About 60 volunteers from all over New England descended on the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge for the “Rabbitat Planting Party,” an event designed to create the necessary thicket, or early successional habitat, that the New England Cottontail needs to thrive. The bachelor group of wild turkeys that welcomed folks on their way to the parking area was a reminder that the day’s work would benefit many species, especially wild turkeys.
Located on the coast of southern Maine, the 9,125-acre Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 50 miles of coastline in multiple Maine counties. The refuge was established in 1966 in cooperation with the state of Maine to conserve the area’s unique habitats and the wildlife that inhabit them. The refuge offers hunting permits for deer, turkey (fall), ducks, geese, woodcock and ruffed grouse.
“We commend our volunteers from the Southern Maine Strutters who saw the NWTF’s Conservation Week Challenge as a collaborative opportunity to enhance habitat for wild turkeys, the New England Cottontail and overall biodiversity,” said Matt DiBona, NWTF New England district biologist. “This event demonstrated that many hands make light work and shows the impact that volunteers can have in improving our public lands.”
After a brief introduction and a planting-how-to demonstration by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, volunteers grabbed shovels and potted plants and began planting hundreds of trees and shrubs in two locations on the refuge, one an opening that needed to be restored to a thicket and another thicket that was enhanced by planting additional stock.
After only a few hours, over 690 stems were in the ground and on their way to being necessary components of early successional habitat that so many species in the refuge benefit from.
After a break and lunch provided by the NWTF Southern Maine Strutters, the afternoon group of volunteers showed up to help FWS employees remove non-native invasive species. By the end of the shift, volunteers helped remove several hundred pounds of invasive-species plant material.
September 23 was National Hunting and Fishing Day, National Public Lands Day and the final day of the NWTF’s 2023 Conservation Week. The volunteers' work was a way to celebrate all that these days represent.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded volunteers at the Rabbitat Planting Party with a free voucher to access any national park nationwide.