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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.

 

 

Inyo National Forest | Lamarck Lakes Trail

At the start of this summer, eight Tahoe based corps members packed up their tents and tools and hiked into the backcountry of the Inyo National Forest, California. The Inyo encompasses sections of the eastern Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains of California and Nevada as well as Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental US.

 This ongoing project will continue for four months this year on the Lamarck Lakes Trail. The trail ends at the 13,000′ Lamarck Col and is the most popular access for climbers accessing the Evolution Range, which is a world famous climbing destination for alpinists.  As a result of its growing popularity and harsh winters, the trail requires extensive rockwork and maintenance which began in 2017 and is continuing this season through October 2018.

Working in the backcountry and in the John Muir Wilderness requires a particular sensitivity. The work being done will be accomplished with primitive tools and traditional skills. The crew will be rock bars, double jacks, and other basic trail work tools to achieve the project goals. Pack mules have been integral in being able to complete this project by packing up tools, food and other supplies for the crew throughout the summer. 

Overall the goal is to improve trail safety for hikers and equestrians, including water bar repairs and maintenance, tread stabilization, step and check dam repairs, stream channel debris removal, and retaining wall stabilization. Short reroutes and restoration of the abandoned trails will also be completed. The crew experienced some setbacks this summer from two weeks of severe thunderstorms which caused a landslide that washed out the trailhead. 

ACE Pacific West is laying a strong foundation for this ongoing project. This partnership with the US Forest Service has instilled skills and values within the ACE crew members and ACE is excited to see the progression of this project.

 

Introducing the Southern California Conservation Corps Collaborative

Introducing the Southern California Conservation Corps Collaborative. ACE proudly partnered with LA Conservation Corps and Conservation Corps of Long Beach on a meaningful project in the Angeles National Forest. This Collaboration effort was funded by the @U.S. Forest Service and @National Fish and Wildlife Foundation with the goals of removing invasive species, seed collection, propagation, micro trash removal, restoration of riparian corridors, trail system improvements and helping to restore the fire damaged areas of the ANF.


Working together we can accomplish great things! Thank you to all of the dedicated corpsmembers for your hard work and telling your story.

Dixie National Forest | Bunker Creek Trail

This past June ACE had both Southwest and Mountain-west based crews working side by side on the Bunker Creek Trail. The Bunker Creek Trail is located in the Dixie National Forest, Utah’s largest national forest, expanding over 170 miles in Southern Utah. The trail, which is intended for mountain bikers, is a total of 11.6 miles one way and reaches elevations of over 10,000 feet. The single track Bunker Creek Trail is designed to start at the top of the mountain with the bikers having another person at the bottom to shuttle them. 

In the summer of 2017 this area of Dixie National Forest, known as Brian Head experienced a massive forest fire expanding over 100 square miles including the area of the original Bunker Creek Trail. In partnership with the Dixie National Forest, the ACE trail crews came in with the goal to reroute some areas of the trail with a more sustainable slope as well as maintain and clear parts of the existing trail. The ACE Southwest crew, led by ACE Crew Leader, Emily Merlo was out for four project weeks and the Mountain-west crew, led by ACE Crew Leader, Jordan Herron for six project weeks. 

To re-establish the Bunker Creek Trail post-fire, the new tread was created initially with a dozer and then smoothed out with hand tools by the crew. The dozer created multiple reroutes which resulted in approximately four miles of trail that the crews completed in June 2018. Another crew returned in August 2018 to complete .6 miles of trail that connected to the top end of the North Bunker Trail as well.  

The Bunker Creek Trail is located just down the road from Cedar Breaks National Monument and features beautiful views of light-colored volcanic rock as well as bright pink cliffs. The ACE crews were privileged to work in this beautiful area in partnership with the US Forest Service with the Cedar City Ranger District. 

ACE is looking forward to continuing to partner with the Dixie National Forest in restoring and enhancing safe recreational trail access in 2019.

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.

ACE welcomes new President and CEO, Laura Herrin

For Immediate Release:

Flagstaff, AZ, July 11, 2018–

American Conservation Experience (ACE) proudly announces the selection of Laura Herrin as its new President and Chief Executive Officer. Laura begins her leadership role at ACE on July 16, 2018, succeeding ACE Founder, Chris Baker who is stepping down after 15 years of exceptional service and organizational growth nationwide.


“Laura Herrin has dedicated her career to youth and young adult development and conservation corps programs and has a great track record of accomplishments,” said Brad Bippus, ACE’s board chair. “Laura has a very obvious passion for ACE’s dual mission of on-the-ground environmental work and providing meaningful opportunities for young people. We are delighted to have Laura, with her very impressive skills and many years of leadership experience, take the helm of ACE.”

Since 2002, Laura Herrin has been an integral part of the growth and success of one of the most recognized nonprofit industry leaders in youth conservation and outdoor programs, The Student Conservation Associations (SCA). Laura’s vision and leadership led to a series of promotions over her 15 years with SCA, encompassing a tenure that included roles as National Director, Innovation Director and culminating in to the position of Senior Vice President. Laura took a leading role to create strategies around revenues, program development, and risk and safety management. In addition, she has been vital in negotiating cooperative agreements, developing new programs and partnerships, and managed a significant revenue budget for SCA. Laura currently advocates for the entire conservation corps industry through her position as Partnership Director with the Corps Network.

“I am thrilled to be joining a talented and passionate team at ACE,” says Laura. It is my goal to continue the work of and to build on the foundation that has made this organization a leader in the conservation field. We will continue to focus on being the partner of choice, completing important and needed conservation work, being the program of choice for young people wanting to do this work, and the employer of choice, attracting and engaging a diverse and talented staff.”

