Gerry Mich's story of a lifelong commitment to conservation began 40 years ago when he and his two brothers purchased 20 acres of woods in Portage County. It was there that they, and Gerry's future wife, Margo, planted 1,000 red pine seedlings by hand.
His commitment has only increased over the years with an abiding devotion to both conventional and unconventional learning. Following his retirement as a doctor in 2001, Gerry worked for a year at a family-run sawmill to learn about the qualities of timber. He completed training in the Wisconsin Woodland Leadership Institute and graduated from the Natural Resource Program at Fox Valley Technical College in 2002.
He has applied his expertise to conservation enhancements on 213 acres of land in Shawano and Outagamie counties. There, Gerry and his family replanted swamp white oak, which had suffered significantly from mismanagement. They added buffer zones of pine and oak to stop soil erosion into the Wolf River. They further enhanced wildlife populations by adding a pond and leasing 30 acres to a neighboring farmer whose corn and soybean fields provided winter forage for turkey and deer.
Gerry serves as a role model for the conservation community. He helped found a landowner organization called Wisconsin Family Forests and served as its Executive Director. He also provides conservation community service as chair of the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association's Wolf River Chapter.
In his letter of recommendation, former Wisconsin Chief State Forester, Paul DeLong, said the recognition of Gerry Mich for Wisconsin's first Leopold Conservation Award served a dual purpose.
"Gerry's personal efforts to restore his land and help others do likewise deserve praise," DeLong wrote, "At the same time, and more to Gerry's purpose in applying for the award, the recognition could advance the environmental causes he's dedicated himself to."