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For all the latest ACE news.

Brazilian Peppertree Removal – Padre Island National Seashore

This past summer, ACE Texas – Gulf Coast worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to remove invasive Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthefolia) on Padre Island National Seashore, located off the Gulf Coast of Texas. At 70 miles long, Padre Island remains the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and boasts a rich cultural history of nomadic hunters and gatherers, Spanish shipwreck survivors and ranchers, among others.  Beginning in 1941, Padre Island was established as a Naval Air Station and aerial bombing range, serving as the largest naval pilot training facility in the world through WWII. Today, the island is both a popular tourist destination and crucial habitat for a diverse number of animals and insects, including over 380 bird species and several endangered sea turtles.

The Texas crew, directed by Crew Leader Stefan Brisita, poses in the middle of a fresh-cut stand of Brazilian peppertree before applying chemical treatment.

For this project, the ACE – Texas crew spent a few days on the main island working with NPS botanists and ecologists to search for Brazilian peppertree seedlings in areas that were once completely inundated prior to treatment. Corpsmembers formed a walking grid in order to track and eradicate any new growth of peppertree in its earliest stage. The team gridded almost 200 acres while hand pulling invasive seedlings before moving to the adjacent Pepper Island to begin chemical treatment.

Originally from South America, the Brazilian peppertree, or “Florida holly”, was favored for its ornamental flowers and pink-red berries. While beautiful, these berries cause minor to severe allergic reactions in humans and are extremely toxic to bird species. The tree’s sap can produce skin reactions similar to those associated with poison ivy in sensitive individuals and will release particle toxins into the air when burned. The tree itself is considered highly invasive due to its toxicity to native soil and plants, along with its ability to spread quickly via seed dispersion and create independent basal shoots from stumps and horizontal root.

Southwest Texas Project Manager Josh Kalman stands next to a mature stand of Brazilian peppertree.

For the Texas division’s first official backcountry project, the crew took six trips via small boat to transport all necessary gear and supplies to the work site. Members used chainsaws and herbicide to slash and treat invasive Brazilian peppertree via the cut-stump method—a selective, systemic treatment designed to kill the tree at the roots with minimal impact to the surrounding area. Cut trunks and limbs were stacked into piles to avoid further dispersion, as well as to allow for new growth of native vegetation. Over 480 work hours on Pepper Island, the crew took out just under an acre of densely-packed peppertree.

While completing work on Padre Island National Seashore, the Texas corpsmembers also had the unique opportunity to attend an official turtle release with NPS, where 11 juvenile Pacific Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) were released  to begin their journey into the surf. Padre Island provides safe nesting areas for all five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico, including the endangered kemp’s ridley, hawksbill, green, and leatherback sea turtles, as well as the classified threatened loggerhead sea turtle.

A corpsmember uses gloves to carefully release a green sea turtle into the water.

 

Green turtles are transported safely in large totes before being released.

To find out more about Padre Island National Seashore’s history, nature, and activities, please visit the NPS website here.

Grand Canyon National Park | North Kaibab Trail

Every year our crews tie up their boots and head into the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon was one of the first project partners ACE ever had and our partnership continues to strengthen and grow as time goes on. This year our Southwest crew had the opportunity to go backcountry on the North Rim of the Canyon. The North Kaibab trail is the most strenuous route out of the canyon with steep switchbacks and stunning views. Many who visit the park find it surprising that, despite only being 24 miles from the south rim to the north rim as the crow flies, it actually takes about four hours to drive.On a Wednesday morning, our crew led by Carina Zenti geared up and began hiking into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail. “Part of what makes working in the canyon so different from working in other areas is the sheer amount of people that visit. We get more compliments on our work here and the visitors are always really grateful that we are here maintaining the trails,” said Zenti. The canyon receives more than 5 million visitors each year, making it the second most visited park in the US. Of those 5 million, about 80% will hike at least one to two miles into the canyon and about 11% will take the trails to the bottom. This amount of foot traffic in addition to the natural course of erosion in the canyon calls for constant trail maintenance.
The ACE crew spent seven days camped approximately five miles into the canyon. Each day they performed cyclical maintenance on the trail which includes fixing and improving drains, clearing loose rocks from the trail, smoothing the tread and working on any other general issues with the trail that need attention. The crew also worked with the NPS staff to guard the trail while they worked on a rock slide. It is always a privilege for our corps members to work in the canyon alongside the National Park Service staff.

 

https://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

El Yunque National Forest | Puerto Rico

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, ACE Puerto Rico has been hard at work to reopen trails in the El Yunque National Forest. To give some background, ACE Puerto Rico was established in 2015 with its first project partner at San Juan National Historic Site (NPS). The branch has now expanded its’ reach to the east side of the island. Hurricane Maria hit soon after ACE and the US Forest Service began its partnership in El Yunque and fixing the damage has been the primary focus for the ACE crew. The crew members at this branch are all Puerto Rican locals, many of whom grew up in communities surrounding the forest. 

