Kids Rehabilitate Forest with NWF and USDA
By Anne Bolen, managing editor of National Wildlife magazineKatrina Schultes was never one to stay indoors. “I had two parents who were microbiologists and looked through microscopes inside every day. I didn’t want to do that,” says Schultes. “I wanted to be involved with wildlife and be outdoors.” As a wildlife biologist and bat specialist at Wayne National Forest in Ohio, Schultes got her wish, although trying to keep track of the hundreds of species in the forest’s quarter of a million acres is no easy job. The disease white-nose syndrome, which has wiped out millions of bats across the United States, has reached her forest, where some endangered Indiana bats live. “It is not a good forecast, but time will tell,” says Schultes. Because “bats don’t distinguish between mines and caves,” Schultes also has been helping clean up dozens of the hundreds of abandoned mining sites in the forest. At one, “we had acid drainage seeping from an underground mine into a stream, which basically became biologically dead,” says Schultes. During the clean-up process, forest employees had to remove hundreds of native trees but had limited resources to replace them. This past April, National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife program enabled 30 students from Ohio State University and Miller High School, about 8 miles from the abandoned mine, to help the forest’s staff plant 200 trees at the clean-up site. Trees for Wildlife, which is funded entirely through donations and foundation grants, provides saplings for youth to plant as well as a tree-care guide and related educational activities. “Such experiences make learning fun and real,” says Adam Finck, who brought his Miller High School class to the planting. Given that both the U.S. Forest Service and NWF are working to get more children outdoors, the program was “a good match,” says Schultes. Trees for Wildlife is certainly bringing NWF closer to its goal of getting 10 million kids outside on a regular basis by 2015. The program has enabled kids to plant more than 65,000 trees nationwide since 2009, including in hurricane-devastated areas such as New Jersey’s Liberty State Park and in Colorado’s fire-swept forests. The trees the students planted in Wayne National Forest include berry-producing dogwoods and serviceberries as well as shagbark hickory, which will supply nuts that feed animals such as bears and deer and have bark under which bats like to roost. “Providing quality habitat for now and in the future is the best way to help bats,” says Schultes. “NWF is proud to have helped the U.S. Forest Service restore this habitat,” says Eliza Russell, NWF’s education director. “Trees for Wildlife gives kids a tangible way to connect to nature and to leave a legacy for wildlife and future generations.”“I gave these kids a vision of the future, of what wildlife will use this site in five or 10 years,” says Schultes. “I also wanted to give them a sense of accomplishment, that they have helped us meet these goals. I hope they will revisit this site and feel like ‘Hey, this is our national forest.’”Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation (Combined Federal Campaign number 10622) at www.nwf.org.
Katrina Schultes, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist, talks to students about bat habitat in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest / Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service