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ACE Northern California — Restoration in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Between the magnificent, blue Lake Tahoe and the towering massif of Lassen Peak in northern California lies a stretch of forest that many folks, including most Californians, know little about. Containing 127,000 acres of intact old growth fir and pine forest and 75 miles of Pacific Crest Trail, the 1,146,000 acre Plumas National Forest embodies the heart of California’s northern Sierra Nevada. Places like Bucks Lake Wilderness, the steep canyons of the Middle and North Forks of the Feather River, historic Indian Valley and 640-foot Feather Falls represent the Forest’s broad diversity of vegetation, topography and recreational opportunities.

Project partner USFS Botanist Jim Belsher-Howe (middle) is flanked on his right by ACE crew leaders Jack Colpitt and Kaye Thomas and on his left by ACE Restoration Coordinator Dennis Frenier and ACE National Forestry Program Manager Carl Nelson.

In 2017, American Conservation Experience’s northern California office, based in South Lake Tahoe, launched a 5-year, $250,000 partnership with the Plumas National Forest. Restoration work would include invasive plant control and conifer thinning to enhance rare aspen stand health and sensitive species habitat.

Gridding for yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) on the rocky banks of the North Fork of the Feather River at a place called Misery Bar.

 

It may not look like much, but this is a grouping of Webber’s milkvetch (Astragalus webberi), found at Misery Bar. This critically imperiled plant is found only in the Plumas National Forest. Its habitat greatly threatened by quickly spreading invasive plant species.

In 2018, priority invasive weed projects will take place in several wildland fire scars — the 52,000-acre Storrie Fire, which started from an accidental ignition by the Union Pacific Railroad in 2000, and the 65,000-acre and heavily litigated Moonlight Fire which occurred in 2007. ACE crews will work in these areas through the summer. Manually and chemically treating encroaching weeds like Canada thistle, yellow starthistle, spotted knapweed, invasive mustards and medusahead rye.

Working under the burnt remains of the 2000 Storrie Fire.

 

Yellow starthistle control by hand.

ACE’s Northern California office is young and eager to grow. Led by enthusiastic and newly positioned Patrick Parcel, the branch looks to evolve and spread their restoration program. “That’s definitely a huge goal of ours,” says Patrick. “We not only want to continue to build our relationship with the Plumas, but soon expand our restoration work to the Sierra and Inyo National Forests.”

This hitch’s tough crew led by Jack Colpitt and Kaye Thomas on the left.

Coronado National Forest – Bark Beetle Treatment

A 10 person ACE Southwest crew completed a project in the Coronado National Forest with the goal of protecting the fire-weakened forest from potential bark beetle invasion. Over the course of three months, the crew learned some serious orienteering skills and tree identification.

Crews deployed pheromone caps across 550+ acres. The areas that were treated were identified by the Forest Service as Mt Graham Red Squirrel habitats. ACE crews helped the Forest Service confirm locations of this endangered animal. At last count, there were only 35 remaining in the wild!

Two different types of pheromone caps were used. MCH and Verbenone. They are anti-aggregate pheromones that essentially tell a bark beetle that is searching for a place to lay their eggs that the tree is full and to keep on flying. The bark beetle then flies to the next tree and is told the same thing “sorry the inn is full! No vacancies!” Eventually the bark beetle gets too tired to continue to fly and dies.

The MCH packets protect Douglas firs and Verbenone protects southwestern white pines from bark beetle attack. This was a unique restoration project for our ACE’rs and we are so proud of the contribution made by our team.

 

 

 

ACE California – Fort Ord Dunes Native Species Planting

ACE has been planting native species in the Ford Ord dunes since late November 2017. By the conclusion of the project, over 23,000 will be planted. Located on Monterey Bay, Fort Ord offers beautiful ocean views, and is now an area of recreation for tourists and locals alike.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Human History: Land use and impact

There is no mistaking the immense impact humans have had on the area. Evidence of this can be seen by both natural and unnatural materials on the dunes.

