UW-River Falls Prof. Kevyn Juneau is a new professor. He's in his second year at UWRF, and has been looking for different opportunities for his students.
He wants his students involved in class projects, as well as developing a sense of place.
Juneau was at a public meeting, chatting with some folks there, and ended up talking about possibly doing a semester-long land management project with his students on land owned by the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust (KRLT).
"What we're trying to do is work with the stakeholder (KRLT) and put together a management plan for that 48 acres," Juneau said.
Students in Juneau's Forest Restoration and Management class are working with 48 acres of land at the Kinnickinnic River headwaters near Roberts, called the Trumpeter Swan Preserve.
KRLT Executive Director Dave Drewiske said this partnership has been going well, though the project is still in its initial stages.
"Kevyn and I had an initial conversation about the possibility of getting his students involved in doing a forestry management plan for KRLT's Trumpeter Preserve at a Kinni Partnership meeting in October," Drewiske said. "The scope of the Forest Restoration course he was teaching during the second semester seemed like an ideal fit. We agreed to move forward with the plan Dr. Juneau presented in December."
The KRLT acquired the 48 acres in 2001. It's a mile north of I-94 between Hammond and Roberts.
"It encompasses the majority of a large and gorgeous spring pond, called the Trumpeter Preserve, from which the Kinni is born as a flowing stream," said Drewiske. "The WDNR manages a large parcel of land just to the south of the preserve, so together, it forms a beautiful piece of habitat in a critical area for the health of the river."
The previous owners, the Simon family, had planted red pine and hardwoods on the land.
The KRLT's conservation committee had decided to investigate land management options, so it seems "only natural" to bring in Juneau's class for land management recommendations, Drewiske said.
Juneau's' students are split into three groups. Each will form its own management plan and present that plan to the land trust.
Juneau said the class project has been hands-on from start to finish.
"We took a tour of the property with Dave (Drewiske), and he sort of talked about what the (KRLT) wants," Juneau said.
His class has been looking back at the University archives, trying to determine what the forest was like before non-native plants were planted there.
Juneau said they're looking to see what the land was like prior to the logging days of the past.
"The students may want to return it back to what it once was," he said.
They're looking for historical references to determine what type of plants and animals were originally on the property.
If native plants of the same type that were originally growing there are put in place, Juneau said, it will bring back native animals that used to be in the area. He said that would include Trumpeter swans.
The students won't actually implement their plans, but rather develop land management plans, which will be given to the KRLT to use as it wishes.
"We are looking forward to seeing the recommendations the class will present to us in May," said Drewiske. "They will provide an inventory of existing conditions, thoughts on ways to restore the property and give us an idea of the wildlife carrying capacity of the land."
Drewiske said that UWRF students and staff are a "tremendous resource" for land management for the KRLT. He's read that the land was historically a combination of oak savanna and prairie, so portions of the property might have the potential to be restored to those conditions.
"I'm sure there will be some great ideas," Drewiske said. "Then it will come down to selecting an appropriate plan(s) and phasing the project so it is practical and affordable within the Land Trust's limited budget. One thing we lack is good access and parking. I've asked the students for recommendations to make the property more accessible to the public. It truly is a treasure that more people need to see to appreciate just where the Kinni originates as a flowing stream and why it is so important to protect it."
He said actual restoration work would likely be done by volunteers or contractors hired for specific jobs. The KRLT often works with the Wisconsin DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife management on such plans.
The land trust has met with and informed nearby landowners of the activity underway.
Juneau said working with the land trust had been great. The whole situation has been a win-win.
"They get management plans, and we get the experience making a management plan," Juneau said.
His students have been taking the responsibility seriously.
"It's not just a class project that they can blow off," he said. "They need to put some effort into it to make sure it's a good plan for these stakeholders."
He said this gives students more realistic expectations for real life experiences.