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#IamACE – EPIC Edition – Kyle Tibor [video]

Meet EPIC Intern, Kyle Tibor. Kyle has been interning out of Pinnacles National Park’s Condor Program. Pinnacles National Park joined the California Condor Recovery Program as a release and management site in 2003. The park currently co-manages 86 wild condors in central California with Ventana Wildlife Society. Thank you to our partners at Pinnacles for allowing us to see the amazing work you are doing with these majestic creatures. Pinnacles is located east of the Salinas Valley in Central California. For more information on Pinnacles Condor Program go to: https://www.nps.gov/pinn/learn/nature/condors.htm

Oak Creek Canyon – Sedona, AZ – A.B. Young Trail – Trail Maintenance

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Late March our ACE Arizona crews continued trail maintenance in Sedona, AZ in Oak Creek Canyon. The crew was working with the Red Rocks Ranger District branch of the US Forest Service. The crew that was lead by senior crew leader John Donovan was working on the A.B Young Trail. The trail was reconstructed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the supervision of A.B. Young. “The trail was once a cattle trail that was used to transport produce up to the main wagon roads”, explained John Donovan.

ACE crew member is using a McCloed to widen an existing trail.

The goal of this project was general trail maintenance. The crew was primarily brushing the trail. They also spent time building a small retaining wall and they cleared debris to provide proper trail drainage. 

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ACE has been working with the Red Rocks Ranger District since the beginning of the year and our corps members are very fortunate to be apart of the conservation efforts of the area. This is the first of two projects that will be working on the AB Young trail.

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#IamACE | Alex Sloane [video]

In our ongoing series #IamACE we are very excited to bring you a new format…VIDEO! Thank you to Alex Sloane for featuring in our first #IamACE Video Blog.

Fire Restoration | El Dorado National Forest

An ACE California crew of 4 just completed a 7 day project creating erosion control structures in an area impacted by the King and Power Fire just east of the Hell Hole Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, CA.

The aim of this project was to improve hydrologic function within the King Fire and Power Fire burn areas by increasing ground cover with burned trees or other natural material, and by removing ground disturbances that affected hydrologic conductivity. Activities include falling dead trees to increase in-stream coarse wood, and some stream bank reconstruction.

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Sawyers strategically felled trees across slopes where structures were needed. Rounds were cut and placed where water had already began to erode the stream bank, and in areas where a lack of vegetation would lead to a high possibility of erosion during winter months.

Jack Colpitt explained that his favorite part of this project was the opportunity to learn more about the complex process of felling trees, and also the tree identification exercise.

The King and Power Fire was a human-caused fire that started on September 18, 2014. The fire burned 97,000 acres and caused hundreds of people to evacuate their homes.

ACE staff would like to extend a special thanks to Wade Frisbey for joining us on this project to assist with the technical cutting.

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Summer in the Smokies

21 High School Interns have just completed their summer internships with ACE in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

In a series of blog posts, the GSMNP summer interns describe the program and their experiences:

The GSMNP Summer Internship Program is funded by both the Youth Partnership Program and Friends of the Smokies (FOTS). FOTS has supported the program for 16 years, initially providing the salaries for the interns and now funding the program staff salaries.

The program is designed to give the interns a little taste of a variety of activities that rangers are involved with – from fisheries science to botany to forest and stream ecology. The interns gain an understanding of how the park is managed and are introduced to possible career opportunities.

Log Out | Dixie National Forest

ACE Utah’s crosscut sawyers recently teamed up to complete a complex log-out project on the Pine Valley Ranger District of Dixie National Forest. The project site was a wilderness trail that had been covered by dead and downed trees caused by an avalanche slide. The avalanche debris covered the trail and water tributary.

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Due to the sheer volume of debris, the Forest Service was considering the use of explosive to clear the way. This is not without complications, however, and therefore the Forest Service turned to ACE for help.

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The ACE crew worked very hard to manually cut and remove all the logs, and the then rebuild the trail tread. Being in a wilderness area the use of chainsaws was prohibited and thus the crew used crosscut saws to complete the project.

The crew was led by David Frye who now heads off to work for ACE California in the Inyo National Forest. AmeriCorps member Brice Koach commented that his favorite part of the project was “practicing his crosscut and axe skills all while spending time with a great crew.”