El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest within the US national forest system and provides 10% of the water for the whole island. The forest is located in the northeastern region of the island on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains. At 28,000 acres, it is the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico. “This forest is a powerful symbol for this community,” said crew leader Alberto Rivera, “I think for the rest of the island, the east is the Yunque.” The heavy rainfall creates a jungle-like setting with tree ferns, palms, and lush foliage as well as waterfalls and forest creatures, including the critically endangered Puerto Rican amazon parrot.

 In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated many areas around the island, including El Yunque. Many of the buildings and trails in the forest that were closed for repairs have since been reopened through the efforts of the US Forest Service and the ACE crew! El Yunque is a resilient forest that has recovered tremendously on its own from the initial damage of the hurricane but continues to see the effects of the immense rainfall and high winds. These impacts include down trees, debris clogging drains along the trail and road, and damage to the facilities within the forest. 

For some of the crew members this is their first job, Rivera stated, “ACE El Yunque has given the opportunity for young adults to learn valuable life skills, connect with nature, and create a second family. We’ve had the opportunity to learn and work side by side with El Yunque’s watershed, heritage, ecosystem, operations, and public services team on different projects.” The crew is comprised of Rivera and four community members, Estefany Gonzalez, Jan Carrasquillo, Wesley Santos, and Bryan Carrasquillo, who recently began employment with the US Forest Service. Over the last year, the crew has repainted the Yokahu Tower, performed trail maintenance on 13 miles of trail and helped open over six different trails, logged out over 70 trees, maintained forest roads and facilities, and assisted with volunteer groups. It’s safe to say that it has been a very busy and productive first year for this crew. ACE is so proud to be a part of El Yunque’s recovery and continued grandeur.

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/elyunque/

Corps to Careers | Jessie Snow

 

If you have ever wondered how to land the dream job of being a park ranger, we have the video for you! Our Corps to Career series highlights federal employees who got their start with ACE. Jessie Snow started with ACE as a corpsmember in Arizona, moved up to an EPIC internship in the Great Smoky Mountains and is now working as an NPS Education Ranger and will be leading an ACE YCC crew this summer while using her education award from ACE to complete her master’s degree! Talk about full circle! Watch the video below for her full story and to experience the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains landscape!

Three Sisters Trail | US Forest Service

In the Cleveland National Forest, ACE Pacific West South partnered with the US Forest Service to work on the Three Sisters Trail. The trail is located just outside of Descanso, CA and leads to a beautiful waterfall.

Specifically, in 2018, American Conservation Experience crews completed a reroute of the final 0.5 miles of the Three Sisters Falls Trail. The trail was previously unsustainable and dangerous, leading to an increase in injuries and evacuations. In particular, the last mile of the trail required ropes to scale down a steep, quickly eroding slope which was causing many of the injuries on the trail. The erosion from hikers was impacting the hillside and the creekbed below.

During the second half of 2018, the crew finished the final 0.2 miles of the reroute and widened and stabilized the tread and benching work. The crew also built rock structures such as junk walls, retaining walls, and rock steps. At the end of 2018, the crew had put in 0.56 miles of new tread, brushed 1.09 miles of corridor, and built 10 retaining walls, 5 junk walls, and 31 rock steps! ACE is continuing work with Cleveland National Forest in 2019!

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/cleveland/

 

 

Mammoth Cave National Park | First Creek Trail

This spring and summer ACE Southeast is continuing to work in partnership with Mammoth Cave National Park. While this stunning national park is known for its expansive cave system and its’ role in American history, it also has dozens of front and backcountry trails for visitors to enjoy above ground.


This year the crew is working on the lower half of the First Creek Trail for approximately six weeks. The crew is being led by ACE crew leader Jacob Graham. Prior to the ACE crew working on the trail, the conditions were rocky and steep, with many exposed roots and washouts. The erosion caused by these conditions were negatively impacting both hikers and horseback riders using the trail.

The crew worked to improve the trail by putting in water bars, drains, and a bridge over a creek crossing.  The bridge was built with both hikers and equestrians in mind. ACE is proud to be continuing work with this incredible national park!

 

https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/news/first-creek-trail-work.htm

 

 

Congratulations to Porsha Dossie

Today ACE is celebrating the achievements of ACE/EPIC Fellow, Porsha Ra’Chelle Dossie.  Porsha is an emerging public historian from Miami, Florida specializing in black history, urban studies, and the postwar era.

She is currently serving at the National Park Service, Park History Program in Washington, D.C., serving as the lead program assistant for the African American Civil Rights Network (AACRN), a national network charged with engaging the public in the rich history of the Civil Rights Movement through historical sites. 

The President of the National Council for Public History, Marla Miller handing Porsha the New Professional Award.

