When Ron Burger was just a boy growing up in southern Wisconsin, the quiet Northwoods was his refuge, a place where he felt he could grow away from the stifle of asphalt streets and the hum of traffic.

Now Burger is paying back a debt to nature through the Monarch Wildlife Wayside Refuge, which he created on his rural property located off State Highway 111.

After noticing a decrease in the number of insects — particularly monarch butterflies — Burger began establishing native flower gardens and planting stands of evergreen trees on the acre of land he lives on, starting in 2010.

It didn’t take long for Burger to begin seeing changes in the wildlife on the landscape, with the native flowers quickly attracting monarch butterflies, bees, and other insects, and the new trees providing the perfect habitat for migrant and resident bird species.

Beyond establishing habitat for wildlife, Burger began realizing that the refuge could provide sanctuary not only for wild animals but also for the people who enjoy watching them. In the future, he would like to see the refuge expand, allowing for a greater diversity of animal species and facilities for people to observe them.

Burger is currently working toward turning the Monarch Wildlife Wayside Refuge to a non-profit organization, and he has big dreams for the future of the tiny property.

He takes inspiration from experiences he had as a child with other nature-focused organizations, spending time at the North Lakeland Discovery Center in the Manitowish Waters area and Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River. These formative experiences fostered a lifelong appreciation for nature in Burger, and the desire to preserve it for future generations.

“I don’t want to see the day when the only place kids can see a monarch butterfly is in an encyclopedia,” he said.

Through his interest in nature organizations, Burger discovered the Northwoods Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center based in Minocqua. When Burger isn’t working as a farm laborer at United Pride Dairy, Burger volunteers as a driver for the Northwoods Wildlife Center, transporting injured or orphaned wildlife to their facility. Most recently, he worked with the Price County Sheriff’s Office humane officer, Dean Merlak, transporting an injured bald eagle to the rehabilitation center after the eagle was struck by a vehicle.

Burger also maintains an eight-mile stretch of highway on Highway 111 through the Adopt-A-Highway program, cleaning up roadside litter.

People interested in learning more about the Monarch Wildlife Wayside Refuge can find it online on Facebook, or reach Burger at 715-339-6997.