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#IamACE | Katt Lundy

For this week’s #IamACE, we met up with Katt Lundy, an Assistant Crew Leader (ACL) with ACE Arizona, working on the Meder Canyon Trails Project in the City of Santa Cruz.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?


[KL] I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been with ACE for a year. I graduated with a degree in geology.

What motivated you to get into conservation?


The whole outdoor aspect of studying geology got me into it. I wanted to continue the fieldwork aspect and do more physical practical work.

How did you find out about ACE?


The Internet, and I’ve got some friends who had worked for ACE who recommended it.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your internship?
A highlight for me is all the chainsaw related work I’ve gotten to experience. We’ve been on a lot of cool projects involving felling hazard trees and I’ve really enjoyed that.

A challenge has been learning how to live a different lifestyle. It can be very busy and chaotic at times. But this can be positive, because when you go on project you’ve got all this time to get to know people on a very personal level, and it adds a really nice teamwork aspect.

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You began your term with ACE as a crewmember, but you’ve recently become an assistant crew leader. Can you tell me about the transition between the two positions?
Well, I want to be a part of ACE more seriously. Being an ACL is a stepping-stone to do that. The position is different from being a crewmember because you have more responsibilities including more office-based work and driving an ACE vehicle. The transition has been pretty easy for me though.

Do you feel that the staff at ACE has been supportive of your desire to achieve a more supervisory role?
Yeah, definitely. I use the phrase ‘mutual respect’ a lot to refer to the relationship between the staff and the crews. They are really communicative and supportive.

Do you have any plans for the future after ACE? 

I’ve been thinking about going to graduate school for forestry eventually.

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Do you think that this position has helped prepare you for the future?


Absolutely. It’s given me a lot of experience with a leadership role, working with other people, technical skills. It’s been all-encompassing.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?


I think there’s a lot more communication and freedom to choose to do what you want…If you apply yourself you can get a lot out of it.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into conservation or join ACE?


Keep an open mind. You can get a lot of positive things from this job if you strive for it.

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part I)

A crew from ACE Arizona partnered with Coconino County to build a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff. This crew is also responsible for the maintenance of two trails leading to the lake: the 2-Spot Trail and the Gold Digger Trail. The latter trail is named after 1890s folklore in which outlaws, on the run from the local sheriff, dug a hole in the then-frozen Rogers Lake and deposited their barrels of gold. To this day, people come treasure hunting — some even come from out of state — according to Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor for Coconino County Parks & Recreation.

Coconino County purchased the Rogers Lake County Natural Area in 2010 and began trail work to improve access for visitors in 2013. Although the lake often fills with water in the spring, it remains dry most of the year. “I think the goal is to make the area more accessible destination,” said Joel Marona, an ACE Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) intern.

Geoffrey Gross said Coconino County Parks & Recreation is planning to have a grand opening of the overlook by the end of summer. Over the coming days we will feature a 3 part photostory on the progress of the project to construct the stone staircase at Rogers Lake.

Crew Strategizes leverage points with rock bar

1. Rogers Lake

The Rogers Lake project includes a variety of responsibilities, but the top priority is to construct a five-step staircase, providing an overlook to Lake Rogers, its wildlife, and a view of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. In this photos, the ACE Corps members strategize the best leverage points for adjusting the top stair with their rock bars.

Communicating with Project Partners

2. Rogers Lake

Project partner Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor at Coconino County Parks & Recreation, visits the ACE crew to check on the progress.

“This crew has been great to work with and has already accomplished a lot. We already knew ACE crews are really good at stonework – they’re our go-to for stonework — and thats important as want this staircase and overlook to be a showpiece of the area.”

Gross said the overlook will have interpretative signage and spotting scopes for wildlife viewing. Elk, deer, antelope and migrating waterfowl are frequently spotted in the area, Gross said.

Look out for Part II and Part III of this photostory on Friday June 17 and Monday June 20 – links will be posted on our Facebook page.

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part II)

Part II of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Breaking new ground

3. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar begins drilling the first of five holes, the initial stage of several in a process to crack the large bedrock that’s inhibiting the placement of anchors for the staircase. Komisar said this staircase is especially challenging because it needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Komisar described searching distant rock piles for potential steps — four feet wide and two feet back — as “shopping at the rock store.”

