- Whitewater volunteer wins statewide award for helping care for natural areas in Kettle...

Discussion in 'Outdoor News' started by Wisconsin DNR News, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. By Central Office October 3, 2016

    Contact(s): Jared Urban, 608-228-4349

    WISCONSIN DELLS , Wis. - A Whitewater man's interest in planting native wildflowers led him to volunteer at State Natural Areas in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest and has grown into his spending hundreds of hours caring for some of Wisconsin's best remaining wetlands, woodlands, prairies and oak savannas.

    Now that man, Zach Kastern, has been named the 2016 Volunteer Steward of the Year for his outstanding work as a lead volunteer in helping manage and restore state natural areas in the forest. Kastern received the award Sept. 17 from the Department of Natural Resources State Natural Areas Program during an annual picnic at the Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area to recognize volunteers' efforts.

    Zach Kastern, left, receives the Volunteer Steward of the Year award from Jared Urban, right, who coordinates volunteers helping manage and restore state natural areas.
    Photo Credit: DNR

    "Zach started volunteering in winter 2012 and immediately was engaged in what was going on and had a natural curiosity and interest in plants and natural communities," says Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program. "Now, as one of the lead volunteers, he shares that love of these remnant sites with others, is thoughtful about how to engage others, and makes workdays a fun experience for everyone attending."

    Kastern and Ginny Coburn together organize and run monthly volunteer workdays at one of the state natural areas within the forest boundaries, sites including Kettle Moraine Oak Opening State Natural Area and Bluff Creek State Natural Area.

    Those volunteers contributed 674 hours in 2015 on state natural areas in the forest and Kastern alone has contributed more than 275 volunteers hours since 2013.

    They've done everything from address threats to natural areas from invasive species by pulling or spraying invasive garlic mustard and cutting down and burning buckthorn and honeysuckle. As well, they have helped establish new prairies and oak openings by collecting and planting seeds.

    Kastern says he was surprised to be chosen for the award but happy it came to the Southern Kettle Moraine area. "The award really validates all the work being done by many great volunteers in this specific area," he says. "There are several people I'd like to name but I think Ginny Coburn is one who really deserves recognition as well since we've basically been operating as partners during workdays and preparing for them."

    Kastern got involved in caring for State Natural Areas because he wanted to plant native wildflowers on his 3-acre yard "but I didn't know exactly what that meant. I originally thought that all I had to do was look around along the roadsides to figure it out," he says. "But as I began to read and learn I realized that wasn't the case."

    "A presentation given by Matt Zine (who leads SNA field staff in southern Wisconsin) and volunteer workdays offered by Jared Urban really opened my eyes to what plant communities were here and remain in pieces and I've realized how close we are to losing them," Kastern says. "I've been learning how to recognize and hopefully rescue them and now I'm enjoying trying to get other people to see what I see and help me with the work. Our native landscape was breathtaking and I want to restore it."

    Kastern's most recent project is designing and constructing the interior of a new enclosed trailer unit that will house tools for the Southern Kettle Moraine State Natural Area workdays. He also posts pictures and updates on the Facebook page he created, called Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers, helps UW-Whitewater students at restoration workdays and leads field trips

    When he is not working on state natural areas, Kastern is often restoring his own property, getting his neighbors on board with work at his neighborhood conservancy, and volunteering for the Prairie Enthusiasts -- Glacial Prairies chapter.

    Read a Question and Answer feature with Kastern on how he applies the knowledge and hands-on lessons he learns at State Natural Areas to his own land in the Summer 2015 issue of Natural Heritage Quarterly.

    Since its start in 2011, Wisconsin's State Natural Areas Volunteer Program has grown to include volunteers who donated more than 3,100 hours at 26 sites in 2015. Learn more about the volunteer program in a> in the June 2015 Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine and find a listing of upcoming volunteer workdays by searching the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "SNA volunteer."

    Last Revised: Monday, October 03, 2016