Boy Scouts, outdoor groups a winning combination

You might think handing a kid a saw or a large pruning shears would be asking for trouble.
Instead, it might be the action that opens the child’s eyes to all that is magical about the outdoors.
On Saturday, more than 350 Boy Scouts attended “Conservation Day on the WPA.” The event was held at Oak Ridge Waterfowl Protection Area near Star Prairie. This was open to Scouts from St. Croix, Pierce, Polk and Burnett counties, and Hastings, Minn., which are all part of the Eagle River Boy Scout District.
This was an absolutely brilliant idea, started by Somerset Scout Master Greg Scheder. Kids these days are being bombarded with technology that makes the outdoors seem less and less interesting. The Conservation Day gave Scouts ranging in age from 5-21 then opportunity to be active and productive in an outdoor activity.
The kids were given the project of eradicating buckthorn and other invasive plant species from the area. It was estimated that they cleared more than 10 acres of the thick underbrush that was making it impossible for desirable plants to grow.
You could see in the kids’ faces they were enjoying the chance to try something new. Some were a bit tentative at first, but with guidance from the many volunteers and workers, they quickly understood which plants to remove.
This wasn’t just a work experience. During breaks the kids listened to speakers, who talked about a wide variety of outdoor topics. One speaker might teach them about different tree species. Each group heard from speakers “Leave No Trace,” an organization which stresses that humans leave no detrimental effect when they venture into nature.
The Scouts got to view a number of displays during their lunch break. They marveled at the numerous animal skulls that Mike Reiter had on display. They were captivated by the different stuffed duck species the DNR had available, which helped the kids learn the different species of the birds.
A project of this magnitude not only takes exceptional planning, it takes funding. A number of businesses and service organizations stepped up in a big way, whether it was with financial support or supplying manpower.
Planners of the cleanup hope this will become an annual event. That would be wonderful. It’s rare when two needs merge together so well and with such a great benefit.

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