According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Web site, “the Baraboo Hills supports one of the largest contiguous upland hardwood forests in the Midwest and harbors an incredible diversity of species, including more than 1,800 different kinds of plants and animals.”
The Hills also hold a special place in the heart and mind of Nature Conservancy volunteer, Gary Rubin.
Gary first walked “the hills” back in the 1960s, about the same time the Conservancy was invited by local residents and university educators to help protect this unique landscape. For Gary, it was love at first sight, and the ensuing years have only served to increase his attachment to the area.
Wanting to do all he could to protect this special place, Gary eventually joined the Conservancy as an active end energetic volunteer helping to restore and preserve one of the geological jewels of southern Wisconsin.
For the past 13 years, he has given extensively of his time to care for the Conservancy’s preserves in the Hills. He was involved in the original cleanup of the sites, helping to remove rubbish and tear down old buildings and fences, beginning what has become a personal investment in the restoration of the natural beauty of the land.
In the ensuing years, he has worked with others to help eradicate invasive species such as buckthorn and garlic mustard. Their diligent and continuous efforts have returned formerly degraded areas to more or less their natural state, allowing native wildflowers and wild orchids to bloom once more.
Gary’s volunteer efforts keep him busy at this pristine place one weekend a month throughout the year except in the spring when it sometimes becomes a weekly commitment.
Like all volunteers, he derives great satisfaction from the difference he makes. “I and my co-workers are particularly pleased to have helped with reforestation of the open fields in the Baraboo Hills by planting oak trees.”
Though the work is often dirty and difficult, it is obvious that he earns a great return on his investment of time and effort. He especially values the wonderful friendships that have developed from working with the other volunteers, many of whom have worked together for a long time. “We are an older group, and we know what we are doing,” he says.
He encourages others to try volunteering, noting that they too will share the joy of seeing fragile ecosystems protected and enhanced. He feels that volunteer involvement can satisfy a variety of personal needs including the creation of wonderful friendships and a sense of “really helping.” Truly, there is a place for everyone to get involved in volunteering, and for Gary Rubin the pay back has certainly been worth the effort.