Porsha was recently awarded the National Council on Public History’s New Professional Award. She was also just awarded the Governor LeRoy Collins Award for Best Post-Graduate Thesis from the Florida Historical Society.

Pictured left to right: Porsha Dossie, Dr. Turkiya Lowe, NPS Chief Historian, Dr. Kelly Spradley-Kurowski, Staff Historian and National Coordinator for the African American Civil Rights Network.

Porsha’s passion for representation and equity in our cultural institutions led her to the
Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 where
she was a Minority Awards Fellow in the Curatorial Affairs department. In January 2018
she joined the National Park Service as a National Council for Preservation Education Intern.

Porsha with her fellow student project award winners.

Porsha received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History (2014) and Master of Arts in Public History (2018) both at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Her scholarship, community service, and teaching practice have won her numerous accolades, including various grants, fellowships, and the Order of Pegasus, the University of Central Florida’s most prestigious student award.

Porsha received the Governor LeRoy Collins Award for best postgraduate thesis in Cape Canaveral, Florida this past week.

ACE/EPIC is thrilled to see Porsha’s hard work and dedication recognized.  Congratulations Porsha!
For more information on the Park History Program through the National Park Service click here: NPS Park History Program

 

Kolomoki State Park | Trails

This April, ACE Southeast worked with Kolomoki Mounds State Park in southwestern Georgia near the Chattahoochee River. Kolomoki Mounds is one of the largest and earliest Woodland period earthwork mound complexes in the Southeastern United States. The mounds were inhabited by Woodland Indians from 350 to 750 AD. The Iroquois, Cherokee, and Mound Builders are referred to as Eastern Woodland Indians because they inhabited the forests of the East.

The historic significance draws people into the park but there is also a wide range of outdoor activities to take part in once you are there including fishing, boating, camping, and hiking. ACE is partnering with this state park for the first time to work on trails that were impacted by Hurricane Micheal in October of 2018. Hurricane Micheal was the first class five hurricane to hit the contiguous United States since 1992. The high winds caused trees to blow over on the trail resulting in temporary trail closure.

The crew worked at the site for five days with chainsaws, handsaws and other brushing hand tools. The crew, led by ACE crew leader, Nicole Macnamee cleared 105 logs along 3.5 miles of the Spruce Pine and Trillium trails. The remainder of the work will be completed later this spring. ACE is excited to have the opportunity to work with Kolomoki State Park and to be contributing to its beautification.

 

https://gastateparks.org/KolomokiMounds

Riparian Planting | Fletcher, NC

This spring, American Conservation Experience partnered with the local green landscape architecture and engineering company, Equinox Environmental, to work on a riparian/wetland planting restoration project in Western North Carolina. Wetland and Riparian habitats are among some of the most diverse in the ecosystem. Their plants provide multiple ecological and economic benefits including filtering sediment and run-off, controlling erosion, mitigating flooding, sequestering carbon and much, much more.

The ACE crew worked alongside project partners to plant wetland plant species in bare root form and live-stake forms as well. The planting site was along Fletcher Creek in Fletcher, NC. Crew members utilized tools such as dibble bars, shovels, trowels, and mallets for plant installation.

Totals include planting 16,000 bare roots and 5,450 live stakes over approximately 35 acres along Fletcher Creek and in the floodplain zone. It doesn’t get much more barebones conservation than planting and ACE is excited to have contributed these plants to their own backyard in Fletcher, NC!

Back Country Land Trust | Alpine, CA


This past fall, ACE Pacific West South worked in Alpine, CA removing invasive plants and performing fuels reduction as a part of an ongoing 30-year restoration project managed by the Back Country Land Trust (BCLT). The ACE crew worked on removing four acres of the giant reed (Arundo donax). BCLT’s goal is to remove six acres of Arundo in riparian habitats over the next several years.

Arundo is native to eastern Asia, but can now be found globally. In the 1820s, it was introduced to Los Angeles as a roofing material and erosion control in drainage canals but has since escaped and become overgrown. It is one of the fastest growing terrestrial plants, growing as much as 10cm a day. Arundo is not only rapidly spreading but it is also highly flammable, making it a priority for removal as wildfires become more prevalent in the west. It also impacts freshwater sources and water tables, as it has been documented to use 300% more water than native plants in similar habitats.

Ultimately, this project will protect the San Diego watershed through invasive species removal, fuels reduction, and trash clean up. The work is ten years in, with five years to go and is then projected to be monitored for another twenty years. Secondary work completed by the crew included the removal of other known invasive plants, planting of native species in treated areas and the collection and removal of trash found at the worksites. ACE is proud to be a part of this important project with the BCLT! 

 

http://www.backcountrylandtrust.org/

 

EPIC Experience | Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge

The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is now also home to two USFWS EPIC interns! This is the first group of interns to have the opportunity to work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson at this particular refuge. Interns Rose Caplan, and Shannon Finnerty started their year-long internship in September of 2018. During their time with the refuge, they have been an integral part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service team.

