Earth Day weekend volunteers help clear brush from Baraboo wildlife center prairie

April 22, 2019 GMT

In an effort mirrored around the world, volunteers celebrated Earth Day on Saturday morning by clearing and cutting brush at the International Crane Foundation’s Baraboo headquarters for its “Party for the Planet.”

Visitor Program Manager Cully Shelton ushered the roughly 10 community members and five staff into a circle before starting the stewardship activities. An intern slowly spun a camera at the center to capture each of their faces. ICF’s teams in Africa and China, also participating in habitat improvement, were doing the same thing to document the weekend’s volunteer efforts, which would be later made into a video.

“It’s kind of a nice aspect to think about the global work of the International Crane Foundation and that we are simultaneously doing activities while the work is also being done both in China and in Africa,” Shelton said.

Then the party started, and participants moved to one of the wildlife center’s tallgrass prairies, removing invasive species, hauling logs and using large shears to cut brush into manageable pieces to carry away.

Elly Norby said she loves volunteering for the crane foundation, which she has been doing for about a year.

“For how few remnant prairies are left, this is just a small effort to keep a few around,” she said.

The foundation hosted the event in coordination with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, offering volunteers a chance to see ICF grounds while its visitor center is otherwise closed for renovation. It will reopen to the public next year, according to Communications Director Pamela Seelman.

Including ICF, more than 100 AZA-accredited institutions across the U.S. participated in “Party for the Planet” with activities including environmental cleanups, planting projects and invasive species removal, according to Shelton.

New generation

The granddaughter and great-granddaughter of crane foundation legacy member Mary Wickhem — who chaired ICF’s board from 1978-2000 — volunteered at the headquarters for the first time Saturday.

Heidi Cade of Viroqua brought her daughter, Kinzie, to see the wildlife center because Kinzie chose ICF as the subject of her fourth-grade heritage project.

“She was excited to see the place and see a crane and see her great-grandma’s conference room,” Cade said.

Shelton said Wickhem visited the Baraboo property — and the particular prairie getting extra attention Saturday — when the organization was originally looking to buy it in the early 1980s.

“That’s when they observed with Ron Sauey and George Archibald the tallgrass prairie plants that were emerging from the snow, and when they were snowshoeing, they identified those plants and said, ‘This would be a great place for the future International Crane Foundation,’” he said, describing the Cades’ participation as coming “full circle.”

Kinzie Cade said her favorite part about volunteering Saturday was seeing the cranes.