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Winding down with the Ottertail crew


By: Maureen Hanlon

Yesterday afternoon, while spraying buckthorn behind our local Department of Natural Resources office, the Ottertail Crew took a short break to watch a juvenile bald eagle harangue a cluster of frightened mallards. No luck; it’s still figuring this out, it seems. We can appreciate that.

This is our last workweek together as a crew. Spraying invasives is frustrating and sometimes demoralizing work, but this week the crew is pleasant and contemplative. We discuss families and vacations, job interviews and tickets home. It’s just that time of year. There’s a lot of words for the emotions that come with leaving a program like this, but suffice it to say we’ve enjoyed our time together and will miss one another when we leave.

I thought I’d take a moment to give a shout out to the four brilliant young folks who have made the year such a memorable and enjoyable one. My thanks to:

Emily Braker, for bringing all her quirky exuberance to our work everyday. Emily loved shoreline restoration and is a plant ID expert now! Emily will be returning to school after this to study natural resources interpretation and is hoping to have a career in public outreach.

Emily Stursma, for giving her all on every project and approaching challenges from many angles. Emily loved all our work, but mostly just wants another chance to ride the Marshmaster. She’s returning to her family in Iowa to save money for a master’s degree in natural resources.


Travus Maloney, for making us laugh when the going got tough, mostly by singing “Oo-o-o Child” by the Five Stairsteps. Travus enjoyed building stairs for a portage on the Ottertail River, and is taking his carpentry skills back to a family cabinetry shop in Illinois.

Will Shippen, for tearing it up on the worksite all year! Will’s favorite projects were our prescribed burn assignments in Tewaukon and Waubay National Wildlife Refuges, and he’s considering a summer in wildland firefighting. For now, it’s back to Bemidji State to finish his degree in biology.

As for me, I’m headed up to the University of Winnipeg to finish my degree in forest ecology. I bet Winnipeg will make Minnesota seem like a tropical forest.

Myself and co-leader Shaun Roeker wish all the best to Ottertail Crew members and all the other young people finishing up their year with the Corps!