Interns in the bird blind to conduct monitoring with a refuge volunteer.

Mississippi sandhill cranes in their temporary enclosure.

The refuge was established in 1975 under the authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and their unique, and itself endangered, wet pine savanna habitat.The population was once at a low of 30-35 individuals, however, with the efforts of the refuge they have been brought up to over a hundred individuals as of 2019. The 20,000 acres of the refuge also protects the critically endangered Mississippi gopher frog, more commonly known as the dusky gopher frog.

Intern Rose and Shannon check camera traps and fill feeds to monitor and track the wild cranes on the refuge.

Each morning the interns monitor the new cranes which are brought in from another facility to be released on the refuge. Through captive rearing and reintroduction to the area, as well as wild birds nesting in the savannas, the crane population continues to grow. The interns monitor their behavior and reactions to potential threats, as well as monitoring the wild population through camera traps. Rose and Shannon have also played a roll in the dusky gopher frog project from the time they arrived as tadpoles to their eventual release later this year. 

A intern dons a “crane suit” which allows her to approach the crane enclosure in somewhat of a disguise. This is done to prevent the cranes from becoming comfortable with humans.

Interns work with USFWS biologist, Angela Dedrickson to survey the potential release site of the dusky gopher frogs.

Interns on the refuge bayou conducting wildlife surveys from a boat.

A squirrel tree frog.

Both ACE and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are excited to see the partnership grow and continue into the future. An in-depth video for follow on the refuge and the role ACE EPIC interns are playing in the protection of these species.

Corps to Career – EPIC Edition

We are so proud to share this EPIC intern story. Katya Waters participated in two internships with the ACE EPIC program and is now continuing on her journey, transitioning to the career of her dreams with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a Petroleum Engineering Technician in the Oklahoma Field Office. Congratulations Katya and thank you for sharing your story in your own words:

My time with ACE and the BLM began in Price, Utah during the summer of 2017. While there I worked as a Quarry Steward Intern and my daily duties included interacting with guests and occasionally leading guided tours. I was able to learn a lot about paleontology while working at the quarry and I got to spend my days off volunteering at the local museum where I researched many different paleontological topics for up-coming exhibits.

Last June I started to work as a Geology Intern for ACE and the BLM in the Las Vegas Field Office. My job included inspecting community pits that were in a pending status as well as inspecting tortoise fences that surrounded sand and gravel mines. I had the opportunity to shadow some of the full-time BLM employees, which included the geologists, the hydrologist, the botanist, the natural resource specialist, and a park ranger.

After completing the first 11 weeks of the internship I was able to extend my internship for an additional 11 weeks. During that time I spent 2 weeks in Winnemucca, Nevada, learning about the gold and silver mines as well as the geothermal plants that were located on BLM lands. I was also able to work more closely with the geologists in the Las Vegas office on preparing mining contracts and interacting more heavily with the sand and gravel miners.

I have recently accepted a position with the BLM as a Petroleum Engineering Technician in the Oklahoma Field Office and am looking forward to starting very soon!
I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work for ACE and the BLM for two summers in a row! During my time as an intern I learned a lot about the BLM and made many friends who I still keep in touch with!

IamACE | Deirdre Apple

Deirdre Apple was placed at the Red Canyon Visitor Center in Panguitch, UT as a Visitor Center Management Fellow. As an ACE EPIC Fellow, Deirdre was responsible for supporting the management of daily operations of the visitor center, including outreach, education, volunteer management, permitting, budgeting, staffing, and overall visitor services for over 130,000 guests. Upon successfully completing over 640 hours and her internship, Deirdre earned a USFS PLC Certificate. With this certificate, Deirdre was able to apply for her first merit-based federal position, and in December of 2018, Deirdre was hired on as a full-time, permanent USFS employee working out of the same Powell Ranger District office on the Dixie NF. Congratulations to Deirdre!

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/dixie/recarea/?recid=24942

Western States Trail

 

This past June ACE’s Pacific West Northern branch worked on the Western States Trail for two weeks. The Western States Trail is most well-known for hosting the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup, a 100-Mile race on horseback. Drawing in people from across the country and world, the trail begins in Squaw Valley and runs over rugged mountains and deep canyons before finishing at Placer High School in Auburn.

The crew was led by ACE Crew Leader, Jessica Paterson in partnership with the US Forest Service and the Western States Trail Foundation. Over the course of the project, the crew primarily focused on tread maintenance and corridor clearing. Equestrians and mountain bikers utilize the trail along with runners and hikers and in some locations off-highway vehicles. This broad variety of use and challenging terrain requires extensive maintenance to keep the trail safe and passable, while also reducing erosion.  Higher vegetation clearance for horseback riders is essential and the removal of berms to help shed water will help keep the watershed healthy. The crew performed this trail work on switchbacks deep in the remote Canyons near Devils Thumb, which is challenging to access and was in need of maintenance.

