This past February, ACE Arizona had a crew working in the FourPeaks 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
We took a trip down to Saguaro National Park to visit Epic Intern Paige Lambert who has been with ACE since June of last year. Paige let us tag along for a border impact survey where she shared her ACE experience with us. Thanks Paige!
Can you tell me a little bit about your background? (Where are you from? What did you study? What got you interested in ACE?)
I am originally from Houston, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. My degree required extensive fieldwork experience, which enabled and inspired me to find a job working as a biological science technician after graduation. The dream was to work for the National Park Service, as visiting and exploring different National Parks is one of my favorite hobbies. During my job search, I found that ACE offered internships with NPS for recent graduates like me. I applied for a job with the resource management division at Saguaro National Park, and when they offered me the position, I didn’t need much convincing to accept it.
How did you find about ACE and can you tell me about your transition from being in college to being an EPIC intern?
I found ACE simply by Googling conservation jobs. Three weeks after I graduated from school, I packed up my car and drove across the southwest to move to my new home in Tucson. I remember being worried about if I would succeed at my new job, and if college had truly prepared me for the “real world”. My supervisors and crew leads ended up being great mentors to help me navigate through this transitional time; they expected me to put forth my best effort, but were patient and understanding while I figured things out. Over time, I built my confidence and I gained independence and initiative.
What is a typical day like for you?
There truly is no typical day at my job. The only consistent aspect of my time with ACE has been starting every morning with a gorgeous sunrise as I lace up my boots for a day in the field. My days have varied anywhere from scorching hot afternoons mapping invasive grass species, to freezing mornings searching for tracks and spotting deer with binoculars, to meeting with park visitors and volunteers to educate them about resource management. The variety keeps me on my toes so that I am always challenged to do something new and never grow complacent.
What has been a highlight for you?
A valuable highlight in this internship has been connecting with like-minded people who share similar goals and values that I hold. The people that I work with have also chosen to make a commitment to preserving and protecting our country’s resources, and working with them every day brings a new sense of hope and appreciation to the cause. A spirit of camaraderie in the field is oftentimes what makes the difference between a positive, constructive field day and a frustrated, aggravated field day.
What has been the most challenging part of being an EPIC intern?
To be completely honest, this lifestyle is not cozy and not for everyone. It takes mental grit, physical endurance, and a creatively frugal mindset to make it work. In the most challenging moments, it can be hard to remember the importance of the work that you are doing, and the impact that you are making. It is crucial to be able to keep the long-term goal in mind, and reflect on what truly matters at the end of the day.
If you could give someone going into your position some words of advice what would you say?
Strive for excellence and self-improvement every day, even in small matters. As an ACE intern, you will be exposed to new territory that can seem intimidating, but face it head on with confidence and you will take away a brand new skill set. You have an opportunity to gain mentors who are leaders and trail blazers in their field, so don’t let a chance to learn from them pass you by. Most importantly, always be a team player- encourage your teammates, and only compete against yourself. Everyone knows something that you don’t know, so be open to learning from anyone you meet.
Where do you see this position taking you in the future?
This position has given me a fresh conviction that I am able to contribute valuable and meaningful work towards a worthy cause. It has reaffirmed my mission to build a career in environmental protection and conservation, and has provided me with a solid foundation to work from. My path in this mission is still undefined: I may continue to pursue resource management, I might go to school for environmental law, or I may enter the non-profit sector. Whatever path I take, I know that my time with ACE has served as my conservation trail-head.
In honor of AmeriCorps Week ACE Utah partnered with the St. George BLM for a Volunteer Service Project at the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.
The ACE corps members worked with the St George Field Office wildlife biologist to remove invasive Russian thistle plants and did a little spring cleaning around a historic cabin located in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.
This recreation area is part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a special cooperatively managed area north of St. George, UT that was set aside to preserve and protect habitat for the endangered Desert Tortoise.
The crew also worked to rehabilitate disturbance along the entrance road from a recent pipeline installation. The crew worked to naturalize the disturbed area to improve the aesthetic appearance along the entrance road as well as allow a more suitable site for native vegetation to re-establish.