Fort Ord was originally an Army installation that encompassed 15 rifle ranges, officially closed in 1994. To this day it is not uncommon to find bullet casings in the dunes. ACE Crew leaders and Americorps members underwent bomb recognition training in the event any explosives are found while working.

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“Restoration is experimental because it will take a while to see the effects of our efforts. Restoration is such a large part of conservation, when you’re trail building it’s easy to forget that.” -Jesse, Americorps ACL

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Natural History and Restoration:

Since November 2017, ACE staff and crew have been working alongside California State Parks representatives at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in a longer-term habitat restoration effort. ACE crews are now planting natives in soil beneath the dead Ice Plant, including Beach Aster, Coastal Buckwheat, Lizard tail, Sticky Monkey Flower, Sage Brush, Sage Wart, and Lupin. Each four-day project produces about 4,000 new plants. Reintroduction of these native plants will have a lasting impact on the area, improving water intake, plant biodiversity, and native animal populations.

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Green patches of native plants are reemerging after a past herbicide project cleared the Ice Plant. The Smith’s Blue Butterfly used to thrive in this area, particularly due to the native Coastal Buckwheat.

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“It’s nice to plant instead of just ripping plants out. Some people want to learn about biological systems, so this is a good learning opportunity.” -Vince, AmeriCorps ACL

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“I’m into restoration and I’m down to be any part of the process, but planting feels the most valuable. My background is in ecology and I feel that this is in line with my education. Seeing whales is a big highlight too.  -Marisa, AmeriCorps member

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Bryce Canyon | Forest Thinning

ACE has taken part in multiple forest thinning projects across the Southwest over the last several years. Each project has had a similar objective in mind: wildfire prevention. Each year wildfires have increased in severity and occurrences, and it has become more crucial than ever to remove the lower level fuels that allow them to become more severe.

Fall of 2017 proved to be a very busy time for our ACE Utah crews in regards to fuels reduction. Crews performed forest thinning in beautiful, Bryce Canyon National Park, for an eight-day project. 

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

Forest thinning helps to prevent wildfires from becoming catastrophic. ACE’s part in this aspect of wildfire prevention is to remove any trees that would serve as ladder fuel. Ladder fuel is a firefighting term for live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the landscape or forest floor into the tree canopy. This means cutting down any tree species that are easier to catch fire, trees of a specific diameter, and removing any dead or down trees.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon's overlooks.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon’s overlooks.

In Bryce Canyon National Park the ACE crew was led by crew leader, Brandon Lester. The primary objective of this project was to protect limber pines and bristlecone pines as well as Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines. Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines are being protected because they tend to be more resilient against wildfires. By keeping these more resilient species and thinning more flammable species, the forest becomes less prone to catastrophic wildfires. The bristlecone pines are being protected because in this area they tend to be very old and the limber pines are being protected because they are a more rare species. By selecting certain species ACE is working to create a healthier pine forest.

 

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

To do this the crew was reducing the number of flammable species such as white firs and some of the Douglas firs that could potentially become ladder fuels. The crew was also targeting trees that were growing in clumps and trees that were growing too close to the species they were trying to protect. For example, the crew was not directly targeting Douglas firs but if there were any Douglas firs growing too close to a Ponderosa pine, then the crew would remove that tree.

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During this single eight-day project the crew aimed to thin approximately three acres within the park. ACE is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to return to work in this beautiful national park and look forward to our continued partnership with the National Park Service and our friends at Bryce Canyon National Park.

For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park click here: Bryce Canyon National Park

 

 

 

 

Grand Canyon National Park – Trail Maintenance

One of ACE’s longest running partnerships is with the Grand Canyon National Park. This past summer and in to the fall ACE crews worked on several of the many trails in and around the canyon.

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

ACE had two crews working on two different trails in the canyon, the Bright Angel and the Hermit trail. The crew on Bright Angel was led by ACE crew leader, Hannah Baskin and the Hermit trail crew was led by ACE crew leader, Stephanie Gonzales. Both of these trails experience heavy foot traffic in the summer months. In addition to hikers, the Bright Angel trail also supports mules tours as well as pack mules throughout the year.

