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Saving the Government Money, Ecologist Also Helps With Complex Wetland Restoration

Paul Rutledge provides scale by standing near a large Yellow Birch found on the Trapp Farm Nature Preserve Wetland Reserve Program project. (NRCS photo/Kathy Ryan)

Paul Rutledge provides scale by standing near a large Yellow Birch found on the Trapp Farm Nature Preserve Wetland Reserve Program project. (NRCS photo/Kathy Ryan)

Dr. Paul Rutledge was recently honored with a National Individual Volunteer Award for his contributions to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Earth Team.

Earth Team is a volunteer workforce that helps NRCS maintain and improve natural resources on private lands. Out of the 19,075 Earth Team volunteers across the nation, only four individuals received this award this year.

Rutledge is no stranger to NRCS or Earth Team. He has volunteered with the program in the past, and his wife is an NRCS area biologist. So when NRCS reached out to him for assistance with a complex wetlands project, Rutledge, a consulting ecologist, didn’t hesitate to volunteer.

Because of limited staff and the complex nature of the project, NRCS asked Rutledge to do a site assessment of Trapp Farm Nature Preserve, a Wetland Reserve Program permanent easement located in Benzie County, Mich. The initial intent was to restore a stream channel thought to have historically run through the property.

“I enjoy exploring natural areas and appreciate having a purpose for doing so,” Rutledge says, explaining his willingness to help.

Rutledge’s thorough research revealed that the stream channel did not exist as shown on historic maps. His assessment helped NRCS determine that a planned large scale stream and wetland project was not going to achieve the desired wetland restoration goals.

Rutledge’s work saved the government well over $100,000 of construction costs and provided the landowner with information that will be useful in their ongoing public outreach to local residents about the hydrology of the area and implications for surrounding lands.

“I met some interesting people and learned a bit more about Michigan’s history and its impacts on natural communities. Most of all, I enjoy helping out,” Rutledge says.

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