“I’ve done a lot of rock work since being at ACE” Komisar said. “It definitely tests my patience, cause it’s so time-consuming and it’s just problem-solving all day. But I think it’s the most rewarding type of trail work, because there’s such a massive result. It’s pretty satisfying.”

Placing the feathers

4. Rogers Lake

Joel Bulthuis places feathers into the holes drilled by Sarah Komisar. Once the feathers are securely wedged into the rock, the crew will repeatedly hammer them with a single-jack, gradually stressing, and eventually cracking the bedrock.

Checking on Progress

5. Rogers Lake

ACE Corps member Joel Marona assesses the headway made on the rock staircase. Marona said that for him, this project has been a “dream hitch,” requiring technical rock work, tread work and even some chain-sawing. “I started conservation work so young, and I idolized the culture and crew leaders, but I thought it was just seasonal. Coming to ACE and being able to work in conservation year-round — it’s a dream come true.”

Part 1 of this photostory can be found here and Part 3 here.

Rock Work | Rogers Lake (Part III)

Part III of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Feather Pitch

6. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar laughs as she strikes the feathers with the single-jack. Each feather has a different pitch when struck. “It’s so beautiful!” she exclaims.

Rock Chiseling

7a. Joel chiseling

After a team effort to crack the bedrock, Joel Bulthuis chisels away at the base.

Establishment of a rock staircase

8. Rogers Lake

Within just a few hours, the bedrock is mostly chiseled away, Caryn Ross and Nikki Andresen work on crushing rock beneath the third stair, for the foundation. This is Andresen’s last hitch. She said she’s most sad to be leaving her crew mates – her friends and newfound community, but that she’s grateful for her time at ACE.

“Feeling the public’s appreciation for what we do was probably the most rewarding part,” Andresen said. “In Yarnell [another ACE Arizona project], people would come up to us and say, ‘Thank you so much for building this memorial trail.’ In Apache [Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest], they’d come up and say they were so grateful for our help to save the Douglas Fir Trees. Here — I plan on coming back some day. And I know I’ll use these trails and see other people using them… I know I’ll be back.”

Drilling and crushing

9. Rogers Lake

The crew continues work on the staircase, facing Rogers Lake. We’ll revisit this story once again when the trail is finished!

Kochi Removal | Pecos National Historic Park

A crew of six Corps Members successfully finished a project at Pecos National Historic Park, a park unit that preserves the ruins of Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo close to Santa Fe, New Mexico

The aim of the project was to mechanically remove Kochia scoria, often referred to as Kochia, a large annual herb native to Eurasia. Within the United States, Kochia is an invasive species, particularly in the desert plains of the south west. Kochia is able to rapidly spread and competes with native vegetation for nutrients, light, and soil moisture. Furthermore, Kochia releases chemicals into the soil that can suppress the growth other plants, preventing the native plants from germinating.

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While at Pecos NHS, the crew learned about the importance of restoring the park’s land in order to preserve the archaeological sites which included pottery shards and burial sites. To contribute to this restoration effort, the Corps Members used brush cutters to remove the Kochia. After 8 day of hard work the crew had covered 7.48 acres of the park, which had about 80% invasive coverage.

The crew’s favorite part of the week was working with the knowledgeable NPS staff who constantly provided them with information on the culture of the people who once inhabited the land we were working on, allowing us to put the restoration work into context.

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Bark Beetle Pheromone Installation | Apache-Sitgreaves NF

Two ACE crews are currently working on a project to protect Douglas-fir trees from Bark Beetle infestations in the Apache- Sitgreaves National Forest. The crew’s mission is to install pheromone bubble capsules to large Douglas-fir trees in campgrounds and recreation areas in the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts – areas affected by The Wallow Fire, a wildfire in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico that occurred in 2011.

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Preparing the MCH pheromone bubble capsules for installation

The MCH pheromone is a naturally occurring anti-aggregation pheromone of the Douglas-fir & Spruce beetles. MCH works by replicating the beetle pheromone that tells other beetles the tree is full and that the food supply is insufficient for additional beetles. Arriving beetles receive the ‘message’ that they should look elsewhere for a suitable host, thus preventing beetle infestations. The approach is environmentally safe and non-toxic to humans, pets, birds and even the beetles themselves.

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Tree identification

In past years the crews have used the grid treatment, creating a pheromone buffer around valued sites. This year the crew has switched methods to individual tree treatment.