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

Both crews were performing cyclical maintenance on the trails. This usually encompasses widening tread, clearing drains, reinforcing water bars, brushing and clearing the trail of any obstacles. The canyon trails require attention all year long because of the constant erosion that happens within the canyon walls.

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

On the Bright Angel trail the crew was performing general maintenance as well as assisting the National Parks Service trail crew with a rock work project. Some of the crew members were on patrol to make sure that hikers were safe while the work was being completed and other crew members got to try their hand at the rock drill.

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On the Hermit trail the crew was using a grip hoist to move some large boulders from the trail. Using rock bars the crew was able to move boulders out of the main trail and repair parts of the trail that were eroded by flooding.

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

Going into the fall ACE crews will continue working further down the Bright Angel Trail and eventually to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Our staff and corps members continue to feel grateful that they are able to serve in and contribute to the protection of this park.

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

Arizona Trail | Pine, AZ

ACE Arizona has been working with the Arizona Trail Association on several different sections of the 800-mile trail. In September ACE had a crew led by Katherine Dickey and Natalie Kolesar working just outside of Pine, AZ. Over the course of two eight-day projects, the crew worked on general trail maintenance as well as building rock structures and building footbridges with timber construction.

Crew members debark the logs to prevent the logs from rotting.

Crew members debark the logs to prevent the logs from rotting.

The crew put in two puncheon foot bridges within approximately the first mile of the trail. The process of putting in these creek crossings involves debarking, “ripping” the log, hauling the split logs up to the puncheon sites and setting them in place. Ripping refers to the act of splitting the tree lengthwise; each half provides the walking surface of the bridge. The bark is first removed from the tree trunk because the bark holds in moisture, to keep these wood structures from rotting the bark is scraped off by hand. To set the logs, the crew members dig holes for smaller logs to sit in on either side of the creek. Those logs are then reinforced with crush (small rock fragments) to hold the logs in place. Then, the larger logs receive saddle notches so that they fit like puzzle pieces on top of their smaller counterparts.

National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth teaches crew leader, Katherine Dickey to make measurements on the log for saddle notches.

National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth teaches crew leader, Katherine Dickey to make measurements on the log for saddle notches.

The purpose of putting in bridges over creek crossings is to prevent erosion and sedimentation in the creek. This area of Arizona is a very delicate riparian zone. It is one of the few places in Arizona where you can see a multitude of tree species including maple and alder trees. This type of lumber work requires a lot of measuring, leveling, and precision with the chainsaw. ACE National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth visited the crew and made sure that crew was entirely equipt with the tools and knowledge to get the work done.

Crew members roll the log into position to be cut.

Crew members roll the log into position to be cut.

During the second half of this project, the crew built armored drain pans along some of the eroded parts of the trail. The armored drain pans protect the path and direct water off of the trail. A multi-tiered rock wall and rock steps were also put in by the crew during the duration of this project.

Crew Leader, Katherine Dickey rips the log in half to create the platform for the footbridge.

Crew Leader, Katherine Dickey rips the log in half to create the platform for the footbridge.

ACE has been fortunate to have completed multiple sections of trail work along the 800-mile Arizona Trail and would like to thank our partners at the Arizona Trails Association. For more information on this trail follow the link below:

https://aztrail.org/the-trail/

Crew members haul the logs by hand to the puncheon sites.

Crew members haul the logs by hand to the puncheon sites.

Dry Lake Hills Forest Thinning

ACE Arizona is continuing work on an 18-week forest-thinning project in the Dry Lake Hills region of Coconino National Forest, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. ACE is partnering with the City of Flagstaff Fire Department and the US Forest Service to complete this hand-thinning project.

Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in this region. Historically, wildfires would burn across the forest floor, clearing out the dead and lower branches of trees, making way for a diverse understory of grasses, sedges, and forbs. After a century of fire suppression, logging and grazing, thick ground fuels and a ladder of dead branches have resulted in increased risks of crown fires. Numerous studies based on Forest Service data show that 90% of the trees on Southwestern forests are 12 inches in diameter and smaller. It is the high density of these small trees that represents the greatest fire risk.