1 MILLION Individuals who have served as AmeriCorps members since 1994. 1.4 BILLION Hours served by AmeriCorps members. $3.3 BILLION Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards earned by AmeriCorps members. $1 BILLION Resources from private, philanthropic, and other sources leveraged by AmeriCorps programs each year. 80,000 AmeriCorps members this year. 2.3 MILLION Community volunteers managed or mobilized by AmeriCorps members each year. 21,600 Unique sites that AmeriCorps members served last year
ACE has proudly been involved with the AmeriCorps program since 2009.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Restoration efforts in Mill creek so far have significantly improved stream channelization and has seen the return of beavers to the area.
On Friday February 17th, 2017 a group of ACE Arizona corps members participated in a volunteer service project with Flagstaff Family Farms. The group was helping with seeding new plants, sifting soil for mulch, andmarking swale lines. The swale was marked on contour for water retention. In the future the marked lines for the swale will be built up with organic matter. As water moves downhill the swale slows the water down and then sinks the water. Trees and other vegetation will then be able to draw from this water and nutrient source.The owners, Tyler Allenbaugh and his wife bought the farm just over a year ago and started working with ACE in May of 2016. The farm attributes much of its success to the help of ACE volunteers. Every few weeks ACE sends corps members to help with farm related projects, the volunteers have aided in every part of the growing process.
Mr. Allenbaugh stated that last year their goal was to be able to feed five families a week and the farm ended up producing enough to support twenty families a week through restaurants, farmers markets and CSA food shares.
The farm aims to enhance Flagstaff’s local food economy by providing locally grown produce to farmers markets and restaurants.
ACE Arizona had a crew on a three day project in the Petrified Forest National Park. The crew was planning on working on the ground maintenance around the housing units in the park and were able to complete a weeding project for the park.
Inclement weather sometimes detours our plans. Outdoor projects are sometimes postponed due to the weather in the area where crews are working. For this project the access road the crews were to use was flooded and inaccessible.
When weather changes our project plans our crews make the best use of their time by building relationships with the National Park Service employees. The park rangers were kind enough to take the crew on an educational hike through the park. They went into detail about how the Petrified Forest came to be and showed the crew members some of the easily overlooked details.
Petrified wood is a fossil that forms when the wood is covered in sediment. When the wood is buried under the sediment the wood is protected from decay. Over time the plant material in the wood is replaced by silica, calcite and pyrite.
Thank you to our friends at NPS – Petrified Forest for hosting us and giving our corps members a wonderful service learning opportunity.
During the week of January 11th, 2017, an ACE Arizona crew began trail maintenance on the Lime Kiln Trail in Dead Horse Ranch State Park. This 15 mile trail connects Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood to Red Rock State Park in Sedona. This historic trail was once used by horse drawn wagons to transport local produce, wine and bricks between communities in the Verde Valley.
Jimmy Gregson, ACE Conservation Trainer and Coordinator, teaches new crew members about building sustainable trails.
Today the trail is use by mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers looking to get out and enjoy the valley’s landscapes and travel along parts of the historic wagon road. In celebration of the US Forest Service’s 100th birthday in 2005 the trail was listed as a Centennial Trail. The ACE crew worked closely with the US Forest Service on this project.
ACE crew worked closely with the US Forest Service Crew.
This project was a first for most of our corps members who just began with ACE at the start of the year. This team was led by Senior Crew Leader John Donovan. The crew was taken on a threatened species walk with the US Forest Service’s Wildlife Biologist and were shown Hohokam agave, Tonto Basin agave, heath leaf wild buckwheat, hualapai milkwort, ripely buckwheat, Arizona cliffrose and Verde Valley sage so that they could avoid damaging these plants during trail work.
ACE crew being taught by US Forest Service’s Wildlife Biologist about the threatened plants along the Lime Kiln Trail.
This is the third project in the Redrocks region and ACE plans to continue sending crews to the area until March. The crews will be maintaining the trail while preserving the threatened plant species and the historic rock walls throughout the trail.