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MCH capsule installation

Prior to starting the project, Corps Members completed a full week of training with Forest Service staff covering tree identification, compass and GPS use, pacing, tree Diameter at Breast Height (DBH), and proper capsule installation. Due to the complexity of the project crew members have learned how to fill out paperwork which captures the data for this project​.

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Feedback from the project has been extremely positive. Corps Members said that they have really enjoyed the project and all the technical skills that they have learned. They enjoy working with our project partner Monica Boehning, and appreciate her passion for the project. The crew has also enjoyed the amazing camping at Big Lake Campground and East Fork.

Restoration Work | Lake Mead NRA

ACE Arizona Corps Members have recently been working at Lake Mead National Recreation Area on a variety of restoration projects that have sought to restore native desert habitats to the surrounding shoreline.

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Seed Collection

Lake Mead is technically the largest reservoir in the United States, measured by water capacity. Lake Mead traverses the Arizona-Nevada state line, southeast of the city of Las Vegas. Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is 112 miles (180 km) long when the lake is full, and has 759 miles (1,221 km) of shoreline. Lake Mead was named after Elwood Mead (January 16, 1858 – January 26, 1936), who was the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at the time when the planning and construction of the Boulder Canyon Project led to the creation of Hoover Dam, and subsequently Lake Mead itself.

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Corps Members treat invasive plant species.

The work of the ACE Corps Members Project has included native plant salvage and seed collection, native plant propagation and planting, and removal or treatment of invasive plant species that form monocultures in and around native plant locations. As part of the project, the Corps Members have learned native plant identification and a variety of desert restoration techniques.

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Desert Restoration

#IamACE | Stephany Ninette Gonzalez

Our latest installment of IamACE brings us back to our headquarters in Flagstaff, Arizona. When we caught up with her, new Corps member Stephany Ninette Gonzalez was working in one of the most magnificent parks, Grand Canyon, National Park.

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?


[SNG]:I’m from California. I went to school at the university of La Verne. I graduated this past January with a bachelor’s in biology. I have a concentration in pre-health, but towards the end of my studies I decided to focus more on the environment, because my senior thesis was about environmental work. Since I really didn’t take too many environmental classes during my studies, I decided when I graduated to just experience a lot of different environmental work. I’m 22, and I just started with ACE—this is my first hitch.

What motivated you to get into conservation?




I was looking for jobs and found this one through usajobs.org. It sounded really cool, it seemed like I’d be able to get opportunities in experiencing a wide variety of projects. That’s what I wanted, so I could figure out what path I want to take for my career.

Any goals for the future when you’re done with this position?




It depends on what type of work I fall in love with here. We’ll see!

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Do you think this position is helping you prepare for the future?




Yeah, definitely! Experience is a big thing in the workforce. So after ACE when I’m looking for a job, I can say, “look at all the projects I’ve worked on!” It’ll give me a foot in the door.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?



Other organizations that I applied for had a specific objective that you’d work on for a few months to a year, and that’s all you would learn. But with ACE, it gives you this big variety of things you can learn.

Do you have any advice for people looking to join ACE or get into conservation?


Have an open mind. You’re going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different opinions. Be flexible.

#IamACE | Jennifer Rose Diamond

In this installment of #IamACE, we are proud to introduce Jennifer Rose Diamond of ACE California! At the time we caught up with Jennifer she was the Assistant Crew Leader on the Ventana Wilderness Alliance – Silver Peaks Wilderness Trails Project.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?

[JRD] I’m from Maryland. I went to the State University of New York. I started off undeclared but ended up majoring in anthropology, focusing more on biological anthropology.

What got you motivated to get into conservation?

Well I’ve always loved being outside. I’ve always done a lot of hiking with my family. They really ingrained that in me growing up—valuing nature and doing outdoor activities. One of my best friends from back home found ACE and we ended up joining together. We made a cross-country road trip out of it. We were signed up for 3 months, but then I found out about Americorps and decided to stay on longer.

Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge that you’ve had during your term so far?

I loved the project I did over the summer. I worked for the USFS in the Sierra Nevada’s at Hilton Lake. It was a pretty long-term project. There were only six of us, and we were there for 4 months. We worked directly with this USFS ranger and it was really hands-on, tough rockwork, rerouting trails, crosscutting logs, it felt like real trail work. It was really cool to experience something that felt so professional.