In 2010, the Schultz fire burned 15,000 acres and caused between $133 and $147 million in economic damages to the Flagstaff community. The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) conducted a study that concluded that post-fire flood impacts in the Dry Lake Hills region have the potential to result in significant damage to downstream watersheds. Catastrophic wildfires cause severe floods when they burn the vegetation that would normally absorb the rainfall, leaving the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water.

The Forest Service silviculturist has written prescriptions for five sections of the 100-acre area being thinned by the eight person ACE crew. The crew will be felling trees that are 9 inch diameter and smaller. After felling and bucking up the trees, the crew will be building piles for future prescribed fire operations. City of Flagstaff Fire Department Operations Specialist, Matt Millar, and ACE crew leader, Katherine Dickey, are overseeing this project. ACE is honored to participate in this effort to create a healthier ponderosa pine forest for the residents of Flagstaff.

Arizona Snowbowl Spruce Bark Beetle Removal

This August, an ACE Arizona chainsaw crew worked to remove the spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) from Flagstaff’s backyard ski area, Arizona Snowbowl. Crew leader Shelby Descamps provided excellent leadership to the ACE crew for two, eight-day projects.

 

The spruce beetle has caused extensive tree damage to all species of spruce throughout the West. In order to deposit their eggs, female bark beetles bore into the bark of dead or dying spruce trees and lay eggs in the underlying phloem tissue. While these beetles are a natural part of the ecosystem, inhabiting dead or dying trees, they often become overpopulated and infect living trees as well. A combination of natural factors that impact forest health such as drought, dense forest stands, fire suppression, and past grazing practices contribute to conditions that foster bark beetle outbreaks. In the past 25 years, outbreaks have resulted in estimated losses over 100 million acres in Arizona (U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service).

 

In attempt to prevent future tree loss, ACE partnered with the Arizona Snowbowl to remove the bark from fallen and dead trees to remove the larva. With a log debarker attachment for chainsaws, crewmembers were able to peel off the bark and remove the larva. ACE is proud to be working in the Flagstaff community to help preserve the spruce population.

 

Invasive Species Removal at Chimney Rock State Park

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

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

ACE Asheville and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) have been partnering on a variety of projects since 2014. Each year ACE provides approximately seven weeks of human power in the summer and seven weeks in the fall to the CMLC. Together we work to protect the natural communities and scenic beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge by managing the establishment and spread of non-native invasive plants. (Fun fact: the area is located near Lake Lure, North Carolina, which was the film site for Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans.)

The summer project was located at Chimney Rock State Park and was lead by ACE crew leader Jess Coffee-Johnson along with Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge’s (WACHNG) Natural Resource Manager, David Lee. We treated three priority invasive species: kudzu (Pueraria montana), princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa), and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). The crew treated the invasives by cutting the vines as well as using herbicide sprayers. Working in two groups, sprayers and brushers, the crew scaled the hillside in organized groups, each person in their designated section.

Kudzu spreads at approximately 150,000 acres per year, which is how it earned the nickname “the vine that ate the south.” This rapid spread is why ACE returns every year to treat and prevent the spread of these invasive species which compete for resources with native plants.

ACE will be returning to work with the CLMC in September to continue treatment.

 

 

 

Carriage Trail Restoration at Moses Cone Memorial Park

ACE partnered with the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation for an 18-week restoration project at Moses Cone Memorial Park. This national historic site receives 250,000 visitors a year and is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The park preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, a textile entrepreneur, naturalist and conservationist who lived in the late 1800s. It encompasses 3,500 acres including 25 miles of carriage trails now used for hiking and horseback riding, as well as a twenty-three-room mansion called Flat Top Manor.

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The primary objective of this project was to restore the 25 miles of carriage roads to their historic width. Lead by Corey Harrison, the crew accomplished this by brushing back vegetation with mechanized equipment including pole saws, chainsaws, and a wood chipper. By protecting and restoring the cultural landscape at Moses Cone, the ACE crew is providing sufficient width for carriages, horses, hikers, maintenance equipment, law enforcement patrols and rescue vehicles.