The Western States Run is a test of human endurance along beautiful views of central California through canyons and across the Middle Fork of the American River. This ACE crew got to contribute to the sustainability and longevity of this trail that bears witness each year to the capacity of some of the worlds most spirited long distance runners.

http://wstrail.org/

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge | Sonoran Pronghorn Boma Construction

The Phoenix Field School program, a major collaborative effort between ACE, BLM Phoenix District Office, Phoenix College, Arizona Center for Youth Resources (ACYR), and Arizona@Work, selects five students each semester to attend weekly integrative college classes and field projects, focusing on local conservation efforts.

In mid-October of 2018, the Field School crew worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo, AZ to construct “bomas” (fenced enclosures) for threatened Sonoran pronghorn.

Due to human influence and habitat fragmentation, along with extreme drought conditions, the Sonoran pronghorn range and population has decreased dramatically in the past few decades. As a response, the USFWS began a rehabilitative captive-breeding program in 2003, using bomas to temporarily house pronghorn before transferring the animals in pairs to pre-planned areas where population growth is desired. The Cabeza Prieta NWR has also provided additional resources to support safe pronghorn population growth for decades, including multiple foraging plots and water catchments supplied by rain.

The Field School crew worked with Cabeza Prieta NWR and Arizona Game and Fish staff, along with local volunteers, to outline the fenced bomas with several layers of hanging blankets, aiming to protect the pronghorn from injury, as well as to allow for shade inside the enclosure. Each layer was intricately secured with sturdy hog rings and fencing pliers, ensuring a safe space for the animals to graze in the weeks leading up to capture.

At the end of the project, the crew was able to use a telescopic lens to view an existing boma filled with Sonoran pronghorn. A member of Arizona Game and Fish discussed how pronghorn and other wildlife can be collared and tracked using telemetry, or the automatic communication transmission of data, which assists in measuring population dynamics and redistribution efforts.

 

For more information on Phoenix Field School, in partnership with ACE, BLM, ACYR, and Phoenix College click here: ACE Youth and Community Programming

Hunting Island State Park | Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail

       Hunting Island, South Carolina gives life to non-typical work environment for our ACE Southeast branch. The island’s semi-tropical climate is home to cabbage palmetto, live oaks draped in Spanish moss and towering slash pines, which paint a different picture for the corps members whose office usually take the form of the Appalachian Mountains and deciduous forests.

 

This past August, a Southeast crew led by ACE Crew Leader, Nicole MacNamee was in charge of the rehabilitation of the Diamondback Rattlesnake trail at Hunting Island State Park over the course of two project weeks. This trail, which is 2.3 miles, connects the southern end Nature Center to the northern end Park Office. However, the trail has been out of commission in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew. The hurricane brought down trees and debris leaving the trail almost indistinguishable. Flooding and the lack of regular cyclical maintenance have caused the trail to become overgrown with vegetation as well.

The ACE crew brushed back vegetation and grubbed out roots where necessary with a combination of chainsaws, brush cutters and hand tools to open up the corridor to 6 feet wide and 8 feet high. Much of the tread surface, comprised of sand, has been covered by a thick layer of duff made of pine needles and oak leaves. The tread was re-exposed by raking off the duff layer using a combination of leaf blowers, McCleods, and hand rakes.

To avoid the heat of the day, the crew started work at 6:30 am but were fortunate to camp on the beach for a post-work reprieve. This state park is very popular, bringing in upwards of a million visitors each year to hike its trails and witness the areas’ wildlife and beaches. ACE is proud to be a part of rehabilitating this trail to allow visitors to hike along its ancient sand dunes and semi-tropical maritime forest once more.

https://southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island

Bryce Canyon National Park | Fencing

A lesser-known form of conservation is the building and repair of cattle fences on public lands. Cattle grazing takes place adjacent to many protected areas such as Bryce Canyon National Park. This summer, crews from ACE’s Mountain West branch worked to fix old fence line and build new fence in Utah’s iconic National Park. 

Cattle that have wandered past their grazing grounds are known as “trespass cattle”, these cattle have created a potential issue at a well site in Bryce Canyon. Old and broken fences likely allowed these cattle to wander this close to the well site. A wildfire a few years ago has also contributed to fence damage. The burned trees have begun falling on the fence line, taking down parts of the fence.

This project was completed in partnership with the National Park Service at Bryce Canyon National Park. ACE is proud to return to work at this beautiful National Park and to be a part of protecting its natural resources.

The ACE crew was responsible for repairing the fence and building a new fence to be cattle proof with the goal of protecting the water of  Bryce Canyon National Park and Bryce Canyon City. The work was completed using fencing pliers, fence stretcher, post hole diggers, digging bars, picks, shovels, saws, and pounders. 

