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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Breitbach-Heflin Farm, Prophetstown, Illinois, USA

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Breitbach-Heflin Farm, Prophetstown, Illinois, USA
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Registered: November 2011
City/Town/Province: Prophetstown
Posts: 1
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In today’s world, I believe many people over-look the importance of protecting the environment. The environment is everything we live in, from the water we drink to air that we breathe. Not only is it vital for our existence, but also the existence of wildlife, livestock and many other categories of life. So what will the environment be like for mankind and animals alike in the future? My personal answer to this question is grim. My name is Ty Breitbach and I consider myself a renegade for conservation. I’m 20 years old and ever since I was in middle school, I made it a life goal to be an environmentalist. I was born in San Diego, California and moved through-out the United States, living in multiple cities and areas.

As of now, I currently reside in Prophetstown, Illinois. My family owns a 47.5 acre farm that we raise beef cattle and crops on. This is the first time in my life that I was ever exposed to farming and I fell in love with it. One of the main reasons is the country. I see all sorts of wildlife flourishing out here in the woods, grasslands, and crop fields. Not only did I find this a beautiful place to live in, but also a chance at improving the one thing I admire. Our land includes many resources that deer, waterfowl, and upland game use to survive. From the marshland to the tall grass fields, our property was waiting to be renovated. I viewed the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative a perfect opportunity to express my passion for the environment. I also hope that my project can help motivate others to help preserve their communities and provide an example that you can be any age and doing any type of project to be environmentally-effective.

Since I’ve moved to Illinois, I really wanted to get involved in habitat management. There were many acres of untouched land that ran around our farming community. I knew there had to be opportunities out there for me. In fact, there is a Department of Natural Resources building located in Sterling, Illinois (a town that’s about 30 minutes from Prophetstown) that I could contact and do volunteer work for. This proved to be difficult though, as my school schedule did not work well with the volunteer endeavors. I was somewhat flustered until I thought to myself, “How can I improve the environment around me?” The answer was right on our own property the whole time, making it the perfect candidate for my project.

Immediately, I started planning on how I could improve our land to become an effective and productive habitat for wildlife. My first objective was to learn the land. Our property isn’t very big, making it easier to study. I used satellite and property maps to learn where the boundaries and parcels of land where located. After learning the boundaries, I broke up our property into pieces and labeled them for areas of resources that I would implement. Some of these areas were wildlife shelterbelts, brush piles, and bird/waterfowl nest boxes. I then contacted different agencies in my area to help me recognize what my land lacks and what is already established for a wildlife habitat. Scott Schaeffer was my district wildlife biologist and he came out to help me devise my plan.

After careful considerations of many factors, including the focus of my management goals and considerations for the wildlife and the surrounding areas, Mr. Schaeffer and I drafted my Wildlife Habitat Management Plan.

We made sure that my goals were clear and concise. My goals reflected why I thought my area was important to protect. The Ring-necked Pheasant population in my area was on a steady decline, and I took notice to this over the past couple of years. I remember seeing pheasants every spring crossing the gravel roads and hearing the roosters cluck during the day. Now it’s rare to even see signs of pheasant activities. One of my goals was to make sure that our land provided a steady habitat for the pheasants to recover in. I also noticed waterfowl used the stream as a recuperation area during times of migration. I have only seen a couple of different types of waterfowl to include wild Mallard and Lesser and Giant Canada Geese. One species of duck that I wanted to see make a come-back is the Wood Duck. My slough provided the perfect habitat with its swamped-out trees for nesting and shallow water with plenty of cattail reeds for protection.

In early spring, my plan that was on paper started coming to life. A contractor from the Illinois D.N.R. came out to our property with tree seedlings and equipment. Some of the species of trees used for the wildlife shelterbelt were White Pines, Spruce, Red Osier dogwood, and Silky Dogwood. These species were chosen because not only can Whitetail Deer use them for shelter, but also the dogwood vegetation as food. After establishing the wildlife shelterbelt, I created brush piles scattered through-out the property to help create protection and shelter for rabbits, quail, and songbirds. I also installed an Eastern Bluebird nest box on the corner of my property near grazed pastures and a Wood Duck nest box in a bushel of trees located in the marshland. After my project was complete, I immediately saw a difference in activity. I saw wood ducks in the stream for the first time in four years and many Whitetail Deer that ran through my property along with spotting different species of songbirds.

While doing my habitat project, I realized how much I actually liked devising the plan, putting it into action, and then seeing the results that my hard work has created. Most of all, the wildlife would benefit greatly from my actions. I learned a lot from doing this project and not only about the conservation but also about myself. This project has helped me realize that I truly want to create and manage wildlife habitats as a career. I hope to go to a community college and then transfer to a university to become a certified wildlife biologist. I love watching the wildlife aspire around our land. I knew that I finally accomplished my goals and I hope to do a lot more work in the future with habitat management. I want to thank the Nicodemus Wilderness Project board members and other people who provided me and other environmentalist with the outstanding opportunity for this scholarship.
Date: November 21, 2011 Views: 5735 File size: 12.5kb, 2673.5kb : 4000 x 3000
Hours Volunteered: 72
Volunteers: 3
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 to 40
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 19
Native Trees Planted: 500
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