A challenge has been not having a lot of alone time except for when you’re in your tent.

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Can you tell me about the transition from crewmember to assistant crew leader?

This is the first project I’ve been on where I’m an ACL. When I came here, from the beginning people would ask, “Do you want to stick with ACE?” I realized pretty quickly that it is really doable to move up from being a crewmember to more of a leader because there are so many opportunities when you’re a crewmember to take on more responsibility. The first crew leader I ever had told me “ACE is what you make of it.” If you want to use it as a tool to begin your career, or if you want to use ACE as a way to experience leadership roles, it can definitely be that kind of a job for you. That’s what I decided I wanted to take on. Because now that I’ve had the experience as a crewmember and I’ve had the chance to become more professional and learn a lot of new things, I want to pass that on.

Do you have any plans for the future when you’re done with ACE?

I would really like to move up to become an official crew leader within ACE. I think I’d like that challenge. I think it’d be a great way to make some good connections. I’ve definitely thought about going to work with NPS or USFS. I’m not sure yet if I want to do federal or work for another nonprofit. But I do want to stick with conservation or just general outdoors type of work.

Do you think that ACE has helped you prepare for the future?

I do! You can enjoy this program regardless of your background. Like I said earlier, it’s what you make of it. If you come here and you want to make connections and start building you career, you can. You just have to put yourself out there.

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What sets ACE apart from other organizations?

It’s not just a job; it’s a whole lifestyle. It’s not a 9 to 5. But I really like the change. And I feel like this is the time in my life to really experience this kind of thing. I’m pretty flexible and I don’t have a lot tying me down anywhere and I like the opportunity to travel around California and see all these cool places and camp. It’s really awesome.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about joining ACE or considering getting into conservation?

I’d say do it! If anything, just try it out as a 3-month volunteer term and go from there. It’s a great way to get the experience and get out in the field.

ACE CA AmeriCorps Training Week 2016

A group of new ACE CA AmeriCorps Members participated in a rigging and rock quarrying training along the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. A large rock fall had obstructed the bikeway and the members learned how to split and quarry stone and safely move large rocks with rigging equipment and rockers.

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The Tahoe-Pyramid is still under construction, but when completed it will connect forested Lake Tahoe to its desert terminus at Pyramid Lake. The route will descend over 2000 feet in 116 miles, using a combination of existing dirt and paved roads, plus some sections of new trail and bridges.

First, the new corpsmembers learned how to split large boulders that are obstructing the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, using a rock drill and pins/feathers (see header photo).

breaking rocks down

breaking rocks down

After splitting this large boulder once, corpsmembers begin their next set of holes in preparation for the next cut. They reduced the size of the rocks until they could be safely moved with the rigging equipment or rock bars.

Here Corps members learn how to safely transport rocks using griphoist rigging equipment…

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…and here that good technique always trumps raw power while they practice using a rockbar to move large boulders.

moving rocks with rock bars

moving rocks with rock bars

Through completion of the training of the AmeriCorps members, the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway is now clear of rock fall, and users can safely pass through as they explore the area.

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Restorative Trail Maintenance | Grand Canyon National Park

We recently visited a crew working at Grand Canyon National Park which lies just north of Flagstaff, where ACE’s Intermountain Region Headquarters are located. The crew was performing routine maintenance on the Bright Angel Trail, the most popular hiking trail within the Grand Canyon.

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Each year, melting snow and ice cause erosion that can render parts of the trail unsafe for visitors. ACE partners with the National Park Service annually to perform restorative maintenance. “For this project, we are working on clearing a specific drain about 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail,” explained crew leader Isabel Grattan. “The drainage ditch on the inside of the trail was covered in rocks and boulders that were washed down after the snowmelt. This prevented the water from draining properly and caused it to destroy a retaining wall.”

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The crew began the hitch by using wheelbarrows to haul all the rocks that had fallen into the drain down the trail so that NPS staff could use them to repair the retaining wall. Safety is always imperative during any ACE hitch, but it was even more important for this project because of the numerous hikers and equestrians traveling up and down the trail throughout the day. The crewmembers had to be very alert and communicative to each other and to park visitors to ensure a safe working environment.