Bryce Canyon National Park | Prairie Dog Habitat Restoration

Throughout summer 2018, ACE Mountain-West had crews on a habitat restoration project with Bryce Canyon National Park. With the goal of protecting the threatened Utah Prairie Dog, the crews worked to remove rubber rabbitbrush around existing prairie dog habitat.

Facing habitat loss, plague, predation and livestock grazing in their habitat, the Utah Prairie Dog population has taken a hit. In the 1920s an attempt to control their populations by poisoning the colonies and agricultural and grazing activities devastated the population. By the early 1970s, the Utah Prairie Dog had been eliminated from major portions of its historical range and had declined to an estimated 3,300 individuals distributed among 37 Utah Prairie Dog colonies.

Today the populations have increased and stabilized, but there is still work being done to maintain these numbers, especially in Bryce Canyon National Park where recent exposure to the plague have impacted population numbers. Prairie dogs burrow underground to build their homes as protection from predators. They do this in groups, burrowing extensive channels called “towns” to live in with their clan. Rabbitbrush grows too high for the prairie dogs to be able to spot their prey so in turn, when the brush grows to high the prairie dogs will abandon their “towns.”

To combat this, our ACE crew, led ACE Crew Leader by Katey Hockenbury worked to remove invasive brush around their habitat within the Park. The crew tracked their progress with pin flags and GPS coordinates in the sea of rabbitbrush they were removing.

https://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

BioBlast! – And EPIC Youth Event

Our 2018 BLM DHA Wildlife Technician Intern, Esther Daraciang, who is serving with the BLM Salt Lake Field Office, developed and hosted BioBlast!, an environmental education event that hosted 100 local students from a partnering elementary school in Salt Lake City.

Students traveled up to Big Cottonwood Canyon at Silver Lake and spent the day participating in wildlife viewing (searching for Pikas), identifying local fish, and learned about water cycles and macro-invertebrates!

Esther is an intern with ACE EPIC and the BLM, and invited ACE EPIC staff to come volunteer for the day with these youth. ACE staff had the opportunity to volunteer with current interns, alumni, BLM staff, and local volunteers, as well as supporting all the students who attended the event!

Thank you to our EPIC staff  and Alumni for participating in this event: Kelly Barrett, Erin Mounce, Katelyn Jordan, Suzy Lee, and Melissa Early. ACE Interns – Esther Daraciang, Nichole ‘Nik’ MacPhee .  ACE Alumni (now BLM Employees) – Tess Webb, Clayton Anderson, Adam Erdmann, Hannah Cowen, Mitchell Kleimeyer.

A special thank you to Esther Daraciang who put together this video highlighting this amazing environmental education event.

 

Stateside Adjustments

Stateside Adjustments

by: Alysha Page

Obligatory tourist photo next to a telephone booth in London, UK.

After the “Women’s Spring Conference: Feminism, Nationalism, and Civil Disobedience” at University of Central Lancashire it was time to readjust to office work in Washington, D.C.. For the last two weeks the name of the game is organization and secondary source research. Unfortunately, folks, that doesn’t make for a very lively blog posting. I thought it may be useful to talk about the way I try and organize a long term project.

Firstly, perhaps the most important when working with a team is to request a clear definition of the project goals. This will be your “North Star” throughout the long process of researching and writing. Often research and sources will lead us down multiple paths, the project goals or guidelines should remain visible so that they can point your way to a successful final project. If you don’t know the goals of your project seek clarification.

In the office at the DOI. I decided to sport my ACE gear.

Secondly, it is imperative to have the proper stationary and research tools that you need. Oh, it seems like a joke now… just wait until you are deep into a source and realize you don’t have your favorite pen, notebooks, sticky notes, computer access, etc. . Creating an atmosphere for a successful project includes making sure that you have all the tools you need to complete your work. Even something as simple as a not having a notebook or binder to keep your research can inhibit the flow of a project. So, make your nearest stationary shop your best friend.

Going through General Records of the Department of the Navy 1804-1983 at NARA.

Thirdly, try and create a strong secondary source foundation before diving into primary source material. The more you know about the time period you are researching the better adept you will be at pinpointing what archival material you need to search through. This will cut back a bit on the random fruitless searches.

Lastly, and certainly, not least find the best environment to do research (that is if it isn’t archival research). I have found some nice places around the Department of the Interior (DOI) to study, like the library, other than staying in the office. Changing study locations can really break up the work week and keep things interesting during the secondary research portion of your project.

Going to the Interior Library is a nice way to break up a day in the office.

I wish I could write a more interesting post, but research work and organization is not the most glamorous but it is vital to a successful project.

