteers
December 22, 2023

Dear Stewards (Wednesday Warriors, Privateers, and Pluggers),

As the year approaches a close, you will have worked approximately 2,911 hours in 2023!

This. Is. Incredible.

This is the equivalent of 1.5 people working 8 hours per day, Monday through Friday, all year. Said another way, volunteer work is quite literally like adding two staff members (one full-time, one part-time) for an entire year. With only the equivalent of 5 full-time stewardship staff (though not all permanent), this increases our capacity by around 23%!

SWMLC Weekly Volunteer Workday

More importantly than the numbers though, is that the work that you do is different than the work most of the staff do, and often in preserves that would not have received the attention otherwise. This work would simply not get done without you, and these preserves would not receive the attention they deserve.

Other organizations have attempted to re-create the model of these stewardship groups, and many have failed. The difference is that you volunteers yourselves created these groups with your own ideas and initiatives, with staff guiding along the way. In short – its organic, its effective, and it comes from you. It’s more than just a schedule, you’ve created stewardship culture, and culture doesn’t form overnight.

SWMLC Weekly Volunteer Workday

Let’s go deeper though. Several years back John Chenault pointed out that, “One workday per year is just not enough to make a meaningful impact,” referring to the Swan Pond at Bow in the Clouds. From then on – urged on by COVID’s limitations of travel, carpool, and options – these outings went from individual workdays to bona fide projects, initiatives even.

Places like Wolf Tree and Bow in the Clouds had “good bones” ecologically, but a backlog of decades of habitat degradation to fix. These places had no funding, and we made no illusions that the work would be done quickly, or even that some of us would see it during our careers. Places like Myers and Chipman Preserves had funding, but the amount of work, the limited staff capacity, and the acreage meant we just chipped away at the work and it was hard to see “the whole” of the restoration vision developing. Some people can imagine what these places would look like in some future state, but for most, it was difficult to see.

SWMLC Weekly Volunteer Workday

Myers fen was a rooted wall of buckthorn, casting shade and suppressing a community of wetland wildflowers and sedges. Now, in these same patches where we formerly found ourselves fighting our way through suffocating brush, we now fight our way through a riot of wildflowers.

Chipman Preserve had several patches of diverse and beautiful oak savanna and prairie, separated by acres of woody brush and tree thickets. This created the effect of a compartmentalized house: walking through a closed hallway to eventually emerge in a colorful room of wild lupine, butterfly milkweed, and little blustem. Now, much of this “house of oak savanna” is an open floorplan. Walking through the preserve this year, it struck me that Chipman is now one of the few places where I can see a rolling oak savanna landscape that is our natural heritage, instead of just imagining it. Turning these pockets of habitat into a cohesive restored landscape was always part of the vision for the preserve, it just wasn’t visible yet.

Twenty years ago, an expert on ecological restoration from Wisconsin looked at the extensive thickets of Scotch pine and autumn olive and dismissed the preserve as a waste of time and energy. Now, the preserve has taken real shape: we can literally and figuratively see where we’re going – and the vision that people held in their imaginations along the way.

It’s not hyperbole to say that your work, is making a vision become a reality.

SWMLC Weekly Volunteer Workday

This may all sound far too romantic for a hardcore ecologist to say, but there’s a reason I got out of academia and labs: I wanted to work with people, and see what a community with a vision could do for the environment. Fix the ecological mistakes of our past. Make the world tangibly better. The work I have the privilege of doing at SWMLC – and the people like you that I have the privilege of doing it with – are the best way I know how to do that.

You all make the difference.

Thank you so much for all of your work this year and those past . . . through COVID, through organizational change, and through it all. I can’t wait to see what’s next, and get these visions out of our heads, and onto the landscape. Onward and upward!

Have a lovely holiday, and thanks again for everything. See you in 2024!

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES AT SWMLC

Weekly
Warriors

special
outdoor
workdays

conservation easement monitoring

preserve
steward

special
skills

special
skills