The new ACE Phoenix Field School Crew started their 16-week education and field certification program last week.
During last week’s orientation, the Phoenix-based ACE crew geared up for an exciting field season learning about the different ecosystems of Arizona, pertinent conservation issues in the Southwest, and field leadership and team-building activities, as well as participating in ACE Restoration and Trails Theory training’s.
Follow ACE’s page to learn all about the different projects that our ACE Field School crew will work on during the next 16 weeks!
The ACE Field School program is in partnership with the BLM Phoenix District Office, Arizona Call-a-Teen Youth Resources (ACYR), and Phoenix College.
Meet EPIC intern Sam Dillon. Sam spent this past season working at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
He just recently extended his time there to assist with a big Volunteer Day engaging the public to assist with the maintenance of “Lonely Dell” an Historical District of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Sam’s internship duties are varied but he has been integral in assisting the Branch of Cultural Resources Chief and the Park Archaeologist at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on various cultural resources management assignments, focused mainly on archaeology.
Sam also supports the Graffiti Removal and Intervention Team (GRIT). The primary task is to clear areas through conducting NHPA Section 106 on areas identified for graffiti removal around Lake Powell. Includes fieldwork, research, monitoring, and record keeping.
Supporting GLCA’s archaeologist in implementing the Off Road Vehicle Management Plan Programmatic Agreement is also part of Sam’s internship duties. This requires him to survey, work on archaeological reports, research, and complete GIS work. He is also assisting in Section 106 compliance included field survey and inventory, collections management, tribal relations, and cultural resource stewardship planning.
Thanks to Sam for his hard work and sharing his EPIC Experience!
This 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.
The crew was a compilation of corps members from ACE’s California and Arizona branches led by crew leader, Morgane Rigney
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.
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.
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.
This project will continue into next year with crews weeding, planting and building fence for the nursery.
An ACE crew assembled from Utah and Arizona just finished a month at the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. San Andres National Wildlife Refuge’s was established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt ‘for the conservation and development of natural wildlife resources.
In the beginning the refuges main focus was on the declining population of big horn sheep. In 1941 there was an estimated 31-33 animals left in that area. This refuge is unique as it is within the boundaries of the 2.2 million-acre White Sands Missile Range, which restricts public access on these pristine lands.
The crews main objective was to cut and treat Salt Cedar. Salt cedar Tamarix chinensis is a tree that is from Central Asia. It was introduced into the western United States for erosion control purposes in the early 1900’s and has spread throughout the western United States. Once established on the refuge it out competed and eliminated all other trees. It is found primarily along the refuge springs and streams. Large density of of these trees uses large amounts of water and will take over a spring to the point that the surface water often disappears. This can be detrimental to all native species that depend on the limited water in a desert environment. To combat it, refuge staff cut the trees and applies an herbicide.
ACE Southwest is approaching its six-year anniversary of installing four solar photovoltaic systems on its member housing properties in Flagstaff. ACE aims to prevent financial hardship for stipended Corps Members through providing free housing during their project off-days. ACE is equally dedicated to reducing its greenhouse gas footprint and mitigating climate change through replacing its non-renewable electricity generating sources with Arizona’s indefinite supply of solar energy.
In the fall of 2010, ACE was awarded $50,000 from Arizona Department of Commerce in addition to $26,000 in rebates from Arizona Public Service Company to install solar systems on four ACE member housing units. Local solar provider, Prometheus Solar installed the systems and continues to ensure that the systems perform at the optimal level.
Between the spring of 2011 and September 2016, the four ACE solar systems have collectively produced 117 Megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity. 117 million watt hours of electricity powered by ACE’s solar systems offset the equivalent of 82 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the carbon offset equivalent of 2,127 trees. That combined level of solar electricity production is the greenhouse gas equivalent of approximately 17 passenger vehicles driving for an entire year OR the CO2 emission equivalent to 87,742 pounds of coal being burned, 9,252 gallons of gasoline being consumed or 2,915 incandescent lamps being switched to LEDs!