Meet Me, My Park, and My Rocks

Meet Me, My Park, and My Rocks

by: Mariah Walzer

Trying on my Dad’s old Park Service hat

Hello everyone and welcome to the world of archaeology at Monocacy National Battlefield! First up, a couple quick introductions. My name is Mariah Walzer, and I am the Archaeological Research and Cultural Resource Management Intern at Monocacy this summer. I graduated from Hamilton College in 2017 with my Bachelor’s in archaeology and creative writing. I love getting my hands dirty and geeking out about old things. My dad is a retired National Park Ranger, so I’m excited to be continuing the family legacy!

A display at the Visitor Center. The quote reads: “Here was a race between the two great contending forces, the state of which was the capital of the nation, its treasure and its prestige.” – Civilian Glenn Worthington

 

Second introduction: the park! Monocacy National Battlefield is located just outside of Frederick, Maryland. It’s the site of an 1864 Civil War battle and also a camping place for Union and Confederate troops in 1862 and 1863. The Battle of Monocacy is not well-known, but was quite important to the outcome of the war. In short, Confederate troops were marching towards Washington D.C., and Major General Lew Wallace, with vastly outnumbered and largely unexperienced Union troops, held them off for a day, just enough time for Union reinforcements to arrive in D.C. to protect the nation’s capital. Who knows what would have happened if the Confederate Army had not been delayed and succeeded in capturing Washington?

Map of Monocacy National Battlefield. From the Monocacy National Battlefield website.

In addition to the Civil War history, Monocacy also showcases agricultural life in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including slavery at L’Hermitage farm. Much of my work so far also involves the Native American artifacts found in the park, which date back more than 10,000 years ago. This is one of the things that I really love about archaeology: getting to discover and tell the stories of people who don’t have their own voice in history, the lesser known stories of a place.

I started my internship almost two weeks ago now, and I have been busy busy busy. The big project we’re working on right now is completing ASMIS surveys for the park. Essentially, this means going around to known archaeological sites and checking on them, making sure no one is digging or vandalizing them and looking for any artifacts that may have moved to the surface in the last year. Thankfully, the sites have all been in good condition so far, and we’ve found a few artifacts too!

View of Best Farm, also known as L’Hermitage. In 1800, this farm was home to ninety enslaved persons, the second largest population of slaves in Frederick County. Photo from the Monocacy National Battlefield Facebook page.

View of Thomas Farm from my living quarters. The building to the far right, most hidden by trees, is where I work on the days I’m in the office.

Taking notes on a projectile point we found during survey. This is the bottom of a Savannah River Point which dates somewhere between 3650 BC and 1525 BC.

When we find projectile points, I try to identify what type they belong to. Archaeologists group projectile points from a specific region by shape and size to create categories, known as types. Because we know roughly when each type of point was common, we can then use the projectile point types we find to date a site.

Another project I worked on last week was creating a display of stone tools for the Visitor Center. I identified the tools, wrote labels and little informational blurbs for them, and then used PowerPoint to design the layout of the whole display. It was fun putting my museum studies knowledge to work!

Laying out the artifacts for the display – five projectile points, a piece of groundstone broken in two, and a cupstone (a form of groundstone with a cup-shaped indentation).

I used PowerPoint to design the layout for the artifacts and accompanying text. PowerPoint is great because it allows you to make your slide fit the size of the display, so you can know exactly how much space every piece takes up.

I suppose now would be as good a time as any to go through some vocabulary that may come up:

  • Lithics – stone tools, including projectile points and groundstone
  • Projectile points – the term archaeologists use for the pointed tools that tip arrow and spear shafts, commonly known as “arrowheads”
  • Groundstone – stone that has been smoothed and shaped either for a specific purpose (like an axe or mortar and pestle) or through use (like a flour grinding stone)
  • Flake – a small piece of stone that is knocked off when making stone tools
  • Biface – a stone tool that has flakes taken off on two sides
  • Uniface – a stone tool that has flakes taken off on only one side
  • Ceramics – pottery of any kind
  • Sherd – a broken piece of pottery or glass
  • Survey – a systematic way of looking for artifacts or sites, usually on the surface; often a survey involves walking across an area in straight, parallel lines evenly spaced apart

Archaeologists use a lot of jargon, so feel free to leave me a comment if I ever use a term that you’re unfamiliar with, and I’ll be happy to define it for you!

That’s all for now!

Mount Sanitas Trail

A “typical” term with ACE South West varies from corps member to corps member but on average when members come in; they spend three to six months getting sent to a variety of projects and locations. For the last six months, however,  ACE had one crew working on a project in Boulder, Colorado from start to finish.

                                                                                  

The project took place on the Mount Sanitas Trail in partnership with the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks. The crew was led by ACE Crew Leader, Kaitlin Egan and ACE Project Manager, David Vayhinger. Located within the city of Boulder, the trail is just a half mile west of 4th Street on Mapleton Avenue. Mount Sanitas Trail is a moderate to difficult, heavily trafficked trail which offers beautiful views as well as access to several bouldering areas.