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The corps members worked hard throughout the hitch to move all the rocks from the drainage. The NPS employees then crushed the rocks with sledgehammers for use rebuilding retaining wall. By the end of the 9-day project, the crew and NPS had replaced a significant section of the wall with crushed rock that was 2 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 6 feet deep.

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ACE will continue working with NPS throughout the spring to maintain the popular hiking trails in the park. The Bright Angel Trail is accessible from the south rim entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.

#IamACE | Cristobal Castaneda

Can you tell me about your background?

I was born in Mexico. I lived there until I was 9 years old. At that point my family moved to the United States and we’ve been living here in Martinez California ever since. I’m 23 years old and I’m currently attending Diablo Valley Community College in a nearby city.

In my high school they had a program called A New Leaf—A sustainable living collaborative. It’s kind of a combination of typical high school classes and also hands-on experiential learning. That program is actually what got me interested in outdoor fields and careers, and it’s what got me my internship with the National Park Service.

What got you interested in conservation initially?

There’s always been something inside of me that’s been drawn to the outdoors. I think that moving from Mexico to Martinez, CA plays a big part as well. In Mexico, I was only familiar with the urban environment: streets and stone houses, not much scenery. So coming here and being surrounded by undeveloped open hills and spaces is what got me interested in the outdoors. It made me think, “Wow! The world is so much different than what I’m used to!” Now I love going on bike rides to the marina downtown, going to parks, learning about new plants, birds, and insects, those sorts of things.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your internship?

The challenge has been getting used to working with a federal agency. Also, this is one of the first jobs I’ve had—before this I had just worked for family, or done side jobs here and there but I had never really had an official job. So getting used to all the aspects of a job like time management, being organized with all the paperwork, that’s been difficult.

As part of the work I do for this internship I get to work with high school students who are trying to figure out what they want to do in life. For me undoubtedly the biggest highlight is when I get to see people having fun in our National Parks and being outside and enjoying themselves. To be able to give that experience to other young people is by far one of the best things I’m able to do. I feel very lucky to be able to be a mentor.

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What other tasks are part of your internship?

A few examples are the photo point monitoring project and the phenology project. For the photo point monitoring project, we take specific snapshots of a landscape and track how it changes over time. We photograph an area and record whether there is erosion or if invasive plants are growing.

The phenology project involves the study of living organisms and how they interact with the changing seasons. Birds migrating and plants blooming are some examples. We are studying the life cycle of different organisms. There is a California Phenlogy Project that monitors the native California plants and environmental changes. We use data sheets and smartphone apps to record any changes in the life cycles of the plant. For example: whether it has new flowers, leaves, or fruit. We observe the plant as it grows. All of our research goes to the database online, which is analyzed by scientists at the University of Santa Barbara. That data is passed on to other scientists and they publish newsletters and articles about what we’re finding. The most consistent discovery is that spring is coming 2 or 3 weeks earlier now. It’s a very hands-on project.

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Do you have any goals for the future when you’re done with this internship?

Absolutely! I want to work on as many public lands as possible. I’d love to work at Point Reyes or Golden Gate, Pinnacles or Yosemite. I think Yosemite would be my dream job. I’d like to become an NPS ranger. I want to be involved in the natural resource conservation. Aside from teaching young people my passion is protecting the environment and protecting these resources for the benefit of everyone.

Do you think this position has helped you prepare for those goals?

Yes, without a doubt. My supervisor, who is an NPS ranger, has given me so many opportunities to explore different parks and to become more familiar with the structure of the National Park Service. He’s given me the opportunity to be out in the field and to try all these new things even if I don’t yet have the background in it. He’s been kind enough to allow me to learn from him and practice these skills and really start to get my foot in the door by allowing me to experience what it’s actually like to work in this field. Everything I’ve done in this job so far has contributed to my personal development. I’ve improved in so many ways thanks to this internship.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

The staff is really flexible, understanding, and supportive. Even though their headquarters are in Utah, they still do everything they can to make sure my immediate problems are addressed.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone who’s interested in EPIC or looking to get into conservation?

I’d say don’t be hesitant to try new things. I had never worked in the field of conservation or with a federal agency, but I took the opportunity to try it. If you’re thinking about ACE or other programs like this, don’t feel like you necessarily have to have the experience or the degrees, the most important thing is your commitment to the program, and your willingness to learn and apply yourself.