All solar systems have been operating strong at ACE Southwest since 2011, collectively producing 1.7 MWh of solar energy and the carbon offset equivalent of 2,706 lbs. (32 trees) in August. ACE is proud of its systems and seeks to continue advancing a clean energy future. ACE was able to calculate its greenhouse gas and CO2 emission equivalencies using the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions calculator located here.
For the last six weeks ACE has had crews out on Little Bear Trail in the Coconino National Forest, just outside of Flagstaff, in partnership with the Flagstaff Ranger District. The trail has been popular for mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians in the past. However, in the past years, wildfires and floods have kept the trail closed due to unsafe conditions on the trail.
Friday October 14th, was the last day of work on the ongoing six week project to rebuild the trail back into safe and usable condition. ACE has worked on different parts of this trail over the last several years. In 2011 crews worked on the bottom of the trail. However, major flood damage occurred in 2013 which buried the work that had been done. The project partners decided to let the mountain rest for some time before continuing to work on the trail to assess whether working on the trail would be beneficial or counterproductive with the past erosion.
Once the mountain was deemed safe to work on this project began to reroute the trail in areas where it had been blown out by the flood. ACE crews lead by Stephen Farmer and Trails Coordinator, Mark Loseth have been focusing on the top section of the trail. The work has consisted of rock and log work to rebuild the trails in 11 different areas in which the trail was blown out by the flood damage. The Flagstaff Bike Organization has also put together several volunteer groups that have worked on the bottom of the trail.
ACE is extremely proud of all of our staff, crews and corps members who have participated in the rehabilitation of this trail over the years. A thank you to our project partner, Coconino National Forest and the other organizations that have volunteered or donated to the maintenance of the Little Bear Trail.
A few weeks ago, ACE caught up with a crew that was working in Holbrook, AZ, constructing a trail that will allow the public to access an area that includes cultural and historical features. Our photojournalist rejoined the crew as they neared the end of their second 8-day hitch, and the completion of the project.
The corps members created 4 staircases by drilling and shaping boulders found in the area. Rock work can be tedious and requires a lot of mental endurance. “The work tested our patience, but in a good way,” said corps member Cynthia Dimnik. “It’s a really awesome feeling to see the completed project,” added corps member Natalia Guzman.
The crew completed 1 mile of trail that will enable visitors to safely view the petroglyphs that adorn the boulders in the area, and to enjoy the geological beauty of the desert scenery.
Project Partner Randy Sullivan, who works for the City of Holbrook, explained that “these trails will definitely make the area safer for visitors. And years from now, these kids can look back on their work here and be proud of it.”
Yesterday, a crew began a project in Prescott National Forest brushing the corridor for a re-route of the Ranch Trail, which lies just 20 minutes outside of Prescott. ACE partnered with USFS for this project. The original trail alignment runs along a ridge and drops down in several areas in an un-sustainable fashion, and because of the steepness, normal drains cannot be installed–thus the need for the reroute.
After the crews clear the corridor, Forest Service employees will then follow with a trail dozer to cut the tread. The plan for this 8 day hitch is to complete 3 miles of clearing, establishing a corridor 6 to 8 feet wide. The work involves multiple sawyers cutting scrub oak and other vegetation that is growing in the path of the proposed trail, and then several corps members following behind and moving the slash (cut vegetation) off trail and out of sight.
The creation of this reroute will ensure that the trail is sustainable and can be used by the public for years to come.
Last week our resident photojournalist, Rose, spent some time with ACE Utah (you’ll see more of her travels later in the week). Rose also had the chance to sit down for a chat with Jake Powell, the (quite new) Director of ACE Utah.
Rose: How long have you been working for ACE, and what was your position before you started here?
Jake: I have been with ACE since March 2015. Prior to working with ACE I was the Upper Weber Watershed Coordinator. I worked with private landowners, local governments, Federal and State agencies and Non-profit organizations to do watershed planning, water quality monitoring and improvement projects, and stream restoration and aquatic habitat projects.
Examining low-stumped Tamarisk which is necessary to fully remove the invasive.
What does your position entail?