From March until August of 2019 the crew worked on general trail maintenance but more significantly, they built an expansive rock staircase which totaled in 39 rock steps being installed. The crew also put in a 228 square foot retaining wall. Grip hoists, rock bars, and drills allowed the crew to move, shape and position the rocks into these formations. This rockwork project has been a considerable undertaking for the ACE crew and staff who worked and lived side by side for the duration of the project.

   

ACE is thankful to have worked with the City of Boulder on this project and hope to continue to have our corps members learn and grow alongside the Open Space and Mountain Parks staff.

El Yunque National Forest – Puerto Rico

On June 25th, 2018 our ACE Southeast branch had 5 amazing high school graduates begin 300 hour AmeriCorps terms. These eager young people had never heard of AmeriCorps until they had learned of the  opportunity to serve with ACE in their native, Puerto Rico.

This crew worked in the El Yunque  National Forest which is located on the eastern side of the island. El Yunque is a lush tropical rainforest and national reserve known for rare trees and birds with many camping and hiking trails. This particular area was hit very hard by Hurricane Maria, and the vast majority of it is still not open. There is debris on the trails, as well as affected roads that make traversing the forest unsafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This team, led by crew leader Alberto Rivera Rodriguez,  is working hard alongside United States Forest Service staff to help restore and open one of the landmarks, Yokahu Tower, on July 4. They also worked on trail maintenance along the Angelito Trail, a popular hike to a watering hole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This crew, known as the El Yunque crew, were so inspired by their ACE – AmeriCorps experience they wrote autobiographies detailing their background and experience. (See biographies below)

Congratulations on terms well served and a job well done to our El Yunque crew. We wish them all the best as they all plan to head off to college this fall.

We are so proud of this group and their ACE – AmeriCorps pride can be seen in their photographs as they  hold the patches that they were going to stitch on to their ACE shirts. Biographies: 

Jan Carrasquillo Montañez

Hi, my name is Jan Carrasquillo Montañez. I am 18 years old, live in Fajardo [Puerto Rico]. My main hobbies are going to the beach, watching movies, and so many others. Today, I am a part of AmeriCorps, which is an organization to conserve nature. Presently, me and my partners are working to restore El Yunque, which is a forest located in Puerto Rico. The main reason for me being here is because I am committed to help El Yunque and all of Puerto Rico after the travesty of Hurricane Maria. I hope that many others can get inspired and join AmeriCorps to restore our beautiful landmarks. I want to be a member of AmeriCorps because I want to learn to conserve the environment, which is so vital to our lives. The thing that excites me the most about this experience is to do things that I’ve never done before. Also, to grow as a person and an individual.

Andrea Romȧn Vȧzuez

I am 18 years old. I like to dance, watch TV series, take care of my pets, go to church and listen to some music. I decided to join ACE because I love nature and having the opportunity to conserve it and restoring it motivated me. Learning about this can open the doors for helping, and I can show other people how to do it. Having a job experience caught my attention, and in the long run will be a lot of help. I want to be a member of AmeriCorps to obtain knowledge about the environment, and how to take care of it. After this experience, I want to continue my studies. I want to use the Education Award for my Bachelor’s in Arts, with a concentration in drama.

 

 

Bryan Carasquillo Llamas

Hi, my name is Bryan Carrasquillo Llamas. I’m 19. I like photography, writing, graphic designs, cooking, and mixing music. The reason for me to join ACE is cause I love to work in this environment. I’ve worked in a lot of projects for school that have to do with environmental issues. My dream job is working in the forest service or something similar, and ACE gave me my first opportunity to work in the place I love.

 

 

 

 

Estefany Gonzȧlez Ramos

Hello! My name is Estefany Gonzȧlez Ramos. I am 18 years old. I really like baseketball and the beach. I’m in the ACE company, because they offer many opportunities, since they help me grow in the environment and the forest [sectors]. Besides that, I am in this company since in the passage of Hurricane Maria, there were many destructions. I would like to restore the forest.

 

 

 

Wesley Santos Matta

Hi, my name is Wesley Santos Matta. I’m 19 and I love to ride my bicycle. I love to raise chickens and share time with my grandma. The reason for me to join ACE, it was because I love nature and I think this is an opportunity for me to learn and share a close time with the forest. I live with my grandmother in El Yunque National Forest in a neighborhood behind the main entrance.  After Hurricane Maria, I was bored and sad. I went to an old man in my neighborhood, and he gave me a little chicken. I loved her. I took care of her, and then other people gave me chickens. Now, I have 20 and I love them all. Almost every single one of them were presents to me. I now have a duck, also. She was blind when I first found her, and I took care of her hurt eye with triple antibiotics. She’s healed now, but still blind. I want to get a snake, but      my grandmother says no. One day, I want to have a farm in El Yunque.

 

 

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