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Colorado Springs Rock Work and Trail Restoration

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

This past spring ACE Arizona had a crew working in Colorado Springs along side the University of Colorado.

The crew was working a trail system located along a hillside that cuts through the university campus. Due to its location on the hillside the trail has been subjected to erosion from rainfall. One of the crew’s main objectives was to fill in major ruts and holes along the trail as well as removing rocks that have been uncovered by rain.

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The crew’s goal was to build two armored drain pans that will direct the rain off the path and protect the trail from future erosion.  The eight day project was lead by crew leader, Nicole Cuaz

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The extensive rock work required the use of rock movers, rock drills, and trial and error to find the perfect rocks to fit the armored drain pans. The armored drain pans were supported by two multi-tier retaining walls which slow down the water flowing off of the armored drain pans.

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

The university is making an effort to expand and improve their trails systems to encourage students to hike and bike around campus as opposed to driving. The work was fully completed during this one project and will protect that trail for years to come. ACE was happy to lend a hand on this project and would like to thank the University of Colorado.

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

Garrapata State Park – Big Sur, California

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Since January of 2017 ACE California has had a crew working along the coast in Garrapata State Park. This ongoing project is the first in partnership with California State Parks, a relationship ACE hopes to continue to build in the years to come. The ACE crew has been lead by Kevin Magallanes since the start of the project and will continue to be lead by Kevin until its completion.

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ACE corps members have been working on two different projects with the California State Parks crew. Half of the crew were building wooden steps along the trail. With the use of drills, saws, and the frequent double checking of measurements the crew constructed the wooden base for a staircase that will later be filled with small rocks. These steps make the hike more easily traversable by reducing the trail’s steepness.

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The other half of the crew was building a multi-tier retaining wall which will be a lookout over the coast when it is completed. “Rock work is this strange meditative process,” explained Jesse Wherry who has been on the project for three months, “you can spend your entire day on something and in the end you just have to take it all down.” This extensive amount of rock building requires a lot of patience, skill, and experience from the crew members.

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The crew brought on three new members during this project who got to learn about both rock work and step building. This lookout is one of two multiple week long projects that the crew will complete for the trail. ACE looks forward to the continuation of this project over the upcoming months in the best office anyone could ever ask for.

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Arizona Trail – Four Peaks – Trail Restoration

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This past February, ACE Arizona had a crew working in the Four Peaks region located 40 miles northeast of Phoenix, on a section of the Arizona Trail. This is a part of an ongoing project to improve the condition of the Arizona Trail which in turn improves accessibility to the Mazatzal Wilderness. The Mazatzal Wilderness protects 252,500 acres of the Tonto and Coconino National Forests.

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 This project was lead by crew leader David Vayhinger. The work began just north of Mill Ridge trail head. The goal of the project was to create a stock bypass to get three projects worth of water up the trail for  future back-country projects. A section of trail was washed out by rain making the trail impassable to mules and stock animals and very difficult to pass for hikers. The crew had to reroute this area to create a passable section of trail.

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For the crew this meant creating rock steps which fit the requirements for pack animals. “It’s slightly more complicated to build steps for stock animals than for people”, explained crew leader David Vayhinger, “we need to consider everything from how high they are able to step to the width of tread that the mules need to make a turn”.

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Mules will be taking water up the trail for three back-country projects which will continue to work on passage twenty of the Arizona Trail. In addition to the rock steps the crew was doing general maintenance on the trail including brushing and tread widening.

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Currently ACE has two other ongoing projects along different areas of the Arizona Trail which all aim to improve the accessibility of the trail which extends from Mexico to Utah.

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Our ongoing work on the Arizona Trail has been very rewarding to not only our corps members but to our staff who have been dedicated to it’s restoration and preservation over the last several years. There will be approximately ten more projects working on this area of the Arizona Trail.

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ACE AZ – Grand Canyon National Park – South Kaibab Trail

ACE Arizona had a crew working in Grand Canyon National Park this past February. This was a two part project for our corps members. For the first part of the week the crew worked on clearing a rock slide on the Bright Angel Trail Project.