Upper Raptor Trail, Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino NF

Recently, ACE caught up with one of our crews in the field working on multiple reroutes of the Upper Raptor trail in the Red Rock Ranger District of Coconino National Forest. ACE partnered with the USFS for this project. There are area total of 12 reroutes planned for different areas of the Upper Raptor trail, in order to re-direct visitors from unsustainable and eroded sections. The path is primarily intended for mountain bikers, but it is also useable by hikers and equestrians.

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“The project is going well so far!” Said corps member Emma Nehan. “Since the trail is meant for mountain biking, the project partner wants it to be very narrow. The soil is really sandy and easy to move, so it’s not as physically demanding as some other projects. But mentally it’s challenging because we’re going against everything we’ve been taught so far about trial building. We even used a broom to create parts of the trail!”

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The method for creating these reroutes differs from traditional trail construction because of the soil type in the area. In certain sections, the crew used a push broom to establish the tread. “On all the trails we create in the Southwest, our goal is to make the most minimal impact possible,” explained Jordan Rolfe, director of ACE Arizona. “Sometimes using a pick or shovel to dig out a trial isn’t necessary, because it will take out too much dirt and turn the trail into a water chute when it rains. In some cases we want to visually create the presence of a trail, but don’t want to move a lot of dirt if it’s not necessary, so we use brooms. This is a newer technique that we are implementing with our trail building.”

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However, more physical labor is required in different areas. The crew is also armoring sections of the trail, creating drains and retaining walls, and brushing the corridor. Another step in the process of rerouting the trail is naturalizing the old path. By doing this, the corps members help return the initial route to its original state and prevent bikers, hikers, and equestrians from accidentally using a potentially unsafe portion of trail.

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The project will span six four-day hitches throughout the spring. The Upper Raptor Trail is accessible from Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona.

#IamACE | Mark Gestwicki

In our 3rd installment of #IamACE we are excited to feature one of our California-based Assistant Crew Leaders, Mark Gestwicki. Mark’s journey within ACE is common: a transition from Corpsmember into an Assistant Crew Leader. Mark’s work ethic and leadership skills are a true asset to our California crew program, and we are happy to showcase his story here.

[ACE] What is your background?
[MG] I grew up in Western New York. I went to the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry where I earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Conservation Biology. After graduation, I served for 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, Africa where it was my responsibility to introduce sustainable farming practices to a rural village. My goal was to implement community-based projects that would ultimately lead to a permanent increase in standard of living.

What motivated or inspired you to be in conservation?
My Field Biology teacher in High School was very influential and inspired me to pursue a career in environmental conservation. Together we formed the Dunkirk Outdoor Adventure Group which takes students out rafting, backpacking, and caving. He is still a good friend and I visit him whenever I’m back in New York.

How did you discover ACE?
I found ACE on a conservation job board.

What was your favorite aspect of being an ACE Corpsmember?
I enjoyed having the opportunity to spend time in some of the most beautiful parts of California. Not many jobs other than ACE offer the opportunity to spend a month in the backcountry of Sequoia National Park.

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How did you transition into an Assistant Crew Leader?
It seemed like the logical next step after my initial 6-month AmeriCorps term. I wanted to take on more responsibilities at work.

What has been your favorite project and why?
My favorite hitch was probably an invasive removal project in Sequoia National Park. We were about 20 miles in the backcountry for a month. I would spend hours’ trout fishing after work and on the weekends. We hardly saw anyone out there.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at ACE?
I think that ACE is socially challenging. There are constantly new faces and it can be exhausting meeting new people all of the time.

What are your future goals?
I want to expand my knowledge and skills related to international development, sustainable agriculture, and natural resource management. I’m applying to graduate schools now and looking at creative ways to use my AmeriCorps Education Award. Ultimately, I want to manage conservation projects with an international NGO or nonprofit.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
It is my intention to continue pursuing a career in conservation.

Do you think this position has helped prepare you for your future career?
Yes! It’s been interesting to be a part of the “on the ground” conservation projects. I’ve been able to work closely with the major governmental land management organizations and witness which projects are given priority and how they are implemented. I’ve also gained valuable skills in environmental restoration, leadership, and problem solving.

What advice can you offer to future corps members who are looking to get into the conservation field?
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget why you want to protect natural areas in the first place. Take some time to go for a hike, sit by a stream, or climb a tree.

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We're busy conserving the environment