I see myself as one of the supports to our staff and crew leaders, my job is to make their job more effective. I also see my position as working alongside the Utah staff and Intermountain Region staff to establish a long-term vision for ACE Utah and begin to take strategic steps towards fulfilling that vision.
How has your experience with the organization been so far?
Working with ACE has been amazing. The people that work here as staff and the corps members that come to ACE are inspiring (ACEr: #ACEinspires)! There is so much enthusiasm and passion for the work that ACE does that one can’t help but get engulfed in the ACE culture from the minute you start working here. One of the most impressive things about ACE is its commitment to quality throughout each phase of a project. From the contract, to the work, to the final reports, everyone works incredibly hard to make each detail the best it can be. It is an honor to work for an organization that feels that way about its work.
Explaining the importance of the work the crew is doing, and listing the detrimental effects of the two invasive species in the area, Tamarisk and Russian Olive. These two species use much more water than other native plants. This is harmful to the native vegetation and also means there is less water to flow downstream. Furthermore, few animals will eat Russian Olive and Tamarisk, and since these plants take over riparian areas and diminish native species, the food source of animals is depleted.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Highland, Utah.
Why did you get into the conservation field?
I have many cherished memories and had many formative experiences while being outdoors as a young kid. My education exposed me to the reality that human kind has not always been kind to the systems that keep us all alive. I also realized that we have the capacity to engage and improve the natural systems that surround us and that work in conservation was a noble career. I worked as a designer trying to provide those experiences for others in artificial systems for several years but found that working to conserve and improve natural systems was much more satisfying. It is amazing to work in a career that literally makes the world a better place! It also provides an opportunity to work alongside a lot of really amazing, passionate, happy people.
You are really passionate about rivers and watershed maintenance. How does this passion play into your current position?
Water is a fascinating resource that indicates so much about what we value ecologically and socially. It is also something that connects everyone, so I am always fascinated when I observe how water is taken care of, used or abused. Rivers and riparian systems are also the life-blood of the west and so much ecology is packed into them that I think they become fantastic classrooms for our corps members. I am trying right now to develop relationships with more people that do riparian restoration that goes beyond invasive plant removal and gets into restoring stream form and function. I think it would be a great experience for corps members and provide a taste of working in a very complex and interconnected ecological system.
What is your favorite National Park?
My favorite park right now is Sequoia National Park. I love places that warp my sense of scale and help me realize that human beings are a small organism in nature’s grant scheme. Sequoia definitely does that for me.
What’s your favorite food to eat in the backcountry?
Pop tarts! I know that Pop tarts aren’t real backcountry food, nor real food at all, but I am not sure how they pack so much deliciousness into such a small package! The backcountry is a perfect place to celebrate that kind of ingenuity.
Jake takes a moment to consider the what flavor Pop Tart he will take on his next backcountry venture.
Our latest blog post comes from contributor and Southern California Development Director Kyle Gunderman who recently went along for ACE California’s Crosscut Saw Training weekend.
Last weekend I had the good fortune of being able to attend a Crosscut saw training and work trip hosted by Todd Brockman of the Wilderness Corps. I was joined by ACE California Crew Leader Dennis Frenier, Assistant Crew Leader Justin Cosmo, and AmeriCorps Member Kat Lundy.
The training took place on the Summit Trail in the Golden Trout Wilderness which lies within the Sequoia National Forest. This popular backpacking trail just west of Maggie mountain leads up to a series of Alpine lakes that are home to California’s state fish the Golden Trout. The 8 mile section that the crew focused on had no less than 21 downed trees across the trail. This results in the creation of ‘social trails’; as people avoid the obstacles they create often unsustainable alternative trails. This in turn leads to an increased risk of trail erosion.
Through two days of hard work we removed all 21of these trees, decommissioned the social trails, and dramatically improved the passability of the trail. Now livestock and hikers can travel all the way to Jacobsen Meadow without having to worry about navigating an impassable trail. Here’s a big thank you to Sequoia National Forest and the Wilderness Corps for hosting ACE and giving us an opportunity to hone our traditional crosscut skills on some very technical trees.