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Upon completion of the rock slide clean up efforts, the crew then hiked down to Phantom Ranch via the South Kaibab Trail where they stayed for the remainder of the project to do cyclical maintenance on the trail. The crew had the special opportunity to camp along the Colorado River with the NPS crew.

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The South Kaibab Trail is one of the main access routes to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon and frequently used by the parks mule teams. The crew worked on the lower half mile section of trail leading up to the Black Bridge.

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The crew was lead by David Vayhinger, who has worked on approximately eight different Grand Canyon projects in the past. David taught the crew how to clear water bars on the trail. Water bars are pertinent to the longevity of the trail because they direct water down the trail to the drainage points. Water bars and drains prevent the trail from becoming eroded which is crucial in the canyon because it is constantly being shaped by these natural forces.

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At the end of the week the crew worked on clearing the River Trail which runs along the Colorado River and hiked up to the rim on the second to last day to  assist with general grounds maintenance along the rim of the canyon.

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For some of the crew members it was their first time seeing and working in the Grand Canyon. Many thanks to our friends at the National Parks Service for allowing us to serve in this natural wonder of the world.

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ACE Arizona – Grand Canyon National Park – Bright Angel Trail

32095829134_9a1e4b74c5_h-1This past February ACE Arizona had a crew working in the Grand Canyon with the National Parks Service. The crew was led by ACE crew leader David Vayhinger. The crew spent the first two days of the project working a mile and a half down the Bright Angel Trail.32785443482_5d691e1028_h-1

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The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular trails in the canyon with multiple checkpoints and camping sites along the way as it winds it way down to the Colorado River. The Bright Angel Trail is one of the main access trails to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon.

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The warming temperatures and ice melt cause rock slides to be more frequent during this time of year. The crew was assisting the Park Service rangers in removing one rock slide in particular that made the trail impassable to the park’s mules. Half of the crew assisted with the rock slide while the other half of the crew made their way down to three mile point, clearing the trail from smaller rock slides and repairing check dams.

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The main rock slide at the mile and a half checkpoint was one large rock that covered the width of the trail. The crew assisted by directing hiking traffic and helped break apart this large rock with steel rods and drills. The rock needed to be taken apart in sections and then the crew used the rock fragments to build a rock wall along the trail. This work is particularly challenging in the canyon because the trail contains many switch backs. This means that the crew needed to use extreme caution to not lose any rocks into the canyon because the trail continuously loops back underneath the work site.

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With the assistance of ACE, the National Parks Service crew was able to clear the trail and the parks’ mules were able to continue canyon tours as well as packing in supplies to Phantom Ranch. It is an honor for ACE corps members and staff to be able to contribute to the conservation of this incredible national park.

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Riparian Health and Restoration in Moab, Utah

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ACE Utah is finishing a month long project in beautiful Moab, Utah. The goal of the project was to remove Russian Olive from Mill Creek. Mill Creek is located just minutes outside of downtown Moab and has seen ongoing restoration efforts.  Mill Creek is a popular hiking and swimming destination with several spots to see pictographs and petroglyphs.

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Russian Olive is a small deciduous tree that can grow fifteen to thirty feet in height. Growing roughly six feet per year Russian Olive can quickly crowd out desirable native riparian vegetation. Russian Olive’s ability to colonize stream banks can alter the natural flooding process and reduce availability of nutrients and moisture for native plant species which can result in the reduction of flora and fauna species diversity.

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The ACE Utah crew was lead by Krish Karau in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management. The crew was removing Russian Olive with chainsaws and then treating the stumps with herbicide to prevent regrowth. The slash from the Russian Olive was being set in various ways from being hauled out and chipped to being used as blockades for social trails as directed by Taylor Hohensee.

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The crew worked closely with EPIC intern and former Utah corps member, Taylor Hohensee throughout the duration of this project. Taylor’s focus in the EPIC internship with the BLM has been in riparian health and restoration.dsc_0925

Restoration efforts in Mill creek so far have significantly improved stream channelization and has seen the return of beavers to the area.

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Maricopa Trail – Prickly Pedal Bike Race Trail

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During the week of January 9th, 2017 ACE began work on the Prickly Pedal Mountain Bike Race Trail.