ACE Founder, Chris Bakers says. “Laura’s career has been defined by innovation, perseverance, and commitment to conservation corps. Her resume is robust, but much more importantly, I’ve always found her to be open, honest, direct, and engaging. The confidence and vision Laura embodies will ultimately inspire change and ACE will continue to thrive.”

Laura Herrin is a passionate, dedicated Executive Leader with an exceptional record of launching and building effective programs and consistent revenue growth. ACE is pleased to have her join our growing organization.

ACE is grounded in the philosophy that cooperative labor on meaningful conservation projects fosters cross cultural understanding and operates in the belief that challenging volunteer service unites people of all backgrounds in common cause.
If you would like more information please contact Susie Jardine at 928-226-6960 or email at susie@usaconservation.org.

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.

 

 

 

Road Warriors

Road Warriors

By: Michelle Ferguson and Angelica Varela

Hello! And welcome to our first blog. We have logged thousands of miles so far in our journey and we’ve only just begun! Join us road warriors as we drive across the states, jumping head first into new rhythms at every refuge.

Night one on the road we spent our evening camping under the stars in Moab before driving to Desert National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Las Vegas, Nevada. A rainstorm welcomed us to Las Vegas, and the refreshing scent of creosote hung in the air. A smell quite familiar to us Southwest gals, we were grateful our first refuge felt close to home. One night at Desert, we grabbed our headlamps and trekked along muddy cattails under the moonlight surveying the endangered relict leopard frog with researcher Rebecca Rivera from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Rebecca works to restore populations of relict leopard frogs in their historic range. After a few weeks of seeing more lizards, Cooper’s hawks, and burrowing owls than visitors, we traded our hiking boots for flip-flops and headed to the beach.

Desert National Wildlife Refuge, March 2018. Photos: Michelle Ferguson

San Diego welcomed us with kind hearts and a glorious amount of tacos. We also got a taste of the challenges that urban refuges face while working at San Diego and San Diego Bay NWRs. There is a continuous battle with misused trails and graffiti, and the staff’s tenacity when it came to maintaining their refuge grounds was impressive.
After long days of visitor surveying, we came home to our groovy hostel two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, enjoying evenings around the bonfire teaching our new international friends how to make s’mores. April 15th, toes in the sand, we watched our final sunset on the west coast before an early start the next morning with a long drive to Marble Falls, TX.

San Diego Bay NWR, April 2018. Photo: Angelica Varela.

Taking a 180-degree turn from living in San Diego, where the hang loose beach lifestyle echoed in the streets below our window all night, we landed in a quiet 1960’s ranch house at Balcones Canyonlands NWR. Located in Texas Hill Country, our stay was peaceful with no neighbors or Wi-Fi for miles.

During our second week of sampling at Balcones Canyonlands, we were extremely fortunate to see the Golden-Cheeked Warbler flying above our sampling spot. The Golden-Cheeked Warbler is an endangered species that only nests in the oak-juniper woodlands of Texas. This wildlife interaction was considerably more favorable than the encounters with our red wasp, wolf spider and Texas redheaded centipede roommates.

Balcones Canyonlands NWR. Warbler Vista Observation Deck, April 2018. Photo: Michelle Ferguson.

After travelling from Texas across the Midwest, we sat on the edge of West Virginia with our back porch looking out across Ohio River Islands NWR. Here we learned all about freshwater mussels’ life cycle and the lures they display to attract fish. While most of the refuge staff focused on the “May is Mussel Month” initiatives, one staff member was eager to teach us local bird song mnemonics, the most memorable of which were the barred owl song, “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all!” and the eastern towhee’s call, “drink your teeeeea!” To this day, we sing along with them when we hear their cries.
Our last evening in town brought in thunderstorms. Afterward, the refuge manager scooped us up to hike through the backwoods behind our apartment. We stumbled upon a twinkling array of fireflies under a low, moonlit canopy still dripping from the rainfall.

Ohio River Islands NWR, May 2018. Photo: Michelle Ferguson.

Promethea Moth at Ohio River Islands NWR, May 2018. Photo: Michelle Ferguson.

Although working with the public sometimes results in uncomfortable or negative interactions, we have found ourselves most uplifted by an unexpected piece of the job. Among our travels for survey sampling, we have the opportunity to get to know many remarkable women in science at each refuge we have visited. In a male-dominated field, we stand at every refuge with females who are holding their ground: researchers, biologists, fire dispatchers, and managers to name a few. These women are leaders. They have shown us to stand strong as females in conservation careers. As two aspiring women in the environmental sciences, we have felt immense inspiration from the women on our journey. The phrase, ‘I wish I had something like this when I was growing up,’ is something we hear often. We are humbled to know that these women helped pave the trail we chose to walk on. Encouraged by these women, we are getting our chance to lay yet another layer on this rough trail to make it easier for future women in science to hike upon. We are grateful to know we walk among and behind hard-working women in our careers and we are grateful for the opportunity American Conservation Experience has given us to meet them.

Michelle Ferguson

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

I’m Michelle, a Colorado native and recent graduate from Northern Arizona University with my masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy. I’m interested in the human dimensions of natural resources, and using social science to inform conservation work. Specifically, I am interested in the balance of meeting human needs without compromising ecological resources.

Angelica Varela

USFWS NWR Visitor Survey Intern

I’m Angelica. I grew up in the harsh Sonoran desert of Arizona. I received my undergrad in Biological Science at Arizona State University and I hope to pursue my masters soon. I am interested in birds, specifically raptors, and hope to work with them one day.

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