Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Volunteer crew recognized for restoration work on the Chippewa National Forest

A man and a woman (she is wearing a Forest Service uniform) present an award to a young lady
From left, Tom Feiro, Crookston club advisor, Audrey Gustafson, Chippewa silviculturist and Laura Bell, Crookston club advisor. USDA Forest Service photo.

MINNESOTA – University of Minnesota Crookston Natural Resources Club, Crookston Crew, was presented the 2018 USDA Forest Service Volunteers & Service Award for Restoration work on the Chippewa National Forest via a virtual presentation by the Chief of the Forest Service. Selected award winners are volunteers and partners who exemplify the core USDA Forest Service values and have made significant contributions to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grassland

Under the leadership of club advisers Phil Baird, Tom Feiro and Laura Bell, the Crookston Crew has volunteered on the Chippewa National Forest since 1983. The Crew has planted seedlings on the Deer River and Blackduck Ranger Districts for the last 36 seasons. In 2001, the Crookston Crew began helping with animal damage control in the fall.

“Phil, Tom, and Laura have diligently advocated and facilitated the annual volunteer tree planting and bud capping efforts. Their exceptional dedication and commitment has provided outstanding stewardship opportunities for students to reforest areas, restore natural resource conditions, and help ecosystems become more resilient after insect and disease infestations and planned timber harvests. The Crookston Crew’s planting and animal damage control contributions have helped the Chippewa National Forest achieve and exceed reforestation targets on an annual basis,” stated Audrey Gustafson, District silviculturist and coordinator of the partnership.

The Crookston Crew brings 35 – 50 volunteers per year for both combined tree planting and budcapping projects.

“The Crookston Crew’s arrival in the spring and fall continues to be a valuable collaborative tradition, and we look forward to maintaining this win-win partnership for many years to come,” said Gustafson.

In fiscal year 2018, the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service engaged 120,000 plus volunteers and service participants. Together, they contributed 5.2 million hours valued at $128.2 million and equivalent to 2,885 full time employees—nearly 10 percent of the Forest Service permanent workforce.

Group of volunteers in hard hats, safety vests and sporting shovels, posing for the camera
Crookston Crew members show off their tree planting tools. Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Crookston.