In agreement with the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, ACE will be working on this ongoing project over the next three years.dsc_8666

The Maricopa Trail helps preserve the wilderness of the Sonoran Desert by keeping foot and bike traffic concentrated to the trail. The crew lead by Ben Richard was clearing and repairing parts of the trail which included digging drains and making sure the clearance on the trail was wide and tall enough for bikers to pass.dsc_8502

The bike race took place along the northern section of Maricopa Trail in the Sonoran Desert on January 21st. The proceeds of the Prickly Pedal Mountain Bike Race will go to support the Maricopa Trail and Park Foundation.

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Wire Mesa Mountain Bike Trail Project – Utah

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The end of 2016 had a number of successful projects for ACE. To round out the year our ACE Utah had a crew working in Wire Mesa located about 40 minutes east of Hurricane Utah. This ACE crew was lead by Roderick Flannery with the objective to build a mountain biking trail.

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Wire Mesa and surrounding areas are prominent destinations for mountain bikers. The project has been working closely in partnership with the Saint George Bureau of Land Management and the Dixie Mountain Bike Trails Association from planning and design to approval.

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This trail has had to be rerouted and altered to protect many archaeological sites as well Pinyon and Juniper trees, some of which are over 500 years old. Part of the trail travels along an open ridge and overlooks some of the area’s stunning red rock formations.

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There will be one more crew going out to this site to finish the 6.4 miles of trail. The crew was given a mountain bike on loan to test the trails width and to aid in the planning of the route. Mountain bikes require a wider path for turns and higher clearance from trees. The crew is clearing the path by manually with handsaws and chainsaws as well as clearing rocks and other obstacles from the route.

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Lake Mead – Song Dog Native Plant Nursery

dsc_3249-2This past October 2016 an ACE Arizona crew, in partnership with the National Park Service, was working at Song Dog Native Plant Nursery in Lake Mead, Nevada. The scope of the project was to prepare the greenhouse and nursery to host new plants.30588307046_f23f35f14a_k

The crew was a compilation of corps members from ACE’s California and Arizona branches led by crew leader, Morgane Rigney

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The goal is to get over 30,000 seedlings to a plantable size by next year for restoration projects. ACE’s efforts were focused on helping the nursery reach this goal by assisting with an array of different tasks.dsc_3705

The nursery salvages plants that have been saved from natural disaster or construction sites, as well as raising their own plants. The crew helped clean up plant storage areas, washed pots for new plants, recycled soil from plants that didn’t make it and sowed Joshua Tree seeds.30507395192_bfc779aa64_k

Crew members prepared the cartridges for the seeds, mixed the soil, and then placed the Joshua Tree seeds into the cartridges. The nursery has a goal of over 10,000 Joshua Trees for the future. In the past crews have also assisted in the cleaning and drying of plant seeds. 30624321805_e45d52ab18_k

This project will continue into next year with crews weeding, planting and building fence for the nursery.

 

 

 

The Cottonwood Trail Project – Kanab, Utah

kanab-5ACE has been working in partnership with Kanab, BLM Field Office (Bureau of Land Management) for nine hitches over the past several months on the Cottonwood Trail located west of the town of Kanab, UT. The planning, design, and approval of the Cottonwood Trail has been in the works for nearly 18 years and has culminated this year with ACE constructing 3.5 miles of brand new trail.kanab-4

When complete the trail will connect the Cottonwood Trail to a road that will provide users access to local road that will create a 20-mile loop for trail users. The trail is being constructed to accommodate hikers and equestrian users and will establish a sustainable route for trail users to access the beauty of the red rock bluffs and distant views of the Kaibab Plateau. kanab

This week the crew is being led by Brandon Lester.  The crew is working to build a series of “check steps” on one section of the trail and complete the final stone wall on the final switchback of the trail. The check steps are being created to slow down the water and to reduce rutting along the trail by reducing the steep grade of the trail and providing areas where water can be diverted from the trail. On another section of the trail, the other half of the crew is building a stone retaining wall to support a switchback designed to elevate the trail to the top of a ridge.kanab-3