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Lime Kiln Trail – Sedona, Arizona

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

San Andres National Wildlife Refuge

p1000492-2An 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.p1000510-2

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.

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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.

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Restoration | Bitter Lake NWR

A crew of 6 just finished a month long hitch doing restoration work at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Bitter Lake Refuge sits above an aquifer, running down from the Capitan Mountains to the west of Roswell NM, and eventually feeds into the Pecos River. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer was part of the project and shared his experiences of the project.

Being monsoon season in the south west, the crew would watch storms form over the solitary peak outside of Roswell. Sadly, the rain rarely reached the refuge to cool the crew. However even though the rain was not always there to cool the crew, they did get to witness firsthand how the water falling in the northern range would be absorbed into the system, before being pushed up towards the surface forming brackish sinkholes and leached through spring-like vents and feeding creeks and rivers throughout the refuge. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer stated that this refuge is “truly an unsuspecting place, and, as the refuge’s visitor center tour heavily emphasized, it really is an oasis in the desert. It may seem cliche, but a closer examination of the geographical properties of this place helped put this project’s importance in perspective for me.”

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The ACE crew worked with US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) refuge staff on many of the projects and began to understand how complex restoration work is. Peter explained: “Bitter Lake struck me as a great demonstration of how uniquely balanced the desert (or any ecosystem for that matter) can be for creating a plethora of life that has evolved in congruence with the terrain. The flora in the area love the brackish water; the bugs certainly don’t mind either. There are 5 endangered species on the [Bitter Lake] refuge, most of which live in and around these vents and sinkholes. They are dependent on the land and water with which they are so uniquely intertwined, and ACE’s efforts in the past few years have been within these areas, which had been heavily affected by invasive flora. While I have worked on other restoration projects that were in the early or middle stages of treatment, I began to see how this multi-year process of hard work can pay off in truly restoring and balancing these incredibly unique area around the refuge.”

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During the final days of the project, Corps members were able to plant native grasses along one of the creeks, and within the next year or two these species to proliferate. “It’s a good example of that tortoise/hare (or jack-rabbit) mentality, which has been hard for me to learn how to accomplish and improve upon while being in ACE. It seems that good restoration work requires an innately slow, careful touch in order to be successful. Missing a plant that can pollinate and spread seed over an area means that the end goal gets pushed back further. Treating ten miles of river in a day may sound good on a project report, but it may mean that the true goal of these kinds of projects was missed. I could see how ACE had fulfilled that necessity at Bitter Lake, and I hope that our crew continued in producing that high quality of work and diligence”, Peter added.

Thanks to the crew for their hard work on the project, and to Peter for taking the time to share his experiences.

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